Working on a farm is hazardous to your health. Especially if you are a girl.
About seven or eight years ago my sister had a friend decide she wanted to help us on my Grandpa’s farm. Being a naïve twelve year old, she thought it would be something like this:
Silly friend. Silly, silly friend.
My sister should have politely explained the truth. She had, after all, recently participated in a bull de-horning with my Uncle Kevin. She left looking like this:
And came back looking like THIS:
But she didn’t tell her friend. Perhaps my sister is just a mean person who enjoys psychologically scarring people.
My wretched siblings and I were required to move pipe on the farm. It is exactly how it sounds: you irrigate a field of ungrateful hay and barley by moving forty foot long pipes (complete with sprinklers) across the field. Once they are hooked up, you plug up the end pipe, turn on the water, and run as fast as you can so you don’t get wet when the line pressurizes and the sprinklers on top activate.
These pipes weigh an estimated ten thousand pounds when empty, but were always full of water. I felt like I was in danger of soiling myself whenever I lifted one.
Not every field had these horrible pipes of despair. Some had wheel lines. These were supposed to make life easier; all the pipes were bolted together, raised off the ground and connected to wheels. Flip a switch, watch it move, and you’re done!
Ha. Ha. Ha. In truth, they were just as annoying. The motor sounded like a jet engine, only louder, the wheels would often get stuck in the mud, and if you touched the pipe while the motor was going:
You’d forget who you are for a while.
If a windstorm happened when there wasn’t any water in it, the line would get all bent out of shape and you’d spend HOURS straightening THE ENTIRE FREAKING LINE, complete with a motor that weighed more than a battleship.
All of this had to be done EVERY DAY at 6 am and 5 pm. Weekends, holidays, birthdays, funerals, church….these things did not exist in our summers. It was only the never-ending haze of fatigue mixed with pipe moving. We were compensated…at the rate of fifty cents an hour.
Then there were the dogs. My family had two, my grandpa had one, and my cousin had another. They looked cute:
In the pipe field, however, they underwent a transformation.
They would run wild through the field, ignoring commands, rolling in dead cats that sometimes oozed out of the pipes, and would dig furiously after mice.
One of our dogs, Daisy, was the gentlest and nicest dog a person could have. But even my siblings and I were unprepared for the slaughter that would shortly come to pass.
So there we all went, my siblings, sister’s friend, our cousin and assorted drooling canines, in the back of my Grandpa’s truck to the South Field. (“South Field” is a bit of a misnomer. It takes too long to say “Several fields larger than East Texas, but with more mosquitos,” so we call it the South Field.)
My sister and friend went to the end of one field to open the end plug and let the water drain, I went to another wheel line motor, and my uncle and cousin went to the hydrants to shut the water off.
I should point out that the creek in the picture was also home to a species of mammal that looks like an unholy cross between a beaver, a rat, and nightmares: the rock chuck.
These things are evil. They love to dig huge holes, kill the hay, and make a nuisance of their terrifying selves. Farmers kill them on sight. My uncle, who forgot his gun, once hit one with a board and then handed the board to me and said, “Finish him off.” It took a half hour, mainly because I kept missing.
Wikipedia claims they only weigh up to eight pounds, but the ones in the South Field must have migrated from Chernobyl or Three Mile Island. I’m pretty sure they could have swallowed a cow whole. And my sister and friend were going right next to them-and so were the dogs.
So anyways, I waited for the wheel line to drain (average drain time: 16.4 years) then cranked up the motor. The line began to move ever so slowly to the screeching throb of twisted metal, and I followed it through the field. But then I heard something; something that I could hear over the roar of the engine and the whine of thirty trillion mosquitos.
I shut the motor off.
Now I could clearly hear the sounds, and it sounded like something out of the Saw movies.
My sister was wailing, “No, Daisy, no!” Dogs were barking, and the screams of the damned were echoing all the way across two fields.
I did what any farmer would do. I shrugged, started the motor up again and finished moving the line. I was NOT hiking four thousand miles in the heat, only to have to walk BACK to the motor and finish. I wanted to go home. “Every man for himself,” that’s the pipe mover motto.
I walked back up to the truck when I was done, only to be greeted by a scene of sheer horror.
My dog Daisy, the sweetest little animal God ever put on this earth, looked like she’d been soaked in what I sincerely hoped was tomato juice.
The other dogs were in a similar state, and they all waddled up hoping to be petted. I dodged their blood-soaked fur and climbed in the back of the truck. My sister and her friend were sitting hunched in the corner. Her friend’s eyes were wider than saucers, and she seemed to have lost the ability to speak.
“What happened?” I asked.
After several attempts my sister, shaking uncontrollably and covered in what looked like raw beef, told the story.
They had arrived at the edge of the field by the creek, skipping joyfully and throwing pieces of barley at each other. Being girls, they were probably singing.
All the dogs had followed them down, growling playfully at each other, sniffing each other’s butts for the thousandth time, etc.
Suddenly, a rock chuck poked his head out of his hole, probably trying to figure out what, exactly, was making such a terrible noise.
The dogs pounced.
A brief side note: Rock chucks, when attacked, sound EXACTLY like a four year old when he stubs his toe, only shriller. This was the sound of the damned I had heard, and it was loud enough I picked it up two fields away, over the roar of a jet engine attached to screeching metal.
Daisy and my grandpa’s dog, Sally, each seized an end of the rock chuck (by now, admittedly through tears of laughter, even I was feeling sorry for the rock chuck) and…well…let’s keep this family friendly.
The rock chuck, after much pain and suffering, swiftly departed the South Field bound for heaven.
The dogs, meanwhile, feasted. And behaved a little like Vlad the Impaler.
My sister’s friend never went moving pipe again. I think she ended up having to see a counselor.
And while my sister lost a friend that day, I consider it to be one of the funniest moments of my life.