It’s becoming more and more difficult to keep my life simple. As technology expands on every front, people like me (those that are reluctant to change) find ourselves operating machines and devices that we can’t even comprehend how they work, much less know how to fix them when they fail to function properly. Fifty years ago, baling hay was a fairly simple procedure. The old square baler needed to be greased daily, the knotters needed to be cleaned of straw and trash occasionally, and we made sure the drive chains were at the right tension. When a chain, gear, or shaft would break, we repaired or replaced it and continued to bale hay – pretty simple and straightforward. My round baler is in its sixth year of use and, fortunately, had never caused me any problem whatsoever, until last week. With such a wet spring, finding a weather forecast with three consecutive days of “no rain” had everyone in the county cutting hay. On baling day, I hooked up to the machine that cost half what I paid for my first farm, and checked out everything that I knew, greased it up and headed to the field that I had to get baled that day. When I turned on the electronic monitor that controls every single function of the high-tech baler, a flashing light informed me that the bale ejection gate was open. I got out and inspected the tail gate and it sure appeared closed to me. I ran it through three or four cycles of the hydraulic system and, each time, it looked, sounded and felt like it was closed, but the monitor insisted that it was open. I called the service manager at the dealership where it was purchased and told him my problem. “Sounds like the tailgate sensor is out,” he stated, trying to assure me that it was a minor and inexpensive part. I’m sure I sounded in panic-mode when I asked, “Can I still bale with the open light flashing?” “Oh, sure,” he confidently replied, “but you’ll have to do everything manually as far as wrapping and tying, because the automatic stuff won’t work when the computer thinks the gate is open. We do have sensors in stock here at the store.” Great. Judy was more than happy to make the 50-mile round trip for the replacement part while I began baling. She wasn’t even out of the driveway when I encountered another problem. The little high-resolution graphs that show which side of the baler needs more hay, in order to make a uniform bale, were both non-functioning. Not knowing a thing about the internal workings of the monitor, I assumed it was connected to the open light and continued to bale, reverting back to my days with the very first round baler I ever owned, hoping the neighbors wouldn’t make fun of my misshapen bales. When Judy returned with the new part, I quickly replaced the old sensor but was dismayed when I started up again and the open light continued to flash and the graph still didn’t work. I continued to bale while calling up the service manager again. “Would it be possible to get a technician out here this afternoon?” “Oh, wow, I doubt it,” was the reply. “Everyone and their dog are in the hay and we’ve got calls coming in by the minute. How about tomorrow?” I was already starting on the next field the following afternoon when the service truck pulled into the field. The knowledgeable repairman checked all the sensors connected to the gate and the graphs and could find nothing wrong. With a contemplative look on his face, he walked over to the cable connection between the baler and monitor and carefully unfastened it. There are exactly 18 little wire prongs that are supposed to fit neatly into exactly 18 little holes, but three of them were bent and did not make the connection. “Here’s your problem.” With a pair of needle nosed pliers, he carefully straightened the bent prongs, plugged it back together and everything worked. I guess I had been in too big a hurry to plug it in the day before and had inadvertently bent the sensitive electronics. Operator error. The good news is that the bales I made the day before, relying on my eyes instead of the pretty little monitor graphs, looked better than any I’ve baled in the past 10 years.Twenty-one years ago, a few days before my father passed away, I told him that I had some big news to tell him. He was lying in bed, weakened from his battle with cancer, when I sat beside him and told him that I was going to quit my job as a university professor at the end of the school year, and pursue farming as my full-time career.

After an awkwardly long pause, Dad asked, “How much money do you make?”

I told him, and I was fairly certain the amount was substantially more than he ever made in the best year of his 70-plus years of farming.

“Hmmm,” he replied. “And don’t you get off every summer?”

“Yes, sir,” I said.

“And don’t you get about a month off for Christmas and another week off for spring break?”

I began to see a pattern as I answered, “Yes, sir. That’s about right.”

“They still pay your insurance and have a great retirement system?”

“Yes, Dad, it’s a great job and I like the people I work with and really enjoy the students, but you know I’ve always wanted to make my living from farming.”

“Well, Son,” he answered quietly as he grabbed my arm and weakly stated, “If that’s what you really want to do…you’re crazier than a pet coon.”

I was reminded of that conversation last Saturday night when my youngest son came home for a visit. Zach has worked the past two years for a large corporation as a computer software developer and, based on his evaluations, raises and bonuses, he has been very successful. So, I was a little shocked when he informed his mother and me that he had submitted his notice to leave the company at the end of the month.

“Oh, my gosh,” I said with astonishment. “How much money do you make per year?”

I assumed he made good money, but even I was shocked when he told me the exact amount. Needless to say, it was quite a bit more than I ever earned as a teacher and a whole lot more than I ever earned in a year of farming.

“And, don’t you have good benefits with insurance and retirement?”

“Oh, sure,” he answered. “Plus, they offered me a big increase in my pay if I would stay on.”

With worry in my voice, I asked, “What are you going to do for a living?”

Confidently, he replied, “I’m going to design software, but I’m going to start my own firm and write programming that I really love to do. I think I can market it and make a decent living doing what I love – kinda like you and farming.”

I hate it when my own kids throw logic in my face.

The 21-year-old conversation between my dad and me came racing back into my mind before I responded. “Well, son, if that’s what you really want to do, you’re as crazy as…your father.”

Jerry CrownoverEditorial / Opinionscareer,farming,father,Jerry Crownover,sonTwenty-one years ago, a few days before my father passed away, I told him that I had some big news to tell him. He was lying in bed, weakened from his battle with cancer, when I sat beside him and told him that I was going to quit my...The Ozarks' most read farm newspaper, reaching more than 58,000 readers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma