I’d like to propose a solution to Illinois’ budget impasse. Governor Bruce Rauner. Speaker Mike Madigan. You are invited to our farm. Pick your time: 6 a.m. or 4 p.m. Pick any day of the week. Sundays count too. This could be your very first Barn Summit.
Gentlemen, your goal has nothing to do with politics per usual. Your goal is to feed the calves. We’ve been blessed with two this spring.
In addition to the calves, you’ll contend with Butter and Miley, the barn cats who fancy themselves royalty and are treated as such. They just want a taste of milk, and if you don’t oblige will not hesitate to reach out a paw and push an open bottle over. Coco, the chocolate lab, will be underfoot to help slurp up the spoils. She is so excited to have friends in the barn again.
That’s the Barn Summit – one round of chores that can take as long as two hours or last just shy of 30 minutes, depending on your willingness to work together.
My farm boy has two years of calf care under his belt and feels the need to instruct his sister in the finer points of preparing a bottle and cleaning a stall. My farm princess, however, so thrilled to have a calf of her own, is bent on proving she can do the job just fine. She’s spent two years observing her brother from her perch on the stall gate. Her mental notepad is full.
I’ve advised the farm boy to let the farm princess care for her calf in her way. Let her make mistakes. Let her succeed. Let her ask for help. And in turn, the farm princess has been coached to use her brother’s knowledge, ask for help and say thank you.
All this makes for an ideal chore time, but barn brawls are more common. Like the one that began our Sunday.
“He threw a bottle at me!” she exclaimed.
“She didn’t clean the whisk and left the barn lights on,” he countered. “All night!”
“Are the animals fed?” I interrupted.
“Well, that’s first. Then we’ll talk.”
Because regardless of our moods when choring, the task at hand trumps any argument. Our responsibility is to feed, water and bed the animals. They don’t care if we hate each other that afternoon. They want to eat.
I sent the kids back to the barn with that truth in mind, slightly amused remembering barn battles shared between my sister and me. Plastic bottles were the least of our weapons. Pitchforks, shovels, rakes. . .we were vicious opponents.
My sister and I are linked by blood but bonded by chores – early in the morning before school and late at night after volleyball games. We cleaned a lot of stalls, carried a lot of water, grain and hay. We laughed until we cried and sometimes we just cried. We contemplated our young lives back at the barn, sitting on the fence, watching the sun go down, comparing days and goals and dreams.
Everyone should spend sometime in the barn with their enemy, their friend or their family. Pitching poop for a few hours puts petty disagreements in perspective.
When the kids finally emerged from the barn, they did so side-by-side. I watched the farm boy hold the door for his sister and close it behind her. They entered the house prattling on about what to do after church. No arguments occurred the rest of the day.
Maybe you’ll need several Barn Summits to get to that point, Governor and Speaker. Maybe one Saturday of deep cleaning the calf pens would do the trick. Regardless, you are more than welcome to use our barn for your first Summit. What a way to showcase your commitment to Illinois and its residents, by rolling up your sleeves, quite literally to get a job done. And you’ll be paying homage to the state’s leading economic driver – agriculture. AND you’ll prove you can work . . . hard . . . together.
Our farm. 6 a.m. or 4 p.m. No sooner and no later. That’s chore time here. Pick the day.
Its’ an open invitation.