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Dog days

Agriculture.com Staff 07/17/2007 @ 11:33am

We are now in the dog days of summer, which, strangely, have nothing to do with domesticated carnivorous mammals related to foxes and wolves. Nor does this season have much to do with such a tamed carnivore having a day of his or her own.

"Dog days" instead refers to both "the hottest period of the summer" and "a lazy or inactive period of time." An example of such laziness may include a columnist randomly opening his dictionary to the "D" section and writing about the first thing that happens to catch his eye.

For many school-aged kids, this is a time when the unlimited promise of spring has evaporated like last week's water puddles, when even the thrill of being free from school has gone. The Play Station has played itself out, and the pink lemonade stand folded when it got out that the "pink" came from a digital laceration suffered while opening a can of lemonade concentrate.

In short, kids are likely passing these long, hot, dog days of summer by whining such things as "I'm bored" or "There's nothing to do!"

Poor babies.

Please excuse my sarcasm and total lack of sympathy, but we would have never uttered such a thing when I was school-aged. This is because the work on our dairy farm never ended, especially not for anything as inconsequential as outdoor temperatures that approached the melting point of lead.

The hottest time of the year was usually reserved for oat harvest. I had no proof, but secretly suspected that Dad planted oats with this in mind as part of that so-called "character building" he was forever harping about.

Our oats were stored in an old wooden granary. We would first haul the venerable Kelly-Ryan elevator out of its resting place in the trees and carefully maneuver it into one of the granary's two over-sized windows. Dad would then take the A-6 Case combine out to the field, leaving my brothers and I in charge of hauling and dumping wagons.

Hauling wasn't bad, but we all hated the dumping part. The wagon had to be snugged up as close as possible to the elevator hopper in order to minimize spillage; but woe to the kid who misjudged and bent the hopper!

Oats might seem like a genteel substance after it's been turned into oatmeal. But from our point of view, oats were a grimy, dusty, scratchy pain-in-the-patoot.

A blast of oat dust would accompany the opening of the wagon's end gate. One's instinct might be to run off a ways, but that would violate a dogmatic rule which said that the old elevator couldn't be left alone. It had grown so codgerly that it would sometimes forget to elevate, which would result in the horror of grain piling up on the ground.

So the hauler had to hover nearby and inhale oat dust as grain flowed from the wagon, into the hopper and up the elevator. Each flight overflowed, creating dozens of tiny golden waterfalls -- or, more accurately, oatfalls.

As amusing as all that sounds, the real fun began as the granary reached the full mark.

It had been ascertained that the granary could hold several additional wagon loads if someone descended into its dim and dingy bowels to shovel grain up into the corners. Naturally, this had to be done while the oats and its accompanying dust were in the act of being elevated.

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