Illustrations by Rayne Beaudoin
The other morning while coming down the stairs, I happened to glance in a mirror. Boy, was I stunned! Gazing back at me was not the slim, rakishly handsome 25-year-old farmer I expected to see. No, I was face to face with a pudgy 48-year-old with baggy eyes.
My first thought was It’s amazing what a bad night’s sleep can do. However, I quickly realized that, sometime between yesterday and this morning, I had aged 23 years and gained about 40 pounds. I knew I had to do something, so I formulated an immediate plan. Unfortunately, my wife, who is a good deal faster, stopped me before I had the mirror halfway to the trash can. OK, switch to plan B.
You know, when you look around, you discover that a lot of country folks are at least a little out of shape, and poverty is partly to blame. Rural people are often below-average earners, and as such are forced to eat farm fare like beef steaks, fried chicken, homegrown potatoes with butter and sour cream, bacon, eggs and fresh whole milk. Depressing, isn’t it?
Another problem we country people face is a lack of exercise. Since many rural folks have three or four jobs, we tend to work too hard to find time to get into shape. Most gyms are too far away and cost too much. And gym owners object to the mud and manure that flakes off our exercise shoes. Fortunately, after at least a half hour of intense thinking, I’ve come up with a solution. It’s an exercise program that fits the farming lifestyle; simple things a farmer can do while working, thus conserving valuable time for other activities like emergency chiropractic work and physical therapy.
I call my program Farmercise.
Begin with stretching
As most workout experts will tell you, stretching before any exercise is vital. However, work time does not have to be sacrificed for stretching. First, begin by collecting a few tools. Next, select a piece of machinery. It could be your truck, tractor or combine. OK, now shinny underneath and remove something from the underside. It really doesn’t matter what you remove. Use whatever tool seems to work best. I’m partial to a large screwdriver and a ball peen hammer.
If you have chosen correctly, halfway into the exercise you will be rewarded with a stream of liquid running down your arm. If no liquid comes out, move on to a different part until it flows.
Now, while holding the part up with a trembling arm and desperately tossing your head about to avoid splashes to the face, s-t-r-e-t-c-h with the other hand for the rag that moments ago was right next to you, but has since crawled beyond your reach. Got it? Good. Now switch hands and, after wiping the fluid from your eyes, s-t-r-e-t-c-h out to grab your screwdriver to begin replacing the part. Got it? Of course not. It’s gone. Not only is it gone, but as your frantic feeling about conclusively confirms, it was never there in the first place.
A couple of crunches
While you look for the misplaced screwdriver, your child will breathlessly announce that the cows are in the newly planted strawberry patch. This leads to our next exercise – the abdominal crunch, as you rise up in alarm.
Unfortunately, due to your present location beneath several tons of machine, the abdominal crunch will be followed instantly by what experts refer to as the forehead crunch.
As you squirm out from under the vehicle, you will discover that the missing screwdriver has re-appeared, wedged against a tire in such a way as to rip off most of your pant leg.
Now covered in oil and dirt, bleeding from the head and thoroughly warmed up, you may begin your next exercise.
Strictly speaking, you don’t have to have any cows for this exercise. However, I’ve always found cows to be sufficient, mainly because cows are so cunning. One moment, you see a cow on one side of the fence chewing her cud contentedly. Glance away for a second, and you’ll find that same cow is now on the opposite side of the fence happily munching away at your just-planted strawberry patch.
To start your Cardio Cow, reach wildly for any random stick. I invariably grab one of my children’s toys; for this example, let’s say a butterfly net. Begin your workout by madly waving the butterfly net, while screaming at the top of your lungs as you try to convince the cow to leave the garden.
The cow, no doubt confused by the sudden appearance of an oil-, dirt- and blood-covered lunatic wearing only half his pants and waving a butterfly net, will begin to run laps around the garden, destroying a strawberry plant with every step. Round and round we go. My, isn’t this invigorating? But we’re only getting started.
Drop and give me 50
Not enough exercise? No problem. You will almost certainly trip over the hose, or slip on the fresh fertilizer left by the cow. Once down, you are in the perfect position for at least one pushup. And you’d better hurry, because the cow is gaining on you.
Now, even though you left the gate to the yard wide open, the cow will refuse to see it. However, eventually she will tire of this sport and spy the hole in the fence she used to get into the garden in the first place – the hole, which only a few minutes ago was large enough to let the 800-pound heifer pass, is now no bigger than a dinner plate.
Well, that’s all we have space for this time. I’ll leave descriptions of more advanced routines, such as Empty Fuel Tank Tractor Walk, Barb Wire Hurdles and Fence Post Press, to your imagination. Right now, I’ve got to go retrieve 200 feet of field fence hanging around the neck of my exercise partner.
Humor writer and woodworker ( www.DonLewisDesigns.com ) Don Lewis wanders around his family’s small homestead in Northern Idaho for exercise.