In training for the Farm Olympics
The Farm Olympics has been going on since farmers first figured out how to drink coffee out of a saucer, complain about grain prices even when they're good, and talk those who had them out of free baseball caps.
Each year finds pretty much the same events repeated, and they need recognition, recognition which has long been overdue. They're deserving of it, and I'm going to see that those people who deserve it get it.
A major farm event every year involves gravity boxes, a type of wagon farmers use to haul grain. Those of you with the sharp far-seeing vision of your pioneer predecessors have already noticed that on the highways and byways of our rural countryside, contestants are warming up for this event. They're combining corn and beans and using those wagons to haul the crop to town.
This is the time of year when you find those gravity box wagons stranded on the side of the roads, a jack under one corner and the wheel and tire gone, taken to town because it ruptured under the weight of the grain in the wagon, weight that farmers are surprised to get every fall, them being the eternal pessimists that they are.
Points in this year's Olympics will be awarded to those gravity boxes that go the furthest on the baldest, rottenest, most booted-and-patched tire. Hence all the jacked up break-downs along the road. They're competing; didn't make it. Let's call this category the "To town or bust on the crummiest tires" category.
Farmers have been known to buy brand-new wagons without tires just so they could go to town and badger the local co-op for some "good used tires -- cheap!" They've been rehearsing for this event since rubber was discovered. Farmers in the post-World War II era approached near saint-hood when they found that some war surplus bomber plane tires fit these wagons, with their stiff as a board 16-ply construction. Rumor has it that one farmer used one for two years before he found out that it had no air in it at all. That's how stiff they were. He is guaranteed future sainthood.
His picture is still on some dusty grain elevator office wall. Somewhere.
These tires were so difficult to mount on the wagon rims that several co-op employees abandoned their meager pension funds and went into radio religion rather than attempt to put one more of these "stiff SOBs" on another rim for yet another parsimonious farmer, saint prospect or not.
A sub-category related to these wagons is the multiple-unit category, i.e., those farmers who pull more than one wagon to town at a time. They too are to be seen practicing their art this time of year as they haul a veritable train of gravity boxes to town. Extra points are awarded for those trains that violently whip back and forth the most, causing consternation and cursing amongst the drivers, and preventing anyone back there from throwing caution to the wind and trying to pass. One point for each backed-up vehicle. Points deducted when the whip becomes so extreme that grain is thrown onto the highway. Waste not, want not, you know.
There are extra points handed out to the craziest farmer, as evidenced by his willingness to pull the largest, most overloaded wagon(s) into town with the oldest most decrepit underpowered pickup truck. Dual points here will be awarded also in the "Crummiest tire" category.
Double points will be awarded in this category to the farmer who talks his wife into driving this peril-ridden nightmare of multiple units, rusty pickups, and rotten tires into town. He too will be talked about as a future hall of Olympic famer, and won't have to buy coffee all the rest of the year in the local restaurant.
The final event will be the multiple-unit hook-up competition. Here, wives will be back there, charged with demonstrating the best hand signaling techniques to their husbands who are blindly backing up one wagon to the next, in order to hook it up, too. This is an extreme sport, as anyone who has ever backed up a wagon knows. One wagon? Very difficult. Two wagons? Oooooph!
The wife is not allowed to utter any sounds. She can only use hand signals to guide her impatient and frustrated husband's efforts to back up correctly. Points will be deducted for hand signals involving certain fingers.
Due to the extreme stress that this event places on marriages, only devout Lutherans -- or couples with divorce proceedings already in progress -- will be allowed to compete.
Last year's winner of the crummiest tire award won with an entry which he had found hanging from a fence post in Wisconsin, a six double ought by 16 with the sun-bleached words on it: "NO HUNTING." It had dinner-plate-sized hernia bulges in two places, and it was a sight to see it coming into the elevator in the crisp autumn air, those bulges flexing in and out under the weight of tons of shelled corn.
We're looking for judges, if you're interested.