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Farmyard Olympics

07/24/2012 @ 9:24am

There’s been a lot of talk lately regarding “Olympics” this and “Olympics” that.

Inquiring minds want to know, so I investigated and learned that an improbable event known as “the Olympics” is being held at some made-up sounding place called “London”. I had always thought that London was a mythical locale that could only be seen in tandem with France.     

But the Olympics are a real phenomenon, comprised of a conglomeration of incomparable athletic achievements. Billions will tune in to watch excellent young athletes perform excellent feats of athletic prowess. Some of those watching will be thinking, “Wow, I wish I could do that!”, but the majority will be thinking “Wow, I could never do that!”

I am among the latter group. The pinnacle of my athletic achievements happened when I was in first grade and District # 95 school held and all-school field day one spring afternoon.

Everyone enrolled that single-room school -- about a dozen students ranging from grades 1 through 8 -- participated in the field day. I received a green ribbon for running a footrace in which I finished dead last. I didn’t know it at the time, but a green ribbon was a kindly way of saying “nice try and thanks for showing up, but don’t expect to appear on a box of Wheaties anytime soon.”

Many Olympic sports are rooted in a useful and important skill. For instance, the first marathon was supposedly run 2,500 years ago when a courier sprinted 26.4 miles (approximately 87 liters) to deliver a vital message. This speaks not only to his outstanding athletic ability, but also to the importance of monitoring your monthly data plan. Think how much quicker and easier it would have been if he could have simply sent a text!    

Be that as it may, there are yet-to-be-invented Farmyard Olympic events that would make use of important skills we farm kids acquired while growing up. Suggestions for such sports might include:

  • The 25-yard Wheelbarrow Dash. This event challenges the athlete’s strength and balance. Participants load standardized wheelbarrows with standardized cow dung that has accumulated in a gutter. The loaded wheelbarrows are then sprinted 25 yards and up an inclined ramp before being dumped into a waiting manure spreader. Points will be deducted for spills. However, judges can award extra points to participants who complain loudly and creatively about the cosmic injustice of being forced to miss Saturday morning cartoons while performing this odious chore.
  • The Chicken Coop Chase. Athletes will need superior reflexes and coordination for this fast-paced team sport! Each two-person team is put into a standardized chicken coop that contains 100 adolescent Leghorns. One team member -- the “catcher” -- corners the chickens and captures five young roosters. Speed plus the ability to correctly guess the gender amidst a flurry of beating wings is key.
    As each chicken is caught, it’s handed off to the “cager”, who places the squawking, flapping birds into a small cage. The cager must also help herd the chickens into a useful group while preventing any poultry from flying the coop via an open door. Points will be deducted should team members begin to squabble or hurl recriminations.
  • The Hay Rope Swing. A hay rope is secured to the highest point of a standard haymow and a quantity of small square straw bales is stacked on each side of the mow. Competitors clamber to the top of a straw bale pile, then grab the rope and swing across the haymow with the aim of alighting safely on the opposite stack. Bonus points are awarded for vigorous mid-flight gyrations and Tarzan-like yodeling.   
    Ties will be broken with a competition wherein contestants search the labyrinth of straw bales for an elusive mother cat and her new litter of kittens.
  • The Five-Gallon Bucket Sprint. Each contestant is issued a pair of standard five-gallon buckets. At the sound of the starter’s pistol, the bucketeers race to a nearby granary where they fill their buckets with #2 yellow corn. The buckets are then spirited off to a cattle yard. Competitors must next open a gate and negotiate their way through a herd of hungry cattle before dumping their grain into a feed bunk.
    Points are deducted for slipping and falling in fresh cow pies or for allowing cattle to escape through the gate. Extra points can be earned by vociferously complaining about how this chore is making the competitor late for his or her date that evening.         

These are just a few ideas for the Farmyard Olympics. One way to guarantee their popularity would be to ensure that every contestant is awarded at least a little something. I’m thinking maybe green ribbons.

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