I glance at the shore to check on one of my best cotton dresses, it’s the one with an eyelet hem and hand-embroidered flowers, to find it gently wafting with the morning breeze. I’d hung it upon an old Hickory, and decided after taking off my dress that I may as well baptize myself in this red dirt pond. But as much as you might like to think this swim around the pasture pond is for pleasure, it was not.
Let me rewind for you.
30 minutes earlier I’d returned from OKC to discover that over 20 of my ducks had disappeared into the rich night. My guess is wild dogs or coyotes got them, but who knows. You see, I am still new to this world of farming; a greenhorn through and through when it comes to tending the land. I only thought I had all of my fences mended, so to speak, when I introduced my Pekin duck herd into the pasture, and with that, the lovely pond that abides there. I had not planned for their protector, Fred the donkey, to become curious of their enclosure and rip off the door, nor had I intended for all my ducks to go quacking into the pasture, in what must have been a fright, before being attacked by the predators of the plains.
But, I’ll be all the more wary for potential mishaps the next time I try something new.
And there will always be another attempt, for there is a bounty of optimism at Early Bird Acres. Just as in everyday life, at the first sight of disaster you can’t just give up. I am my grandpa’s granddaughter and I was named after this great state, and I decided, by George, if I had to catch those ducks that would not move from the middle of the pond, so help me, I would do whatever it took. But this is all part of being a new farmer. I have never heard from my elders in the agrarian world a demand for perfection. There is no one at the farming table who has not made a mistake. And in the world of farming, a small oversight can lead to disaster.
You see, I’d left the farm because it was my grandmother’s birthday, and of course I’d worn one of my best dresses for the occasion. It was from this place of bliss that I found myself confronted with the reality of what I would have to do in light of the situation. I loomed over the rose-red water that stains everything it touches with clay, and from that muddy bank that I found myself plunging in naked as I swam for the remaining ducks. All the animals seemed ever so surprised when Farmer Lamb began to paddle through the small waves. My dog Harold even joined me in the adventure; he must have thought it was a game.
I reached the ducks and tread water for a good 30 seconds. The ducks did not even swim away. I grabbed two under my arms and the others simply followed.
“Why didn’t you make it this easy in the beginning ducks?” I’d whispered under my breath as I made my way ashore.
Once the ducks were safely contained in the back of my pickup, I found an old flannel jacket in the cab and dried off. I sat there quietly for a few moments while listening to the Stanley Brothers sing about a girl named Little Maggie who had a round glass in her hand. For all I know she could have just emerged from her own pasture pond covered in a fine film of Oklahoma clay.
“I could go for a round cup of coffee!” I said to the cows as they stuck their heads into the cab of my truck, trying to root out the sweet feed bag sitting inside. Later in the song I heard these words, “pretty flowers were made for bloomin, pretty stars were made to shine.”
“Muddy girls were made for farmin’, Harold.” This is what I’d said to my dog as he made his way into the seat next to me. We were just two muddy creatures of the pasture sitting inside of a truck. Even so, the comedy was tinged with sadness over the loss of the other ducks, but at least I was able to save a few.
These days the ducks live closer to the main house and we are all doing just fine. We watch the daily on-goings of the farm, and I continue to search for breaking news dealing with a new farm bill. In many ways, I am researching the decisions that will affect many a new farmer for the next five years. The dreams and aspirations of new agrarians could be realized with its beginning farmer and rancher programs; and even land can be acquired through the various services proposed within the bill. Who knows, maybe some of these new farmers will find themselves naked in a pond trying to save ducks. But even as I make light of my loss, farming takes more than just one act of braving murky pond waters stark naked, and it is the commitment to do so that abides in many a farmer that I find not only interesting, but incredibly heartening too. We loose our fear of these murky times and bare ourselves to this land in the most pure form possible. I send my love and many days of good rain and abundant harvests to future farmers, and wish you, Greenhorns, no hesitation to wade into the waters of life and emerge covered in a film of earth. Weather these seasons and earn your boundless bushels.