June 7, 2014

Dudley Wooten

PDT Outdoors Columnist

Chores, as I stated in an earlier article, seem to be an endangered item in recent generations. The more I pondered that thought I couldn’t quite let it go at that. Those of us who remember chores may view them in many ways and our chores may have varied greatly.

Your chores may have been to take the trash out and feed the canary. If you lived on a farm, your chores were daily and numerous. Farm chores start out when you’re knee high and you’re outside with Mom and Dad helping gather the eggs or feed the chickens and weeding the garden. As your voice starts changing, so do your jobs.

At 12, you’re big enough to have been more responsible and work on your own for several years now. You’re not just milking the cow twice a day, you also go find her, feed her, and take her back out. You’re not weeding the garden now, you’re cultivating corn on the tractor or bush hogging pasture. By the time your 16th birthday rolls around, you’ve been driving for 4 – 5 years. The trucks and tractors on the farm prove to be valuable assets for driving skills later. It’s a “down-to-earth” approach to driver’s ed. You don’t get too far off the farm or the dirt road.

As we look back on those days, we think of how we viewed those jobs then and what our thoughts might be today. Actually, I don’t have to look back past yesterday because many of my chores then are still mine to do now here on the family farm.

You know what? I feel like the luckiest guy in the world when I’m out working on this farm. It’s my life’s work and it’s my life’s dream. I’m livin’ the dream. I’ve never looked at chores as drudgery or boredom. I’ve always viewed them as responsibility. It starts at an early age and it gives you the opportunity to care for livestock, garden, farm, and equipment, but at the same time, you’re caring for your loved ones and yourself. Chores provide your contribution to farm and family. Yes, you feed animals, mow pasture, fix fence, whatever, but at the same time you’re keeping yourself in shape and using muscles that wouldn’t be developed with video games. You’re finding the person deep inside you and you’re allowing yourself to be all you can be.

Some family thoughts on this chore thing would be: my momma always did say, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” Papaw would always say, “Well, at least you could get out there and make the effort,” (This would be his comment when I thought it looked like a rainy day.) Dad (the 14 caret Kentuckian) would say about his childhood, “Those weren’t the good old days they were just the old days.” We all do different things for different reasons.

I really believe that chores are the missing link in what we have or haven’t instilled in kid’s lifestyle. If they didn’t have idle hands, they would be more responsible, in better physical shape, and much more qualified to enter into the workforce, both mentally and physically. In other words, they would understand work and that it actually could still apply to them today, and I don’t mean sit on your butt staring at a computer and exercising your thumb.

When you’re out here in the great outdoors you just can’t imagine being trapped within 4 walls all day, never seeing the light of day or smelling this great country air and just chasing a mouse. That life would be such a chore for me.

After 60 years of chores on this property, I’ve made several amazing observations: one, the calves are being born heavier and faster and my barn is growing.

We have always had polled Hereford cattle and when a cow has a calf she always goes up a hollow somewhere to get away for this event. This is quite alright in good weather or no coyotes, but neither is the case yesterday. We have coyotes and the weather going from clear to sleet and temps. dropping from 55 degrees to 15 degrees tonight, so naturally, there is the old cow and new calf way up the hill 500 yards from the barn. This means that I do my normal routine of driving to the calf, as closely as I can (100 yards). Up the hill I go and get a lasso rope around his neck. Up he jumps, the rope goes tight and down the hill we go. I throw him in the back of the little red truck, hog-tied 3 legs and we head for the barn. By now the entire bovine community has gathered to chime in with the bawling calf and I’m now the grand marshal of the white-faced parade across the farm. Every time I get into this I think the neighbors think that I’m killing something up here with all this noise, but I guess by now they’re used to it.

This large barn is my third barn up the hollow and it has a corral adjoining it. This serves a dual purpose as both maternity ward and loading chute. The problem yesterday was the foot of mud and crap everywhere. I’ve cleaned it out 3 times this winter and as long as it’s this wet and we have cattle there, there will be a mess. The corral had become something between the “Octagon” and “The Greased Pig Contest.” By the time I got Junior and his mom in the barn together and under roof for the upcoming weather change, I looked and smelled so good that I got to take my clothes off outside and rinse them in a five gallon bucket before I came in the house. I guess some things never change and I must have married a girl just like the girl that married dear ol’ Dad, because I used to get to do this routine when I was a kid. This is one of the reasons why I moved so far back in the woods. What happens in the woods, stays in the woods.

I usually carry the calf in but this guy was very big, fast, and ornery for a day old. As I said before, they’re making calves bigger these days. In conclusion, I also said my barn is growing. As a kid, we put 600 square bales in this loft every year. We got into round bales for decades and this year I bought a few square bales to throw down for calves. The bad news is that it’s not a dollar a bale now, the loft is higher to throw the bales up into and it’s longer to carry them. I don’t mind the chores, but I do mind it when someone changes the rules.

I’m just sayin’ –“nuffs-a-nuff”