This is part 14 in a series of essays about when I was a young man (30+ years ago) trying to figure out how to “make it” in the world. Click HERE to go back to the beginning of the series.
I had landed myself a full-time job on the Badman family dairy farm when I was 19-years-old. I worked there long hours, six days a week for maybe ten months. There is no lack of work on a diary farm. When I wasn’t helping with chores morning and evening, there were so many other things to be doing, no matter what the weather (they made sure they got their money’s worth out of me).
In the fall there was the corn to pick and put into corn cribs. I remember it was a wet season and the pull-behind corn picker could not get to some sections of the corn fields. So we hand picked a portion of the crop. The Badmans did not let anything go to waste.
Fall was also the season to chop green corn and blow it up into the silo to make silage. One of my most memorable farm experiences occurred during this time. It was my job to climb up the side of the silo every morning and fork silage down a chute to the barn floor below. Then it would be forked into a cart and fed out to the cows.
One autumn morning I climbed about halfway up the silo and inside was a soft spongy layer of fresh green corn that we had put there the day before. The fresh material would be easier than older, hard-packed silage to fork up and throw down the chute. But when I stabbed my fork into the mix, I got the surprise of my life. Unbeknownst to me, a mass of rats was directly under the surface of the silage, right where I plunged my fork in.
In an instant, the whole pile of them erupted out from around my fork. I stepped back in surprise and shock. The rats were screaming. Their high-pitched shrieks echoed in the cavernous silo. A rat was impaled on the end of my fork, squirming and squealing. Rats were running around me and between my legs. It was pandemonium. I was yelling at the top of my lungs and spinning and stabbing to keep the creatures away from me. It was a nightmare.
After a short time, the rats huddled together against the wall as far from me as they could get. And I was as far away from them as I could get. I was at the hatch, the ladder down was right behind me. Without turning my back to them, and ready to go into battle again should they attack, I slowly made may way out of the silo, then quickly down the ladder.
I went directly to Mr. Badman and told him what happened. He looked at me with bemusement. I got the feeling he didn’t believe me. “Didn’t you hear me yelling?” I asked. He said no. I told him I just couldn’t bring myself to go back up there.
So Mr. Badman climbed up the ladder and forked down the feed while I stood below and listened. When he came down I asked if he had seen any rats. He hadn’t seen one. I couldn’t believe it.
I went back to the routine of forking silage the next day. But I was always very careful and expected the worst after that experience.
Prior to getting a full-time job on the farm, I thought to myself that I might like to be a farmer. But working on a real dairy farm cured me of that aspiration. I loved working outside, driving tractors, and all of that. But I didn’t like the drudgery of caring for so many cows—every day. Were the farm my own, I would have thought differently. But it wasn’t, and I realized I would never be able to afford to be a farmer.
To be continued.....
Click HERE to go to Part 15 of this series
We're Off To A Good Start - Several Days ago I showed you the pictures of the first corn planting, 6 rows of an heirloom corn called *Golden Bantam*. My second planting of corn is...
2 hours ago