HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
July 16, 2007, Herald Journal

Much ado about mooing

By IVAN RACONTEUR

All right, all you farmers out there. It is time to keep those animals quiet.

If you don’t, you could end up in the same situation as Washington County resident Karyl Hylle found herself in recently.

A neighbor’s beef about Hylle’s pet steer’s mooing has left Hylle facing a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail.

Wally the steer hasn’t read the local noise ordinance, but ignorance of the law is no excuse.

It apparently doesn’t matter that mooing is something that is perfectly natural for a steer.

It doesn’t matter that Hylle’s property is zoned agricultural and she has every right to keep animals.

The important thing is that the periodic cow sounds emanating from her farm provoked the neighbor to file 21 complaints with the county.

Apparently, mooing does not fit the neighbor’s view of what rural life should sound like.

The same thing could happen to you.

Your family may have been farming the same land for more than a century, but you could find yourself looking over the fence at newbie neighbors who don’t understand rural life.

You could find yourself having to explain why cows moo, why hog operations are a bit aromatic on a warm summer day, and why combining may generate a bit of dust now and then.

As development continues and cities stretch ever deeper into agricultural areas, this type of conflict is likely to become more common.

As amazing as it may seem, it is really nothing new.

It is the same principle as when people buy a house next to an airport or a railroad, and then complain about the noise.

The airport or railroad may have been there for decades, but the new owner believes that the existing industries should change to accommodate him.

The newcomers insist on noise reduction and demand that someone else should pay to remodel their homes to prevent any possible disturbance.

They complain that the noise affects their property value, but they never acknowledge that the reason they were able to purchase their home for the price they did is because the airport was there long before they were.

It is the same principle as immigrants who come to this country, and they expect us to accommodate their culture and their language.

They don’t want to be bothered to learn English, but they expect us to pay to translate everything into their language so things are convenient for them.

Some people have a very one sided view of the concept of tolerance.

They expect others to be tolerant of them, but, when it comes to tolerating those who came before them, they don’t want to hear about it.

The story of Wally the steer is just another example of how farmers, especially small farmers, are becoming an endangered species.

People move from the suburbs out to rural areas to get their little piece of heaven, and the first thing they want to do is to try to change it.

People move away from the city because land in rural areas is relatively inexpensive. Once they get there, they demand all of the services and infrastructure they had in the city.

The don’t seem to realize that farmers are the people who fill the vital role of putting food on the table for all of us.

They think farms should be pretty little picture-postcard illustrations on the landscape with red barns and white fences.

They don’t see farming as the critical industry it is, and they complain about aesthetics.

The farmers didn’t ask these people to move in next door.

The farmers were perfectly content minding their own business and trying to scratch out a living under extremely challenging conditions.

Now, there is a new challenge facing farmers.

In addition to unpredictable weather, insects, weeds, foreign competition, and reams of regulations, farmers must now add busybody neighbors to their list of challenges.

Even if we were to excuse the whiny neighbors for their ignorance, it is difficult to see why some clueless counties seem to side with the newbies.

If we continue to drive farmers out of business, we are all going to be in trouble.

We could end up importing even more of our food from other parts of the world, and history has shown how well that works out for us.

Being dependent on other countries for vital commodities is a bad idea for many reasons.

For all of those people who have moved here from somewhere else, maybe you should take some time to try to understand those who were here before you before you try to change everything.

And, if the mooing of your neighbor’s cow bothers you, maybe you should mooove back to where you came from.

No one asked you to come here, and if you aren’t willing to try to adapt and fit in, we won’t miss you when you’re gone.