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How to avoid squirrels and other distractions

Home Front: We’ve all got a lot of distractions in our lives, whether we’re sitting in a tractor or not. Here’s how they affect us and how to handle them.

Several years ago, there was a popular Disney Pixar movie titled “Up.” In the movie, Carl, an elderly balloon salesman, set out to achieve his lifelong dream to go to the South American wilderness. He attached balloons to his home and off he went. To his surprise, he was accompanied by a young stowaway and Dug, a talking dog. (Remember, this is a Disney movie for kids.)

I never saw the film, but there’s one quote that lives on from that 2009 production. Interestingly enough, that memorable quote is one word from the dog: “Squirrel!”

I did see that award-winning movie, and trust me, Dug uttered the word “squirrel” more than once. What did this talking dog mean when he shouted, “Squirrel!” and what does it mean when we hear it today?

 A “squirrel” is, and I quote, “a moment when you have been distracted by random nothingness or have been diverted from one task or situation with little or no effort.” There you have it. In the movie “Up,” Dug’s attention was constantly diverted.

And what in the world does this have to do with you, your family and agriculture? Let me see if I can explain.

As John’s “hired man” with eight-plus years of experience, I continue to develop the art of ignoring the “squirrels” that dart in front of me.

When I was first introduced to cultivating in the spring and hauling grain in the fall, I gave those jobs my complete attention. Then, after a season or two, when I was feeling pretty sure of myself, I became more easily distracted. It was never an actual “squirrel” that grabbed my attention. Instead, it could be something as simple as attempting to change radio stations while driving the tractor to the next farm. Or it could be something not as simple, such as being overconfident, not paying attention, and running into a few fence posts with the cultivator.

Confidence is good. Being overconfident is not. I never lost my job and my pay was never cut, but my diverted attention just might have startled me once or twice.

There are other things besides overconfidence that can distract us. In the musical “The Wiz,” an adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz,” the Wizard laments, “All I wanted was the simple things in life … power, prestige, money.” Those three things can definitely become distractions, or “squirrels,” that rob you of precious, important things such as time with your spouse, time with your children, time for relaxing or time for worship.

Here’s my thought. Maybe we can join together and make a concerted effort to avoid the “squirrels”— those untimely, unnecessary distractions in our lives. And maybe by modeling that behavior for our kids, our grandkids or anyone else who happens to be paying attention, the onlookers might also avoid the negative consequence that a “squirrel” can deliver.

John and Kendra Smiley farm near East Lynn, Ill. Email, or visit The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.

TAGS: Farm Life
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