My grandparents, Leo and Mary Oppold, farmed near Harrisburg, S.D., in an era when traveling salesmen visited farms in droves, like grasshoppers or armyworms. “Agents” is what my grandparents called them.
Grandpa Leo and Grandma Mary must have gotten as tired of salesmen poking their heads into the barn or knocking on the farmhouse door, as we get of telemarketers calling our land lines and cell phones at all hours of the day.
Sometime after Grandpa Leo died, one of nephews painted a sign for Grandma Mary that she erected at the end of the driveway. It read: “Every third agent shot ... and two have already been here.”
I always got a kick out that sign. I believe that Grandma Mary would have actually followed through on the threat to run off unwanted salesmen with a shotgun. She was that kind of lady.
It would be great to have that kind of message on my phones. It was clear, simple and a little threatening. Leave me alone … or else. Folks like my grandparents didn’t have a federal “do not call” list to block solicitors from interrupting them. They took matters into their own hands.
Hand painted farm signs are especially powerful. Maybe it is the clear, direct words of the sign, or perhaps the bold strokes of color on old pieces of scrap wood.
You don’t see many farm signs like that anymore. We are more politically correct, or nervous about offending an innocent non-farmer (we need as many people to like farmers as possible nowadays). If Grand Mary chased a salesman off with her shotgun in 2018, she might even get sued.
I have come across some other farm signs that made me smile like my Grandma Mary’s sign did.
Here are a couple of them:
I raise cattle.
I use pitchforks.
I haul hay.
I am the boss of a ½-ton beast.
I have been bitten, kicked and stepped on
So YOU will NOT be a problem.
DO NOT CROSS THIS PASTURE
unless you can do it in 9 seconds
because the bull can do it in 10.
Chasing cows will be your fate,
if you don't close this gate.
What farm and ranch signs have you seen that make you stop, think and maybe proceed with caution?
Send a photo or the words to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will pass them along in a future column.