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Schlecht: The humbling nature of a splat in manure

Jenny Schlecht

A few weeks ago, I helped my husband move some pens of calves and sort some cows. Our feedlot has an excellent drainage system, but this time of year, nothing can drain well enough to keep pens dry. An abundance of melting snow and ice jams in the culverts have created ankle-deep slop here and there.

Every thwack of my boots sticking in the mud sounded like spring.

At one point, I found myself jogging to cut off some cows. The cows turned back, and for some reason I kept jogging through the slop. Except I forgot that a layer of slop can conceal a layer of ice. The way I remember it, my feet kept going while I hovered in the air, cartoon-character like, before landing in a juicy puddle of manure with a triumphant splat.

Farm life can be humbling like that. One moment, you’re confidently jogging after a group of cows, the next you’re soaked to the skin in what I will optimistically call mud.

Had this been my first dumb farm mishap, I may have been embarassed. As it was, it became the latest in a lifetime of funny farm stories.

A few years back, my dad mentioned that my cousin had told him a story from our childhood that he had never heard before, a rarity in a family that relishes embarrassing stories.

“He was telling me about this one time ...” Dad trailed off with an incredulous chuckle.

“That I roped myself off the flatbed?” I finished.

“How did you know I was going to say that?” he asked.

I couldn’t answer, both because I didn’t know how I knew that was the story to which he was referring and because I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe.

My cousin, brother and I had been vanquished to the pickup during roundup, too young to be a real help. We were standing on the flatbed, and I started playing around with a rope. I ended up tangling up my feet and pulling myself to the ground. That I wasn’t hurt is a testament, I believe, to the bone-protecting benefits of drinking a lot of milk. That my brother and cousin didn’t immediately tell everyone is a reminder that I once was bigger than them.

That was probably the same time period in which I showed my first 4-H lambs. Since it was my first year, we hadn’t completely figured out feeding, resulting in two roly-poly animals. My arms — short now and shorter then — couldn’t reach over my wether well enough to properly set his feet, so I would reach under him instead. As anyone with an ounce of imagination probably already figured out, that chubby sheep peed on me in the middle of a beginner showmanship class at the fair. I wiped my hand on his wool and continued about my work as the judge bit back tears of laughter and the crowd gasped in amusement and second-hand embarrassment.

These are just a snapshot of the funny things I’ve done on the farm in three and a half decades of blundering. The memories make me laugh and remind me it’s not impossible to bounce back from a messy situation, just as I did in that puddle of slop.

So the next time you do something weird or embarrassing, just imagine a grown woman covered in manure or a smallish child roping herself off a flatbed and getting peed on by a lamb. If it doesn’t make you laugh, hopefully it will make you feel like you have good company for your own mishaps.