A Lad With Ambition
Today about daybreak, I caught up with m’ dear and dashing nephew, AJ, to talk to him about his hopes and dreams as a young man with farming ambitions.
AJ will be entering his junior year in the fall. He has been homeschooled all his life and I have actually heard his teacher refer to him as a “genius”. (I don’t know why she rolled her eyes.) But, really, AJ and his teacher are just plumb crazy about each other.
Sixteen-years-old this week, AJ is a regular church go-er, already a certified welder, a good enough mechanic to work on his own equipment, and has been building a stable of farm machinery which includes a combine, two tractors and hay balers, and a windrower. He also owns a Palomino filly, Sis, he’s training. And he’s been learning to rope calves.
He’s worked as a mechanic with his dad most of his life. In addition, AJ has worked for me–his nice aunt–as hired muscle around the home place and for Uncle Gramps as a plow hand. In addition, he’s worked as a farm hand, roofer, and barn builder.
Yes, girls, AJ is dashing and single, but this shirt I bought for his sixteenth birthday this week says it all, I’m afraid. Sorry.
Presently, AJ’s working on a harvest crew in the southwest Oklahoma wheat harvest for neighbors, Karen and Lester Burns with their crew of seven persons, four Gleaner combines, and two semis (trucks with grain trailers).
Danni: What’s your job description, AJ?
AJ: I pull the 850 bushel grain cart with an Allis 8070 tractor.**
Showing a neighbor’s grain cart for an example. Not the one AJ’s been operating.
Danni: Cool. Have you turned the grain cart over, yet? (I asked that because I once overturned our grain cart and dumped the wheat.)
AJ: (grins) Not yet. They did give me a scoop shovel, though, in case I don’t get close enough to the trailer when I dump. I did that last year. Had to scoop a bunch of wheat off the ground. Don’t wanna do that again.
Danni: That’s how all the grain used to be moved. With a scoop.
AJ: Glad we don’t do that, now.
Danni: How’s harvest going? We’ve had good weather for it. (Only farmers at harvest think this is good weather: 102* with 30 mph winds)
AJ: It’s goin’ good. Makin’ some average wheat yields, but a lot of it has been damaged by the late freezes and drought.
Hard To Get Started
Danni: Where do you see yourself five years from now in regards to farming?
AJ: Well, I’d like to have at least got started farming with two or three hundred acres and ten or fifteen head of cows.
Danni: What about working with horses?
AJ: I’ll probably have to just do that in my spare time or during the winter.
Danni: How difficult do you think it’ll be to get started farming from scratch? (No inherited land or equipment.)
AJ: Well, finding land and money. I’ll have to have a good job to fund it.
Danni: Yeah. That ain’t right, is it? Stinks. What job would you like to do to fund your farming habit?
AJ: Probably structural welding. Barns…stuff like that.
Danni: What challenges do you think you’ll encounter as a beginning farmer if land, machinery, and fuel prices continue to climb as they have in the past years?
AJ: Well, I’ll have to find other jobs besides farming, plus deal with bad weather. Freezes, drought.
No Joking Matter
Danni: Do you have to be crazy to farm?
AJ: (grins) Lots of people think so, but I really like it.
Danni: What’s your favorite joke?
AJ: I’m still too sleepy for jokes.
Danni: (laughs) Well, thanks for talking to me AJ. Auntie loves you and stay safe out there during harvest.
I hope y’all enjoyed this visit with m’ dear nephew as much as I did. He’s a good boy and as a genius, I expect him to go far–even though for lads trying to start farming these days it’s an uphill battle.
Until next time, God bless all y’all.
**For those unfamiliar with farming, the grain cart man, or woman, drives the cart into the field to fetch the grain from the combine to dump in a truck, which then hauls it to town to the grain elevators, or to farm storage. The carts save time and money in very large fields such as we have in SW Oklahoma. It’s not cost effective for the combine operator to stop cutting and drive to the edge of the field every little bit to discharge the grain tank onto a truck.