Monday, March 1, 2010

The Art of Backing Up

Picture this:
A perfect fall day. . . a field of corn, nearly 100 acres of it, perfectly ready and being harvested. . . a husband, calling his beloved wife to come and bring him a lunch, and that wife, perfectly poised and ready with the hearty lunch of a ham sandwich and Pringles, meets said husband at this particular field.

Then, picture the wife's horror as she tries to back out and gets off the lane's track and into the ditch, popping a tire on a culvert at the field entrance. There she is, stuck, with three children in car seats and having to admit, again, that, "no, I wasn't taught how to back up properly," and "yes, it's probably because I grew up in town not needing to know how to back up with or without a livestock trailer."

This is one of my fears as a farm wife: backing up, as in "the truck, Chuck." Backing up is a skill that I do not possess. I am terrible at it. Sure, I can back out of my own garage, who can't? But back up down a lane? Back up with my uncle, dad, and husband watching? NO WAY! It is something I just do not do well at all. However, in my short time as a farm wife, I see the absolute necessity of backing up in every day farm life. As I post today, I am watching my dad out in our lot, backing up the semi to the auger to load up another load of corn on his truck. How he backs up underneath that Q-tip looking piece of machinery is beyond me, and don't even get me started about my husband backing up the loaded livestock trailer. That is just miraculous.

However, I think this is a skill set that farmers are blessed with, and this farm wife is not. Joe was born with the back up skill. There's a story he shares of when he and his mom were at a county fair for a livestock show he was attending. He wasn't even of legal driving age, but when my mother in law couldn't get the trailer backed out of the lane, she moved aside and little Joey took over.

When backing up- whether it's tractors, combines, semis, pickup trucks, or 4-wheelers- folks in farm world usually are doing it on a lane, that is narrow, potentially on dirt or gravel with no place to turn around and look forward. This, I guess, could be comparable to decisions that have to be made as a farmer. There is no backing up or out of marketing decisions. Once you say, "sell it!" it's sold, whether the price is better tomorrow or worse. Once you make the decision to pull the trigger and bid on that piece of ground at a land auction, there's no retraction if you get it, just a big bank appointment to be made. When Joe decides which "fat girls" (cows needing to calve) to shut in and watch before their due dates, he can't back up and try again when three more mama cows are calving out in the muddy field, just moments after pulling the loaded trailer out of the lot.

I guess a feeling of losing control is why I am not good at backing up my SUV. I am frustrated when I have to back up and realize how little I can see. I need control, need guidance, need HELP! At times, farming makes me feel the same way. We struggle to make good decisions, when really there's not a lot guiding us but our instincts. My hope is that we can keep following our intuition, making good decisions based on basically educated guesses. That, and Joe will come to the house for his lunch!

1 comment:

  1. A lot of women can relate to the phrase "I don't do windows". Well long ago, as a young farm wife I declared "I don't do backing up". I would repeat my mantra at the local FS anhyrous depot and jump out of the pickup to let some skilled young man take over. If that's sexist, so be it. I'm perfectly OK without the backing up gene!