Stringers II | country life | lancasterfarming.com

If you’re a sports fan, you’re probably familiar with the term “second chord.” The second series basically refers to the second best players in the different team positions.

Often times, second string players train hard but still spend a lot of time sitting on the bench during matches. The exception to this is usually if the first string player in a certain position is injured or has to leave the game due to fouls. Then the operator of the second string is asked to fill in.

Recently, a key player on our farm team got injured in the course of his day job, and Dennis and I became the second to work.

Dennis’ son, Eric, is a huge help in our cow rearing process. During the cold weather months when the cattle are in the yard, he comes to our farm every Saturday to run the tractor for the weekly cleaning of the barn and yard. Our small team gets the job done efficiently, but we don’t have ‘bench power’.

In other words, if for some reason one of us is unable to perform our weekly duties, there is no one to replace him. In fact, whoever remains becomes the second administrator by default.

Unfortunately, Eric cut a tendon in his hand which required surgery. He is now recovering and attending physical therapy, but this is not the type of injury that heals quickly. Nor is it the type of injury that allows you to initially drive a car while on the road to recovery.

This means we have lost our most accomplished tractor driver. Eric is also the man who spreads fresh hay around the stable after it has been cleaned.

If there’s any good news, it’s that this situation arose near the time we put our cattle on pasture in the summer. Thus, we only had one round of manure removal to take care of it without Eric’s help.

I usually shake about 23 pieces of wheat straw upstairs from the barn and eventually push them through a trap door in the barn floor to the cattle stable below after removing the soiled bedding with a tractor bucket. Dennis is our ‘Friday Man’, helping move livestock to their stable and locking them there while the yard is scraped, helping to put large bales of hay into two hay rings in the yard and driving the dump truck carrying the removed manure to the farm where it is deposited.

We know all too well those familiar roles. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to operate our tractors, and I’m also not a dump truck driver, so I did my usual errands. I’ve also helped Dennis place and remove hay bales, remove compost from in front of patio doors and hard-to-reach areas around the perimeter of the barn as well as help run the gate in and out of the yard when necessary.

I knew it was going to be a long day when my fitness tracker showed that I had already exceeded my goal of 10,000 steps per day before lunchtime. In fact, I finished 23,300 steps, and reportedly burned 2,447 calories by the end of that day.

Fortunately, Dennis is a tractor driver, so he took on the role that Eric usually plays. But since Dennis also worked as a dump truck driver, he was kept too busy between all the ups and downs, interiors and dodges to switch from one vehicle to another. Dennis spread around the clean stable straw after cleaning, too.

As with Murphy’s Law, there were also many unusual deviations during this day. The first was a large trailer truck loaded with metal to be deployed in the cornfields, which pulled unexpectedly into our driveway.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get into the proper position to mount the spreader due to where our dump truck was parked. The wide hatches behind our barn opened for easy access and also summoned Dennis to clear his tractor seat and move the dump truck to a better place.

Then, on my way back from the farm to the yard with sandwiches for lunch, I saw that an unfamiliar SUV was blocking our way in front of the barn. And who might that be?

Fortunately, the car rolled back around the same time Dennis came back from speaking with the driver. Our visitor was a man who stopped randomly on our farm to inquire if he could buy some milk from our cows to make cheese. I hope he knows more about cheesemaking than he does about obtaining milk in large quantities from beef cows.

Finally the day’s work was over, and after a much-needed shower, Dennis and I treated ourselves to a nearby firefighter’s carnival for dinner. As we were tired, the chicken, corn, and sausage soup tasted great, and I didn’t feel guilty when I topped things off with a delicious slice of homemade coconut cake.

Dennis chose a large plate of ice cream. Then we collapsed gratefully on our lawn chairs to listen to the band as the sun slowly set in the west. Not bad for second reporters.

Sue Bowman is a freelance writer in southeastern Pennsylvania.

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