Angela Kay Larson
Woods Equipment Company
It’s the end of winter in the Southern Hemisphere, so flowers are blooming, the beaches are warming, and the fruit stands are filled with citrus and strawberries.
The seasonal menus feature winter produce, such as pumpkin tomato soup, and leek and cauliflower soup (the latter of which was made with camembert and was delicous!), and of course fresh cool weather favorites, such as rhubarb strawberry crumble, grilled asparagus, and citrus garnish with everything.
Last night, the weather report on Channel 7 from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland predicted a week of seasonally warm and dry weather. The beach report proclaimed all beaches open and called for warmth and sunshine for Saturday and Sunday, perfect for the “last weekend of winter.”
Add all this to driving on the right side of the road, drains swirling in the opposite direction, stargazing at unknown constellations, and it’s a heady experience down under. It’s August and it feels like March. It’s 6:30 am on Saturday and it feels like 3:30 in the afternoon on Friday.
We’ve decided that it’s best not to over-think this upside down, down under experience. We’re going to just relish in the sunshine and enjoy the last weekend of winter.
Researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong recently noted that married couples who travel in the same direction are happier. Whether commuting to work or taking a morning stroll, those who physically move in the same direction feel a metaphorical link to their greater goals.
Tommy and I have been traveling in the same direction since August 22, 1987. We walked side-by-side out of St. Patrick’s church in Washington, Illinois, 25 years ago today, and have been on the same path every since… sometimes holding hands and sometimes elbowing each other, but on the same path.
The excitement comes from following that path willingly, even though you never really know where it will lead you. Today (Australia time), our path has brought us to Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia. We’re about 9,000 miles from that church in Illinois, but our feet are still pointed in the same direction and we’re open to the possibilities of the next 25 hours, the next 25 months, and the next 25 years.
Today, we’re traveling to Gunnedah for a second day at the AgQuip tradeshow. It is fascinating to see the similarities and differences to the U.S. agricultural industry and talk to Australians who share our way of life. A farm show is certainly not the most glamorous way to celebrate 25 years of bliss, but it suits us to be strolling the aisles hand-in-hand, traveling in the same direction.
The first time I saw working farm dogs was at my cousin’s dairy operation in Niagua, Missouri. They were milking several hundred cows and using a herd dog to move the cattle in and out of the parlor. I was fascinated by its ability to move the cattle, cut them off, and ensure the proper number were driven into the building. We were milking just a hundred cows in an old stanchion barn at that time and even with our small herd and modest facility, a dog would have saved the hassle of trudging through the muck in the sleet to drive the girls indoors.
Around our place, dogs haven’t had to work so hard to earn their keep. Our only expectations have been companionship and good behavior. In turn, our dogs have always been given the shelter of the house, the warmth of our bed, the highest-quality food, superb veterinary care, and unlimited love and petting. They have lived a dog’s life.
And with all that care and attention, they have lived long lives. Our latest two “pups,” Mocha and Maizey, were both approaching 15 years when we faced the decision to put them down last Friday. Maizey’s old body was shutting down and she could no longer walk. Mocha has been living on borrowed time for two years. Humanely, we sent them together and placed them in a grave along the fence line with the dogs who have gone before them.
Of course, digging a grave was no easy task in the middle of a drought. After managing to remove the sod by hand, we called in our friend Wendell who does a lot of the dirt work on our farm. He was over within the hour with his Bobcat mini and made quick and easy work of the job. We asked what we owed him and he said, “I don’t have pens or koozies to give away, so consider this customer appreciation.” That’s country life.
It has been five days now and the house is strangely quiet and still. When we get up in the morning, we still look around to see who was sleeping where and how well they had survived the night. We no longer have to step over Mocha at the bottom of the stairs. We don’t have to baby them out the door for a potty break or cook their tender-tummy meals of ground beef and rice. We won’t have to test Maizey’s blood, adjust her insulin, or fill the water bowl (the outside bowl that is; the inside magic well/big white bowl was still their favorite!). Even with all the work and attention they required, we are missing them immensely.
As time passes, we will get used the strange quiet. And when we’re ready, we’ll invite another pup to live a dog’s life with us.
We’re getting ready for an international trade mission to Australia. And while that may sound exotic, it’s really just a visit to Australia’s largest equipment trade show sandwiched between two really, really long plane rides.
It will be exciting to meet with our distributor, learn more about how our equipment is used in Aussie cotton, and visit wineries and sheep stations where our equipment is used to maintain the farms. It’s always a thrill to see Woods equipment on the ground around the globe.
Whenever I travel to a foreign country, I am amazed at the commonalities shared by farmers. Farming is undoubtedly a global enterprise in which we all strive toward the same basic goals: grow the largest possible crop with the minimal amount of inputs and pray for rain.
Perhaps we’ll learn an Aboriginal rain ritual while in Australia. Now, that would make for an exotic trade mission.