Friday, April 20, 2012


When Vivian and I were last in New Zealand, we were staying as guests with some friends on a farm. We loved being out in the country, and of course, that is our life here in Wisconsin. One day, our friends wanted to take us to a farm show near a town some distance away. The show was called the Agriculture and Pastoral Show (in this case, the “pastoral” referred to rural life, not training pastors of churches). The show was great; it was like one of our county fairs, but with a New Zealand flare. There was an entrance fee to the show, and as I was getting ready to pay, I asked the fellow if he accepted EFTPOS.
Now – I need to explain something here. EFTPOS is an acronym that stands for something that no one seems to know, but EFTPOS is a card that is the same as a debit card; it’s just that they say EFTPOS instead of debit card (despite the difficulty for English speakers in pronouncing the “FTP” sound). In Auckland and in any town, this is what almost everyone uses for any transaction, even for buying a cup of coffee. So, when I was going to pay at the gate of the farm show, I did not think my question was unreasonable.
However, the guy looked at me, almost surprised that I would ask such a question. “EFTPOS!” he exclaimed. “Out here in the country?? We don’t use EFTPOS here. What are you, some kind of city boy?
Oh… those words cut me deep. But they didn’t seem to cut deep into the hearts of our Kiwi friends, who roared with laughter. During the entire time that we stayed with them, they did not let me forget what the man called me. My friends would just look for the opportunity to ask me, “What are you, a city boy?” They did this whenever they thought it was appropriate, which, it turns out, was pretty often – far more often than I would have guessed. What the guy called me, I told our friends, one of the worst insults that I have ever received (there have been others, but I am also in the process of trying to forget those).

Now we are home on our farm in Wisconsin. Soon after arriving here, I bought four little calves to raise as steers. I myself grew up on a farm raising calves. I know calves. I know how to feed them and know how to take care of them. But despite what I thought was my experience, last week three of the four developed scours, which for you city people, is a type of infection accompanied with diarrhea that calves can get if you are not careful. It can cause severe dehydration and even death. I at first thought that they would get over it on their own and I started with medication too late. During the night last night, two of them died. The third, I think is going to be ok.
Well, this is all a bit sad for me, and of course, not the way one should raise calves. Despite what I thought was my farm experience, this morning the question that the ticket guy asked me does not seem so out-of-line. “What are you, some kind of city boy?”
But I have learned something as well. Despite some things that are difficult about country life, I am remembering some of the good things. One of the things that I have always loved about being raised and living in the country is that despite sometimes long distances from your neighbors, a neighbor is never really that far away. They are always ready to help if one has a need.
Thinking that I could handle this problem on my own, I asked for help too late. Of course, one does not like to be constantly badgering your neighbors for help, but you should also remember that they know what it is like to try to get medication down a scouring calf’s throat. They also have tried to get a sick calf to drink some liquid. They have experience that can help a neighbor.
So, I am a little sad this morning. But by the time I post this on the blog tonight, I will have remedied some of the things that I did wrong in providing for my new calves, and later in the summer (after Vivian and I are done with our travels to visit churches), I will look to buy a couple of more calves.
And I have learned something else. After having been away from actual farm involvement for about 20 years and living in other parts of the world, I may need to consider myself a bit of a “city boy” when I start with farm things again. I have forgotten a lot and need to re-educate myself. However, despite this act of self-examination that I am writing about in this post, I have also tried very hard to evoke some sympathy so that my Kiwi friends will stop teasing me about the city boy comment. I doubt if it will work.

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