Second-Stringers | Country life | lancasterfarming.com


If you’re a sports fan, you’re probably familiar with the term “second channel.” The second string basically refers to the second best players for the various positions on a team.

Often the second strings train hard but still spend a lot of time sitting on the bench during games. Typically, the exception to this is if the first-string player in a particular position gets injured or has to leave the game due to fouls. The second string player is then called upon to fill in.

Recently, a key player on our farm team got injured on his day job, and Dennis and I became the second strings that filled in.

Dennis’ son, Eric, is a big help in our beef cattle operation. During the cold months when the cattle are in the barnyard, they come to our farm every Saturday to run the tractor for weekly barn and barnyard cleanups. Our small team gets the job done efficiently, but we don’t have “bench strength”.

In other words, if one of us is unable to complete their weekly tasks for whatever reason, there is no one to replace them. In effect, the remaining one becomes our own default second-string.

Unfortunately, Eric cut a tendon in his hand, which required surgery. He’s now recovering and undergoing physical therapy, but it’s not the kind of injury that heals quickly. It’s also not the type of injury that allows you to drive a vehicle initially while you’re on the road to recovery.

It means we have lost our most accomplished tractor driver. Eric is also the guy who spreads fresh straw around the stable after cleaning.

If there’s any good news, it’s that this happened very close to when we put our cattle out to pasture for the summer. So we only had one round of manure removal to do without Eric’s help.

Typically I shake about 23 pieces of wheat straw upstairs in the barn and eventually push them through a trapdoor in the barn floor into the cattle barn below after the dirty bedding has been removed using the bucket of the tractor. Dennis is our “Friday man”, helping to move the cattle into his barn and confining them there while the barnyard is scraped, helping to put large bales of hay in the two hay rings in the barnyard and driving the dump truck transporting the manure removed to the farm where it is deposited.

We know these familiar roles well. Alas, I don’t know how to operate our farm tractors, nor am I a dump truck driver, so I performed my normal duties. I also helped Dennis position hay bales and untwine them, clear manure in front of the barnyard doors and hard to reach areas around the perimeter of the barn, as well as operate the door inside and outside the barnyard when necessary.

I knew it was going to be a long day when my fitness tracker showed that I had already surpassed my goal of 10,000 steps per day before lunchtime. In fact, I ended up with 23,300 steps and would have burned 2,447 calories at the end of the day.

Fortunately, Dennis is a tractor driver, so he took on the role normally played by Eric. But since Dennis also served as a dump truck driver, he’s been very busy between all the ups and downs and the ins and outs of switching from vehicle to vehicle. Dennis also spilled around the stable’s clean straw after cleaning.

As Murphy’s Law dictates, there were also several unusual distractions during the day. The first involved a large tractor-trailer loaded with minerals to be spread in the cornfields, which unexpectedly stopped in our driveway.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t get into the right position to load the spreader because of where our dump truck was parked. I opened the wide doors behind our barn for easy access and also had Dennis vacate his tractor seat and move the dump truck to a better location.

Then, as I was walking back from the farm to the barnyard with sandwiches for our lunch, I saw that an unknown SUV was blocking our driveway in front of the barn. Who could it be?

Fortunately, the vehicle backed up around the same time Dennis returned after speaking with the driver. Our visitor was a man who had randomly stopped by our farm to ask if he could buy milk from our cows to make cheese. I sure hope he knows more about making cheese than getting bulk milk from beef cows.

Finally, the day’s work was over and, after our well-deserved showers, Dennis and I had a treat by attending a nearby fire carnival for supper. Tired as we were, the chicken and corn noodle soup and sausage sandwiches were delicious, and I felt no guilt as I topped things off with a delicious slice of homemade coconut cake .

Dennis opted for a large platter of moose track ice cream. We then slumped gratefully in our lawn chairs to listen to the band as the sun slowly set in the west. Not bad for second strings.

Sue Bowman is a freelance writer from southeastern Pennsylvania.

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