I have always wanted to learn to speak another language. In high school, I took a mandatory Spanish class, and in college, French. As of today, I can order chicken soup and a hamburger, and tell Paul that I am sorry in Spanish, and if I’m lucky, I can say ‘Yes’ and ‘Thank You’ in French. I always figured I wouldn’t be spending much time abroad, so I quickly lost interest. Little did I know that when I moved to the farm, I would be forced to learn a language that sounded a lot like English, but, in the beginning, made as little sense as Greek did. It’s called ‘Country’. Here’s a few phrases I have actually picked up (and understand).
“That’s an awful long row to hoe.” – I actually learned this one long before moving to the farm was even a speck in my imagination. Daddy used to tell me this when I would choose to either undertake a huge project, (or was about to do something that would get me grounded for months). It translates to: a long and arduous undertaking, as in taking a hand-held hoe and weeding a stretch of clay encrusted rocky ground and turning it into soft, porous dirt ready for planting.
“You’re gonna have to lick that calf again.” – In other words, if your fence isn’t straight and the barbed wire sags, your welding joint doesn’t hold, or the storms leave your freshly tilled garden in a muddy mess, you are going to have to do that project all over again.
“Tighter than bark on a swamp hickory…” – This is usually spoken in reference to a person who takes being frugal to an extreme. Hickory trees often have an outer layer of bark that seems to flake off easily, but underneath is another layer of smooth bark. It takes some doing to strip the bark off of a swamp hickory, but good luck getting that penny out of a tightwad. He probably wouldn’t even give it up to keep Lincoln from jumping off to go get help.
“Well now, that’s a horse of a different color.” – A totally different thing. This phrase is commonly used during the discussions of the old men who sit around the general store, drinking coffee and solving the world’s problems. Just about the time they have completed that job, someone brings up another idea and this phrase is immediately used, which is the signal that allows them to sit there for another hour or two, hashing over the newly presented thoughts.
“That dog won’t hunt.” – No matter how hard you try, whatever it is you are doing won’t work. It would be the equivalent of getting an old and lazy hound dog off the porch and out in the woods to hunt your dinner. Either find a new dog, or go hungry.
“If I tell you that Rooster’s dippin’ snuff, you don’ have to go lookin’ under his wing for the can.” – This is a thought on honesty, or a farmer being really, really sure of what he is saying. Most times, that farmer has already hoed that row, licked that calf again, waded out into the swamp to peel the bark off a hickory, changed to a different colored horse and bought him a new huntin’ dog, so he knows of what he speaks.