I suspect the idea of a plowing match started with a group of farmers sitting around claiming each could steer a team of horses pulling a plow in a straighter line than the other. Although, I may be wrong. When plows vanished from the prairie landscape here, so it seems did plowing matches. And any traditions surrounding those competitive events didn’t become part of popular local farm culture.
I have to admit, I’ve never even been to such an event. But from I know about them, it’s all about precision. Making furrows laser straight and evenly placed leaves a field looking like there was some complicated mathematics involved in deciding where to put them.
Back in the pre-GPS days, I think most farmers felt a bit of the same pressure plowing match contestants did, especially when they were working in summer-fallowed fields alongside a public road.
As I kid I can remember occasionally hearing a bit of quiet snickering when someone’s passes through a field looked a bit like the driver fell asleep at the wheel. “Was he hung over when he did that,” might be the comment from neighbours who happened to drive by and notice the meandering tillage passes.
I guess you could say the whole municipality was engaged in an informal plowing match that lasted all summer, and no one was ever declared a winner. The only prize seemed to be a bit of pride at seeing your own nice straight furrows across a field, even though they were made by a cultivator and not a plow.
But about the worst thing that could happen to anyone who misjudged a line across a field was they might take out a fencepost. That would be inconvenient, but not likely very dangerous—other than to the fencepost.
This week, however, I watched someone working in a field whose precise driving skills were more than impressive, and the risks if he or she manoeuvred the machine badly were extremely high.
Sask Power is building a high-voltage transmission line on the opposite side of the road from my yard. I’m less than happy about it being built there, but watching a helicopter hang the cables on the massive steel supports was pretty interesting.
On a fairly windy day with rain drizzling down, this pilot was hovering within feet of the supports as he used his machine to hang the cable in place. Watching him hover that close to steel pylons made me nervous, and I wasn’t even in the cockpit.
If he misjudged the position of the chopper and his rotors clipped a tower, well, the results would be a little more serious than a broken fencepost. The consequences of a bad day at a plowing match or getting chuckled at by the neighbours pale in comparison.
You have to admire that kind of piloting skill.