The Bookworm Sez: 'Dear County Agent Guy' recalls the good, the bad and the ugly of farm life

By: 

Terri Schlichenmeyer

The rain – or lack thereof – just about destroyed your plants a year or three ago.

Seems the weather’s always wrong, prices are lower than they need to be, and there’s always a hole in some fence somewhere. Still, you’d never have it any other way, so read Dear County Agent Guy by Jerry Nelson. You might as well laugh, right?

More than three generations ago, when Jerry Nelson’s great-grandparents began farming on “the open prairies of eastern South Dakota,” they had no idea that they were leaving a legacy. From them, Nelson inherited a love of the land, a career, a ramshackle ancestral cottage and, presumably, a good sense of humor.

For a few years after high school, Nelson farmed near the old homestead and eventually co-farmed with his father. That was after he decided that life would be better with a little “female companionship,” and he took a wife.

The two sons that came afterward were a nice complement to the wife thing, although having them wasn’t like getting a new calf. With sons, there was a hospital involved and a lot of huffing and puffing. Having been through all this birthing stuff before, Nelson kindly offered his calf-puller, noting that having a baby was easy for a cow so why was it such a big deal to his wife’s midwife?

Kidding aside, though, a farm is a great place to raise a family. Nelson’s great-grandparents did it. His grandparents raised their children on a farm, as did his parents and that’s where Nelson’s boys grew up. It’s where the old family cabin moldered until it fell apart, and where Nelson found a letter from his father, dated long before Nelson was born. It’s where silage doesn’t taste very good (but the cows sure love it); where a man with a pickup is everybody’s friend; and where favorite foods are served, even if one’s wife must hold her nose.

The farm is where pastures hold memories of times spent with Dad. It’s where lessons are learned that stick with a boy long after he becomes a man. It’s where cows are pets, snow is no excuse to stay home, and where lives change because accidents happen…

Maybe it’s just me, but I could swear I smelled fresh country air while reading Dear County Agent Guy.

Yep, this book reminded me of warm spring afternoons, when you’re driving on a dirt road and you stop to jaw a minute with a neighbor on a dusty tractor. It’s like finally finding that newborn calf in the woods – and it’s a heifer!  There are loving-the-farm moments, wrapped inside hating-the-losses chapters. And yes, there are times when reading this book is like watching someone pratfall in a fresh cow-pat, because author Jerry Nelson sprinkles good-natured, genuine humor all over his essays here.

I laughed out loud more than once at this book, and I think you’ll like it, too – especially if you understand its very title.  For you, then, grab Dear County Agent Guy and plant yourself down.

Dear County Agent Guy by Jerry Nelson c.2016, Workman Publishing    $14.95/$22.95 Canada  210 pages