Field work will start here very soon at Swans Trail Farms and it is one of my favorite times of year. Although snow is still falling I cannot wait for the next couple months to start. Spring represents a new beginning to a new year for our farm and lets face it we are all looking forward to a new beginning this year. The weather is traditionally cool in the morning and heats up through the day. It’s a time when we start up the equipment and get our fields ready. I have been working the same fields since I was 10 years old. It’s a fun challenging process that if done right we will have an abundance of pumpkins, apples, sweet corn and strawberries.
I think my love for field work came from the first dog I ever owned, Mick. He was not the most beautiful dog the first time I saw him. It was a stray that was dropped off in front of the farm down the road. His back had some sort of skin disease and was as skinny as a rail. It was not in my families’ interest to have such a nasty looking dog but with as a young 11 year old boy who had a soft spot for dogs I would hop on my bike and go visit him daily.
Each time I visited I expected him to be gone but every time I rounded the corner the dog was still sitting or laying in the exact same spot along the Snohomish River his previous owner dropped him off at. My young naïve mind thought that nobody knew what I was doing because for sure if my dad found out I was visiting this dog and occasionally bringing him a small snack I would be in deep… For two weeks this continued and I named him Mick after hall of fame baseball player Micky Mantle. Every time he would just be sitting there waiting for his previous owner and never following me home.
It was not until my 5th grade parent teacher conference until I found out my dad knew all this time what I was up to with this ragged dog. My teacher Mrs. Raines was known as one the toughest teachers in our district with some very high expectations, something I admired later in my own teaching career.
She insisted that not only the parents go to the conference but the student should be there as well, not something I was looking forward to. As we got into the old farm truck and made our way out of the valley up to Riverview Elementary, my heart pounded in fear of what Mrs. Raines was going to tell my father. I remember it being very short some positive with just a few things a parent knows their child needs to work on.
We drove home from the parent teacher conference. My dad did not say much and I was not about to ask anything. As we approached the farm the old farm truck kept driving past the barns down the road to the place Mick had made a home. I will never forget what my dad said about that dog, “You had an alright conference. This dog has not left this spot for days, it most be a good dog.”. After that, Mick jumped in the back of the truck. We made the short trip to his new home that afternoon.
My dad was right, Mick was a great dog. It took a couple weeks of whole unpasteurized milk straight from the cow to clear up his skin. Then, filled out nicely once he got some food in him. He quickly became my shadow here at Swans Trail Farms, everywhere I went he went with me. His favorite spot was in a seat of a tractor. I would spend hours going up and down fields with him by my side. He would give me company on all those long days that felt would never end to a young kid. The times that he was not on the tractor he would be at the edge of the field. He is watching and waiting for me to be done, just like he did when we first met.
Mick died when I was in my early twenties. He was a great dog and still have not had a dog that could compare to Mick. I know it sounds funny right? But I think the reason I enjoy spring and the fields so much was because that of the mangy dog. Moreover, the memories I had with him. There is truly nothing like a good farm dog.