Sunday, August 11, 2013

I Love Farmers Singing

I guess it's time for confessions and unspoken passions. Unspoken, not out of embarrassment, but because no one ever asks -- which I understand; I'm don't ask others about their unspoken passions. We just let these things go till we've passed and the family's looking through our effects. "Could it be?" they'll ask, that he really had a passion for ... farmers singing?

Why not? I've always loved the image of the happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care farmer, trusting his fortunes to the wind, sun, and rain, and keeping a song in his heart. He's going along on his tractor, either whistling a tune or belting out one of the old songs: "When the moon comes over the cowshed, I'll be waiting at the ki-ki-kitchen door," like that. (The modern corporate farmer, I wonder if they even know the old songs, but that's neither here nor there. They probably know enough of them to fake it...)

It's the old timers I have in mind, the ones who step out on their back porch, look out at the cow field as it starts to get light, and bellow with a musical lilt for Bossie to come. From there it might become a full-fledged song of love and camaraderie, not just for the cow but the whole great outdoors. "I'm gonna lay a furrow down today, down by the riverside!"

All this comes to mind, thanks to the commercial on TV with the singing farmers: "Bumpa-bumpa, bumpa-bumpa, We are Farmers!"

I've been out on the farm quite a number of times, especially earlier in my life. We used to go to lots of auction sales held at farms. While the adults were busy with the sale, we were scouting out the farm with the other kids. This included many happy hours swinging around the hay mow, and just generally having the run of the place. We never got in any trouble either. Although now, as an adult, I can imagine the farmer, if he were noticing, having a cow that these crazy kids might get hurt. But no one seemed to care, and we certainly didn't.

Or I'd be on the farms of kids from school, friends. We might be out in the chicken shed, jumping off it into the snow in the winter, talking about what they do about skunks that get in the corn crib, or listening to the gut wrenching squeals of pigs getting castrated. That's a sound that sticks with you. I can't quite write it out, of course, or spell it, or put it in print. But it's music ... of a sort. Just think of the most painful squeal you've ever hear, then run as far as you can so you never have to hear it again. Like some boy bands.

And I've even done some work on farms, like baling hay, where you're singing, "Oh, bury me not on the lone prairie..." Not the funnest work.

The farmers singing on TV -- who look like they're with an insurance company -- have great voices, but unfortunately, a very small, short song. They just get started with the bumpa-bumpas and it's over. But for those precious seconds, it's these cool, big bass voices, with a very strident beat. Strident without being overly martial or unpleasant in any way. I know what it is, they just have years of calling in cows, or singing at the top of their lungs on the tractor, or in an enclosed tractor seat. That's when the real singing is done.

If they can sing that great about an insurance company, which is probably paying them pretty well, then they can sing about nature, animals, the fields, and the great big blue sky, as well as the life-giving sun beaming down, twice as well. Or three times. You get them working on their corn or wheat, and singing at the same time, "Bumpa-bumpa, I'm a Farmer," or "We are Farmers," and you'll have a thing of beauty. With an extended version of the song. And a whole album of various remixes. "Bumpa-bumpa" with some subtle hip hop thumps and sound loops. An acid jazz version would be cool.

No one else on TV sings so much about their own occupation. Not in quite the same way. You can really hear the unique pride that farmers have, and to me it's very very cool.

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