Did you hear the one about the farmer's daughter?

It happened again last night. I had the same conversation. It went something like this:

Him: Where are you from.
Me: I grew up on a farm in Central Illinois.
Him: A farm? No really, where are you from?
Me: Yes, a farm…really.
Him: No one lives on FARMS!
Me: Well…I did. And my family still does.
Him: Did you have chickens? And pigs and horses? And goats?

I have this conversation frequently. And it never ceases to amaze me. I tend to hang out with fairly educated, professional types of people. I mean, I had this conversation last night with a physician…not an escapee from the local institution for the criminally stupid.

So I thought before I had this SAME conversation again, I would go on record and clear a few things up. Number one of course, is that yes, people do live on farms. That isn’t some kind of ancient myth. It’s not just something you see in movies. There is life beyond the suburbs. I lived on a working, profitable (more or less depending on the weather) grain farm. I went to a rural public school. There were 18 students in my high school class. I am not making this up to entertain you.

The second thing I want to clear up is the whole “animal thing.” People insist that there must have been a multitude of animals on my farm. When I tell them there weren’t for the most part they ask me “why not” as if this was some kind of anomally and I should have known better. If we didn’t have chickens and goats running around in the yard then it must not have REALLY been a farm, or there must have been something inherently WRONG about it.

In past generations, it was necessary for farmers to have a few chickens, a couple of cows or what-have-you in order to feed their families. Think “Little House on the Prairie.” Now, however, the average farmer has access to the most amazing thing: A grocery store. They get in their Buicks and go buy their groceries the same way you do. They don’t milk a cow and collect eggs for a big breakfast with the farm hands.

If there are animals on farms, it’s most likely an enormous number of them. For example, the huge dairy farms in Wisconsin. Or the 10,000 hog operation nearby that bespoiled the air where I lived. The animals are a business, they are not a half dozen cute baby chicks running around the yards waiting for a handful of corn from the farm wife.

There are, of course, the odd couple of farmers who keep animals in their yards. Like the Earhardt’s across the way. But they are whacko and don’t count for anything in this rant. They’re the rare exception to the rule and their animals aren’t useful in any real sense anyway, but rather an extension of their diseased brains that pours out onto the lawn in front of their home.

As far as the other fun stereotypes:

  1. My family is educated. And in fact, in order to run a business as large and complex as a farm, one MUST be educated. Or at least to run one successfully you must. My father runs a business…he deals with issues that affect the board of exchange. Not only do I have a degree from a big ten univeristy, but both my parents do, as well as both my dad’s parents. I’m not positing education as any indication of true intelligence or bragging about this fact. I’m just pointing out that the guy in the coveralls and straw hat leaing over the fence chewing on a stalk of straw is not a reality.

  2. No one in my family is named “Ellie Mae.”

  3. Farm machinery is expensive and sometimes complex. No more tractor jokes or I will strangle you with the twine that’s holding up my dungarees.

  4. My dad never let anyone sleep in the barn.

  5. What did we do way out there? I will admit there are certain cultural interests that arise in any location or among any group of like-minded individuals. For example, my father insists on blowing the crap out of defneseless animals at 4:00 in the morning because this “sport” is part of his “cultural heritage.” However, for the most part the answer to “what did you do way out there” is the same thing you did wherever YOU grew up. We just drove farther to do it.

Thanks for reading and Yee Haw!!!


I, for one, would like to sleep in the barn. I have no idea why.

I imagine you’d be welcome to stay in the barn. Just don’t sneak into the house in the middle of the night.

Seriously, it’s pretty stinky out there. And dusty enough that even someone who never realized they had allergies can end up wheezing for days. Are you SURE you want to sleep out there?

When I was a math professor, I’d get one of two standard reactions when I got asked my occupation (at least, when I didn’t lie ;)):

  1. “And I can’t even balance my checkbook!”
  2. “I never understood anything after Algebra I/Geometry/long division/fractions/whatever.”

Now that I’m a mathematical statistician for the Census Bureau, everyone wants (or wanted; that should die out quietly now, thank the Lord) to ask me about the $%&#! sampling.

So it isn’t just you, SexyWriter. But I know what you mean, and you’ve got my sympathy.

SexyWriter said:

Never been to Central Pennsylvania, have you? Though they’re more likely to be chewing snuff around here.

(A math professor? Jeez, I can’t even balance my checkbook without a calculator, and I never understood anything after fractions…)

When I used to tell people I was wrote for music magazines, I would always head “Do you write for Rolling Stone?”

Damn I hated that… [sub]Of COURSE I didn’t![/sub]

Driving through those long, monotonous praries, in either Illinois or Indiana, I would often look out across the fields of wheat or corn where, in the distance now and then, you could see a little light. Sometimes, a cluster of three little lights. I guess it’s a farm house, far from the road and under wide open sky. It seems terribly lonely.

Actually, in my opinion, it is pretty lonely and isolated. which is why I’ve chosen a more urban way of life for myself. Though I did have a social life while I lived there, of course. It was just more difficult and more likely to be ruled by the weather.

I’d like to sleep WITH someone in a barn… or anyplace else for that matter.

I dont know why. I love camping and the outdoors and all, and I seem to be getting the same response when I think about sleeping in a barn. It sounds sweet to me.
And I have to agree with Totoro. A real and true roll in the hay, as it were.

I’ve done that. But don’t tell my parents.

So how many guys have said “What a coincidence! I just happen to be a Traveling Salesman!”

Almost all of them.

Hey, isn’t a barn a euphemism…? ::runs away::

I used to live in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. It was a seaside fishing village, with farms all around it. So I knew many farm families indeed, and most of them had cows and sheep, and rode horses, and drove tractors and motorbikes etc. None of them ever said “That’ll do, pig” though. (Unless that was the name of their sheep dog)

Anyway, I just thought I’d say I don’t get ignorant questions about my past, except in regards to the Psychiatric Hospital that my parents worked at.

I’m glad you don’t!

And just to clarify, it’s not that I’m really offended by these questions or anything. I just find it really strange. Some super-intelligent people have said the stupidest things to me about my farm life. I mean really…“No one lives on a farm”?! Why would anyone SAY something like that? It’s no big offensive thing for me to say “of course they do” I just find it strange. I’ve lived in Chicago and now I’m in a Boston suburb. What do people THINK is out beyond the suburbs? More suburbs? Turtles that hold the city up?


Growing up and living here in The Heart of it All (Hey, I didn’t make the slogan up!) it can be kind of hard to realize that most of the people in the country have no idea how things work in the country. (Did you follow that? I’m not sure I do.) One of my high school teachers had never seen a combine until he was driving to college his freshman year. And he was from Lansing MI, not exactly a booming metropolis.

So it never really surprises me that people from large cities have no concept of life on the farm. And if they had to actually do some of the work farming requires, they would quickly loose their illusions about it.

After seeing your picture, I can certainly understand why they are so quick with the Traveling Salesman line.

Hey thanks! It’s always nice to know I deserve cheesey pick up lines.


Try telling people you live at a fish hatchery!! I get questions like “Do you have to feed the fish?” and my all-time favorite: “Does it smell like fish?” Fucking A people, I don’t work at the hatchery, my dad does, so NO I don’t have to feed the fish (although I have, since I love to help my dad out at work when I go home for visits). And for chrissakes, we don’t live in the hatchery, we live at houses on the hatchery grounds. And as for the scent, I don’t even think the hatchery itself smells life fish, so no, my house doesn’t either. The only place at the hatchery that smells like fish is the mort pit (the pit that they throw dead fish in), and that pit is quite a ways from the hatchery in a little grove of trees.

For the record people (not that I’m directing this at any of you, but just people in general), there are much more polite ways to inquire about someone’s interesting past that asking ignorant questions. :rolleyes:

“You’re very clever young man, very clever,” replied the old woman, “but it’s turtles all the way down.”