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Down On The Farm

These are the dog days of winter and there is not much to do in my pathetic, little town this time of year. I suppose though, it's all relative. Some folks find plenty to do indoors. I saw a bunch of people the other day standing around in Wal-mart and watching them put up St. Patrick's Day decorations. There was also a big crowd gathered in Wal-mart on February 15. They were watching Wal-mart "associates" tear down those big, red hearts and toss old boxes of unsold, out-of-date chocolates into the "reduced" bin. I can imagine that it was kind of exciting, watching those hearts being dumped into the "I am not wanted" bin. I think there must be something profound in all of that, but for the life of me, I can't get my head around it.

Winter is taking its toll on me. These bitter, cloudy, winter days seem to run together in an endless trail of torture this time of year. Nature's way of exacting a toll on someone foolish enough to live where I do? While there are some signs that winter is entering its golden years - tulips and crocuses sticking their heads up out of the frozen ground, the sun setting later and in a more northerly inclination - I know March will bring nothing but more harsh, wet, windy weather. Sometimes I think March is the cruelest month of all -- with its promise of spring wrapped in an icy gift wrap of rain, wind, and cold temperatures. Every year on the news they show some St. Patrick's Day parade somewhere in Northern city and every year the spectators are dressed in winter coats, hats and gloves. St. Patrick's Day is March 17 --past the midpoint of March, two days after the infamous Ides of March, four days before the Vernal Equinox -- and winter just won't let go. I know that Winter's stubborn grip will last at least until mid-April. If we're lucky.

When you live in some god-forsaken place like I do, stuck in the middle of nowhere, you learn to be resourceful, or you just get grumpy. So many people in the Midwest are curmudgeons because they run out of ways to deal with winter. I am pretty happy sort. I like to find creative ways to entertain myself when I've grown tired of doing the things I have to do and sick of doing the things I usually do to chip away at the the time until spring finally comes and melts my world.

I really like spring. It's the time of year when the sun finally reappears after its long absence and things get warm enough for human beings to do fun things outdoors like mow the lawn, grovel in the garden, splat those first pesky mosquitoes, make potato salad, spray bug spray, pull weeds, and stuff like that.

Spring and summer bring with them a myriad of things to do. Girls look particularly good in summer. In summer us men can actually tell a girl from an old bum. In winter its tough to do that since bums and pretty girls look pretty much alike when they are swaddled in sweatshirts, winter coats, gloves, hats, boots, face masks and other winter accoutrements. I've learned to never want to toodle-up behind some crazy, brave soul walking in the winter wind and yell "Hey Babe!" That "babe", more often than not, turns out to be a toothless, prune-faced, old bum with gnarly skin and no hair. It can be very embarrassing. For me it can get expensive. I always feel sorry for old bums, especially in these tough economic times, and hand them a $5.00 bill so they can buy a new tooth or a meal. After too many "hey babes!" I've learned my lesson -- I will save my ogling for summer when a woman is a woman and a bum is bum.

I digress....

Last Thursday, the needle on my fed-up-with-winter-o-meter was bouncing in the red zone. By this time in February I have nearly exhausted my long litany of creative ways to pass the time in winter. For something new to do, I thought I'd take a walk on the wild side: I decided to take a trip to our local farm supply store. If you are a city slicker you have no idea what a farm store is. I am not going to bore you with details, but you need to get a know a couple of things about farm stores. Here's the picture you need to develop: A farm supply store is a Wal-mart-look-alike but instead of being filled with things you need or want, it's filled with things that farmers need and want. What farmers need and want is, apparently, quite different from what city slickers need and want. Farms stores smell like dusty cattle feed and wood shavings.

You will never find a computer, iPod, or LCD TV's for sale in a farm supply store. You might see iPod earbuds stuck in the ears of hip farmers or a LCD TV playing a DVD about how to cure goat scabies, but they don't sell any gizmos like those in a farm supply store. What you will find, however, are many interesting things you never knew existed. Being a transplanted city-dweller, I was so astounded I spent almost two hours walking around in that earthy wonderland of things completely foreign to me. I might as well have been in a store on Mars. I was fascinated.

First, I wander into a section called "Pharmaceuticals". Ambien, Viagra, Paxil, Zoloft, and things like that? Not here. Animals apparently don't need help sleeping, or... you know. But what I do find are two aisles full of antibiotics like Ampicillin, Penicillin-K, Penicillin-G, tetracycline just to mention few. I gaze at all these fine antibiotics and debate whether the penicillin I've taken at times was the same as the stuff I'm looking at right in front of me; within my grasp, no prescription need, on sale for just $9.95 a bottle.

I read the label and it says "500mg, potassium penicillin G, USP." There are 100 tablets in the bottle. That's what is says but I don't count them to make sure. I ponder if would I dare take this if I thought I had some sort of bacterial infection? I think for a minute or two and come to the conclusion that, yes, I would. I bet it wouldn't kill me. Best of all no annoying doctor visit, and I hate doctors. I could save myself a couple of hours waiting in the doctor's stinky, hospitaly, waiting room, the embarrassment of taking off my shirt and having my belly fall out, and, the $80.00 fee for the office visit. I really like self-diagnosis and self-treatment. With cow penicillin so easily available and so cheap, I feel empowered. I hate coolspeak and trite phrases but I find myself muttering, "Whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger."

I don't buy the penicillin. I am a little angry with myself. I can be such a wush. I'll probably get some nasty infection tomorrow and end up paying the doctor $80 to prescribe penicillin. I'll fold up like a accordion and I'll wish I would have purchased a bottle of this cow penicillin and treated myself. But, what if it's something serious? So much self-doubt. Cow penicillin would be handy to have in my medicine chest -- like aspirin or Tums. I think that if it won't kill a cow, it probably won't kill me.

I walk toward the next aisle regretting that I didn't put that cow penicillin in my green, farm store shopping cart.

In the next aisle, I am dazzled by an astounding array of cattle prods in all different colors and sizes. I'm gasping with excitement. These things look powerful - and very useful. The bright yellow ones really attract my attention. Just by browsing that aisle I learn that cattle prods are available in all sorts of colors, sizes, voltages and amperages. I look at the most expensive one. It's on sale for only $79.95, but the wand is extra.

I am enthralled and continue to digest the information I glean from the labels. I discover that these cattle prods pack a mighty electrical wallop. They are sort of like a TASER on a stick. I read the description on the box of the big, yellow one on sale-- it says that it's powerful enough to stabilize a large cow. Although I'm a city slicker, I know cows can be pretty big. I remember that because I can recall a trip to a farm I took in grade school -- and because I once bought a whole cow for my home freezer. It was all cut up though. If this cattle prod can stabilize something as big as a large cow it must be really potent. I think of several people I'd like to stabilize. I laugh at the images that follow that thought I think I'd better not - laws and so forth being that they are --so I pass up the cattle prods. However, once again I have second thoughts. A cattle prod would be a fun thing to own. I am thinking of the things I could use a cattle prod for and smile. Strangely, not one of the uses of which I am thinking have anything do with cows.

I push my shopping cart around the corner to the farm clothing aisle, where I am delighted to see a huge selection of bright green John Deere overalls. In all sizes from S to XXXX. I want a pair! I imagine myself working around the yard wearing a pair. They are so green and the John Deere logo looks hot on the pocket. I picture myself sitting around in those lovely green overalls advertising John Deere. I am sublime in my imaginary sartorial splendor -- and they are on sale for just $39.95! I seriously consider buying a pair. I wonder if a city slicker like me would look good wearing them in Bob Evans. If I had a pair I'd wear them everywhere. I'd even wear them to the doctor's office. I wonder if he'd make me take my shirt off then?

In spite of my John Deere lust, I pass up the sale on the overalls and move on. In the middle of my another bout of self-doubt, I spot a whole shelf full of John Deere hats. Like the overalls, they too are bright green and adorned with that sexy John Deere logo. Wow! I see that it even has earflaps on it too. It would be ideal for keeping my head and ears warm on those long winter walks. Winter still has a long way to go too. I try one of the hats on, fold the earflaps down and look at myself in the mirror. I look so cute! I find that the hat imparts a splendid farmy look to my countenance. The hat is very becoming, I admire the nascent farmer in the mirror. I really do look like a rugged, hard working guy I think admiring myself. I have that fresh-from-the-farm look. I look pretty much like a guy who drove a tractor to the farm supply store. I'm such a wush though. I take off the hat and put it back on the rack. I really want that hat -- but I pass. I know I would end up falling in love with it and wear it everywhere. After a few months it would become stained, soiled and ratty and I'd wear it anyway; and I'd wear it everywhere. I like to annoy people in restaurants by wearing hats while I'm eating. This hat would really be annoying to folks in the city. I laugh. I'm such a funny guy.

I don't buy the hat.

I look at my watch and I cannot believe that I've been in the farm supply store for almost two hours-- and my shopping cart is still empty. The cattle prods are hardest for me to resist. They're on sale today. I almost go back and get one, but I don't. Instead, I put my empty shopping cart back and walk out of the store -- into the gray gloom and harsh wind of an ordinary, bitter February day.

I should have bought that hat I think. I get into my car --which I am pretending is a John Deere tractor-- and pull out of the farm store parking lot and head back to my city slicker existence.

I drive all the way home thinking about those cattle prods and all the things I could do with one.

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