Sept. 22 2021 08:00 AM

The stress of harvest comes out in all different ways.

Ah, harvest. What a time, eh? I don’t know how it is on your farm, but around here, the extra stress often leads to some major breakdowns in polite communication. What used to be perfectly civil conversation topics will dissolve into yelling matches between exhausted and annoyed family members. In the spirit of all the stress that’s about to come our way, I thought I’d recount the most ridiculous argument my dad and I have ever had. It all started because of a pen…

It was herd health day. Kelly, our vet, has been with us for years and knows us pretty well. It was finally a nice day, so after I finished milking, I took over herd check for dad so he could head for the tractor. A few minutes after he left, Kelly and I heard the office door slam, and I knew something was wrong. In the 150 feet he had to travel, I had some time to wonder why I was about to get yelled at. I turned toward him as he stopped two feet away with a pen in his hand. As we’re both naturally boisterous people, our conversations are typically loud. So, I was a little surprised when he raised his usual volume up another notch and said, “What is this?”

I blinked, slightly confused. Apparently, my response of “A pen” wasn’t good enough.

Cranking the volume up another notch he yelled, “Why is it always unclicked?” With her arm in a cow and a puzzled look on her face, Kelly shot me glance over the headlocks as I stared back in disbelief and said, “What are you talking about?”

“What’s the first thing you do when you pick up a pen?”

I just stared at him. My dad is a super smart guy. He has this way of asking a simple question but making you think the answer is more complicated than it is. So, I’m pretty sure I looked like an idiot when I just stared at him blankly then responded with, “I don’t know.”

“You write with it. You pick up a pen and you write with it. But every time I pick up a pen it’s unclicked. Why are they always unclicked?”

At this point, the absurdity of the entire conversation hit me and the look on my face went from confused to incredulous. I looked at Kelly with an expression that said, “Is this really happening right now?” while she was actively trying not to laugh in our faces.

I said, “Because I just click them. Why does it matter if I leave them unclicked?”

“Because it’s a waste of time. Every time I pick up a pen, I have to click it and it’s a huge waste of time.”

Feeling supremely annoyed at this point, I grab the pen off my clipboard, hold it straight out in front of me at eye level, look him in the eye, and very deliberately click the pen. Somehow, despite the 250 cows clinking in the headlocks, the mixer wagon grinding in the background, and the dozens of fans running, the soft sound of the pen click seemed to echo around us. At the same time, I rearranged my expression into one of shock like I had just performed a magic trick. Simultaneously, Kelly let out a short bark of laughter while the vein my dad’s neck started pulsing and I gasped and said, “Oh wow! It’s like magic!”

As we stared each other down for what felt like hours, I was 67% sure I was about to get punched in the face. Instead, he gave me one last look before he turned around and angrily stalked away.

We still laugh about the infamous pen argument. And now, I hope you will too. Happy harvesting! Let’s try to keep it civil, okay?

Jessica Peters

The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.