A Day On The Farm

As part of our travels, we decided to participate in an organization called WWOOF – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.  Organic farms across the globe provide room & board (often times free; other times just very cheap) to individuals in exchange for work on the farms.  [To learn more, check out www.wwoof.org.]  We decided to try out some of the farms along our route within the U.S. to help with travel costs, learn new skills and meet more people.  We arrived at our first WWOOF farm last Friday.  For two city kids and a city dog, there is definitely a lot to learn.

Monday was certainly an adventure – and a good lesson about life on a farm and the people you find in farm country.

Our project for the day from our WWOOF host was to shovel out the horse manure from the stalls in one barn, then pressure wash and paint them while she mowed the field.  Simple enough, right?  I figured the hardest parts would be keeping Knox from under the horses’ hooves and not sneezing repeatedly from all the dust.

We got all of the stalls shoveled out and were about to start using the leaf blower to get out the remaining dust & dirt when Dancer, a friendly female quarter horse, decided to change our plans.

Dancer has spunk.  She likes to take off racing across her field and then race back the other way.  Unfortunately for Dancer though, her high-spirited high jinx got her injured yesterday when she slid on horse manure while running and slammed into a big metal wood splitter.  She ended up tearing into both of her left legs – ripping all the skin off a chunk of the back leg and cutting deep, deep gashes into the front one.  Amazingly, Dancer was still able to get up off the ground after that.

Obviously, all three of us went running over to the poor horse, and our host got a lead rope to help get her into a stall while we figured out what to do.  Her husband had the truck with the hitch, so she called up a friend of his with a van & a horse trailer to help out.  And by “help out” I mean abandon the work to be done on his own farm with 42 horses, drive 20 minutes to our WWOOF farm, help load the injured horse onto his trailer, drive over an hour to the large animal vet who could fix up Dancer, help load & unload the horse for the vet and then drive all the way back again to our WWOOF farm.  Not exactly a small favor to ask…but he came and helped with no desire for any more payment beyond $40 worth of gas in his van.  Plus, he took time to teach us city kids more about horses in the process.

To call this man colorful is an understatement.  Imagine the Marlboro man – complete with boot, jeans, cowboy hat and deep Southern drawl – but add in two tiny Jack Russell-Rat Terrier mixes that ride on his shoulders when he walks or in his lap when he drives.  He tells us stories, including some about his 14 dogs – only 6 of which can ride a mechanical bull (only??) – and works in such great quotes as “I’ll turn the other check but it’ll be an ass cheek because I won’t be hanging around.”

Speaking of not hanging around (and as though one injured animal wasn’t enough…), as we were getting Dancer loaded into the trailer to go to the vet, Lucy (one of those tiny little terriers of Mr. Marlboro) decided to get a closer look at the chickens, but instead made contact with the electric fence.

Unlike Knox who simply headed for the door of the house, Lucy turned into a little white streak and took off like she was being chased by a pack of wolves.  She ran completely out of our sight – which is how we ended up canvassing the neighboring properties for little Lucy for the next 45 minutes.  Again though, we had help.

A sweet retired lady with a Polaris loaded up our WWOOF host and us to drive the fields calling for Lucy while Mr. Marlboro drove around the block.  She had never met our host; she had never met Mr. Marlboro. Yet she was more than willing to drop what she was doing to help some strangers search for a missing dog.

After watching both this woman and Mr. Marlboro abandon their plans to help others, I couldn’t help but wonder if this kind of attitude was perhaps a country thing.  Too often back home I have encountered people who are too busy to even take two extra seconds to hold an elevator door for someone they see heading their way.  Seriously?  Is city life really that much busier that we can’t take the time to help out a fellow human being?  After only a few days on a farm seeing the effort that goes into caring for animals on top of working other jobs or caring for families, I’d wager that rural life involves far more items on the daily to-do list.  Yet the folks we’re meeting here in rural Georgia sure seem willing to slow down their own busy lives to help others.  What a shame it isn’t like that everywhere.

Oh, and Dancer?  She got her legs stitched up and should be all better in a month or so after some TLC and limited activity.