When I was pastor of several rural parishes. I discovered many fascinating facts about the farming life. The first concerned cattle.
Several times, I noticed one cow leading all of the other cows. This was called “the boss cow.” Wherever she led them, they would obediently follow. If they congregated at the food bin, I thought it would be first come – first served. But when the bulls lazily sauntered to the food bin, they just barged in, forcing their way to the evening delights.
I once went out to Dennis Hardy’s farm in Cedar Township. He had a 2,500-pound bull relaxing in one of the pens. Dennis said, “Watch this.”
He placed a bucket full of corn by the bull. With great effort, the bull stood up and began eating the corn.
“Dennis, that bull could come through the fence if he wanted to, couldn’t he?” I asked.
Dennis said, “I’ve seen them go through the side of a barn when they were upset!”
Another memory I have is of farm equipment. The color of the equipment was really important. Some farmers had entirely green equipment because they believed that John Deere was the best. Others had red equipment because they believed that International was the best. It’s sort of like choosing between Iowa and Iowa State. A city boy priest should never show favoritism.
I found out something about how John Deere tractors are assembled. A worker said, “The engine, the drive train and the tractor itself are all built in Waterloo, Iowa. Workers were assembling tractors for shipment to Russia. The roughly 90 employees, however, didn’t assemble the tractors for shipment. They assembled the tractors only to test them. The completed tractor is tested, and then it is disassembled and prepared for shipment. They crate it, and send it to Russia in an ocean-going container, and then reassemble it there, test it and distribute it to the Russian market. It is cheaper to send the broken down units!”
I must not forget to talk about the pigs. I, like others, often thought pigs were dirty animals. Not true! Pigs are actually very clean and intelligent – probably even smarter than dogs! (Sorry Oscar).
One of the reasons pigs may get a bad rap is from their habit of rolling in mud. But this behavior isn’t about getting dirty; it’s about cooling off. Pigs don’t have sweat glands, so wallowing in mud helps to keep them cool. The mud also protects their skin from biting bugs and sunburn. All I know is that clean bacon is one of my favorite meats.
We know from Scripture that pigs get a bad rap there, too. Matthew 8:28-34 tells how demons came out of two possessed men and entered the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea where they drowned. Farmers, tractors, cows, bulls and pigs – all smarter than the city slicker.
Father Dennis Meinen serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese and Calix and Faithful Friar of the Garrigan 4th Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus, Sioux City.