ANN BAILEY: In rural Larimore, the Olympics continue
Though the Winter Olympics in Sochi have concluded, we’re still in the thick of the Rural Olympics at our farmstead near Larimore, N.D.
Like the Winter Olympics, our Rural Olympics require competitors to be fleet of foot, have good balance and possess nerves of steel.
But unlike the brief two-weeks athletes spent in Sochi, our Olympics lasts for at least three months, beginning in November and ending only when spring decides to show up and melt the snow and ice.
One of the most challenging competitions in the Rural Olympics is the three-dog pull. Competing in the event requires the athlete to take two yellows Labs and a golden retriever from the house to the barn. The 75-yard pathway to the barn begins with an icy driveway and turns into an even icier, or if it has not yet been plowed, snow-filled barnyard.
The competition requires strength and balance. During the competition, the athlete holds onto the leashes of three dogs. The athletes can choose to either allow the canines to pull them so they slide across the ice similar to a dogsled or they can lean backwards and trudge along, fighting the resistance at the end of the leashes.
The award for the winners of the dog pull competition is staying upright and making it through the winter without scheduling an appointment with the chiropractor.
After the athletes finish the dog pull, they move on to the hen competition. While it does not require as much strength as the dog pull, it lasts longer and is a test of the competitor’s agility.
The three-part competition begins with carrying two gallon jugs of water over the same icy driveway as the dog-pull competition. Competitors are urged, especially during bitter cold spells, to screw the caps tightly on the jugs because if the water spills on clothing it will instantly freeze, reducing the mobility of the athlete.
There is a brief break between the second and third part of the hen competition when the athlete drives the car to the farmstead two and a half miles away where the chickens live. Once at the site, the competitors grab the jugs, bound out of the car and open the chicken house door. After entering the chicken coop, the competitors set down the jugs and pick up three containers of laying mash.
During part two, the athlete must pour the feed into four pans spaced several feet apart while keeping an eye toward the beams where the chickens are roosting. Competitors must move quickly and be ready to jump aside at any instant if a chicken decides to, shall we say, eliminate (on) the competition. The competitors also need to remain vigilant about where they are putting their feet so they don’t step on the toes of the chickens or the cranky rooster.
The final phase of the completion is taking the hens’ ice-filled water pan outside, turning it over and jumping up and down on it until the ice falls out. Depending on how thick the ice is, this may require only one stomp or a series of three or four.
Although, the hen competition typically is made up of three phases, occasionally another is added. That happens when the competitor gets stuck in the barnyard by the chicken house and has to shovel. That is a test of both endurance and patience and sometimes competitors may be victorious in the former, but losers in the latter.
The rewards for the athletes are fresh eggs and the sounds of a couple of dozen singing chickens. It is a bonus when the competitors’ clothes are as clean when they leave as when they arrived.
On the roof
Another Rural Olympic competition made up of three parts is roof snow removal.
For the first phase, competitors carry the ladder from the shed on the other side of the farmyard to the house. Next, they prop up the ladder against the side of the house and then climb it while carrying a shovel. The real challenge begins when the athletes are required to shovel the snow off of the roof while maintaining their balance and not getting too close to the roof edge
The rewards for the roof snow removal competition is arriving safely back on the ground and a roof that doesn’t buckle under the weight of the snow or leak when it starts to melt. Roof snow removal competitors also consider it a bonus when the snow they shoveled off of the roof and onto the sidewalk below is removed by another family member.
Those are just a few of the Rural Olympics we compete in daily at our farm. While they don’t get any press like the Winter Olympics, they do require hard work and dedication. And while some of our biggest fans can’t cheer for us, their wagging tails and happy clucking speak volumes.