soybean field

Field-gawking is sneaky

I am guessing that as I grow older, I am going to become a female version of the crotchety old man that everyone knows, loves and grumbles about on a regular basis.

I catch myself complaining about the weather, limping randomly, shaking my head at drivers going too fast, falling asleep early, getting up before the sun and generally adapting the habits of an 80-year-old.

All in all, those habits really are not too bad. However, the habit that truly convinced me that I am turning into an old person was one that used to drive me nuts when my grandfather did it. It is the dreaded “traveling and noticing/comparing everyone’s field with our field” syndrome.

Let me give those of you who have not experienced this syndrome a brief overview.

First, so I do not have to constantly type about the description above, let us give this syndrome a name. Let us call this field-gawking; this is similar to being on a highway and when someone is pulled over or there is an accident, everyone slows down to stop and look, resulting in slowdowns and backups for miles, most affectionately known as rubbernecking.

Field-gawking is similar except it involves corn fields, bean fields, wheat fields, barley fields, hay fields, etc. It is noticed by a slowdown of the vehicle and the driver turning their head to either side of the field to take a good long look at the field. During this time, the driver of the vehicle often makes notes of the weeds in the rows, height and condition of the field and then either out loud or mentally compares it to their fields at home. Sometimes it is accompanied by an irritated beep from the car behind the field-gawker, which only earns the honker an exasperated sigh or sometimes even more of a slowdown.

After passing the field, a discussion normally ensues with the occupants of the vehicle about the condition of the field, the weather, spray, seeds, height of the plants, harvest, etc.

As a child, this phenomenon used to drive me insane. My grandfather, in his blue Dodge truck, was well-known for this syndrome. It used to take us 15 to 20 extra minutes to get places because of field-gawking. As a kid, I could never understand why this syndrome occurred. In fact, one heated argument with my grandfather involved my telling him that his field-gawking was nosy and invasive. He replied that everyone did it and someday I would too. I vowed then and there to avoid the disease.

Fast forward a good number of years to last month. I am on a train traveling from London, England to Paris, France. Out in the country, traveling through fields and fields of wheat, rye, barley, etc. (the Eurostar was going 186 mph, so it was hard to see the heads to tell what exact crop it was), corn and soybeans, I caught the dreaded syndrome and my best friend was there to witness it.

I casually mentioned, after staring out of the window for 10 minutes, that their corn was weeks ahead of most of ours. Gasp! Just like that, I was infected. She and I spent the rest of the train trip talking about fields, comparing them to ours back home, discussing European agricultural products, food labeling, and more, but the conversation always found its way back to the fields when a particularly nice or bad field appeared.

After realizing in Paris that I had caught the dreaded syndrome, I did my best to ignore it and try to cure myself. I made one comment about the olive groves in Italy, which I felt did not count. After all, it was a grove, not a field. Yet field-gawking is sneaky.

Last weekend, my family and I took a summer vacation getaway to Mackinaw City and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. If you have not been, I highly encourage you to go; it is absolutely stunning! On the way up, field-gawking struck my entire family and I am thankful that the car had cruise control or we might not have made it. It was at that moment, surrounded by my mom and grandmother that I realized field-gawking is not that bad nor something to be dreaded. It is a way of life, one ingrained since I was a child. It is also another part of my grandfather’s legacy that has been rooted in me.

So, if you notice a white Dodge Charger, slowly cruising by every field, do not get mad and honk; just pass me and wave! I’ll wave back but as you speed away, I’ll shake my head and mutter under my breath about how fast kids drive these days and then I’ll head home for my 8 p.m. bedtime.

Submitted by Christen Clemson a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau.  She and her family farm in Mecca Township.