Manifolds, Manolos, and Manure
During a blisteringly hot summer night in the middle of evening milking, a spark from an old electrical box jumped from the electrical box to the stanchion barn. Before you could say “Holstein”, our milking barn was in flames. Fortunately, the individuals working recognized the magnitude of the hazard and evacuated the cattle and themselves before anyone was injured. Throughout the evening, firefighters from multiple companies handled the fire while friends, family and employees loaded and moved the cattle to a nearby farm. By dawn the animals were completely moved, and we started the morning milking.
With the cattle safe, we farmed on.
In the end, the milking barn was a total loss. But we rebuilt, both bigger and as technologically advanced as we could afford at the time.
Four short years later, on another blisteringly hot summer day, a tractor backfired, and a spark jumped from the tractor to a bale of straw. That single spark moved through five buildings including the shop, chemical shed, and the corn silo built by my farmer’s grandfather. The fire consumed more equipment and tools than can be listed. This blaze made the evening news.
Again, we rebuilt. My farmer built a shop large enough for a combine to “do doughnuts,” complete with an airplane hangar door. That summer as the heat crispy-fried our lawn, we learned more about the insurance process than we ever wanted to.
We’ve always joked that my farmer is a fire hazard. We’ve encouraged him to avoid fireplaces, fire pits, and bonfires. We joke when he fires up the grill or starts the gas stove. My farmer even lost his eyebrows the first time he started our fireplace.
Growing up, my mom never left the house with the dryer on. She’d have me race down the stairs and turn off the dryer as we left and race back down the stairs and turn on the dryer when we returned. My farmer always thought we were ridiculous and that turning off the dryer was entirely unnecessary. I, on the other hand, continue to turn off the dryer as I walk out of the house. Each. And. Every. Time.
This approach has served me well for the past 20 years. Or at least it did serve me well. After starting a load of kids’ clothes, our family got ready to leave for dinner and before I had the chance to turn off the dryer, it was on fire. After turning off the dryer, my farmer tore into it and discovered that lint upon lint had escaped the lint keeper and surrounded the motor. If you’ve ever questioned the “Mayhem dryer lint” commercial, don’t. Dryer lint equals fire. Rather than testing our luck, my farmer hauled the dryer to the curb. We’ve had too much experience with fire.
Funny thing about farmers. They’re resilient. They’re tough. And rough years may make farmers tired and a touch bitter, but they keep farming.