Herald and Journal, August 17, 1998

A truly impossible mission


Your mission, should you choose to accept it, and you will because there is no man available to do the job, is to chop the hay in the field behind the house.

You will be assisted in this mission by your husband and daughter. Your husband will periodically question your intelligence, your sanity and how you managed to plug up the chopper this time.

Your daughter will be assigned to throw you occasional dirty looks while you futilely try backing up the tractor smoothly enough to allow her to hook up the chopper to the next empty wagon. I should have known as I prepared to climb aboard the tractor that this would be a serious business.

Tom greeted me with a book outstretched in my direction. "Place your left hand on this book, and raise your right hand. Do you swear to chop the hay, the whole hay and nothing but the hay?"

As usual I vowed to do my best to chop the hay without breaking anything. I only had to fill up two loads. How hard could that be?

I was instructed to stay in second gear because the hay had been raked double. If I tried to drive too fast, I would plug up the chopper or break something. One of the things that happens when I'm out there on the tractor driving around in circles is that my mind starts to wander. Just a bit. This time I was thinking about writing my column. It was either that or fall asleep.

I bet you didn't know chopping hay could be so inspirational. I have found myself writing poetry sometimes when I am bored out of my skull with driving slowly around in circles trying to keep the chopper lined up with the hay.

One time in particular, I was trying to write a Burma Shave verse. I had seen an article in a magazine about old Burma Shave jingles. Years ago you would see a series of signs along the roadside advertising Burma Shave. They would be clever jingles that entertained while they advertised. Sometimes they gave words of caution to encourage safe driving.

This magazine had a contest to write a winning Burma Shave jingle. That's the kind of a challenge I enjoy. So, that afternoon I drove around writing a Burma Shave jingle in my head.

I don't remember whether the chopper broke down that day, but I do remember the jingle I wrote. Imagine these lines popping up on signs at the side of the road as you drive down the highway.

Mind your P's and Q's
Rest a spell at night
And you won't need a Vanna White
You're right.

I didn't win the contest. I did enjoy writing the jingle, though.

And did I accomplish this mission impossible? Of course, I did. I chopped the hay and wrote the column. Oh, ye of little faith.

I waited until the following afternoon to plug up the chopper.

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