The Champion Loser


The farm job at which I spend the most time is tool-hunting. I have never developed any discipline for putting things back where they belong when not in use. Feverish is my normal situation. I work feverishly, grab a tool, tinker-tinker, drop that tool, grab another, tinker-tinker, drop that one and grab a third, tinker- tinker. Now I need the first tool. Can’t find it. Someone took it. It is of course right underfoot somewhere, but I have by now seven thousand underfeet trampled all over the place.  The more frantically I search, the more furtively the tool evades detection.

I can lose anything, even cows and sheep. Once we lost a whole herd of Holsteins. They disappeared into a corn field and I did not find them until they were cruising at top speed through Aunt Stella’s garden on the next farm. When my father and I were farming acreages several miles apart, I even lost a tractor once.

My fields today are strewn with lost pocketknives, wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers and drawbar pins.  Sometimes the tools turn up a few years later after being plowed down and then plowed back up again, like flint arrowheads. In this respect, the Indians were far ahead of us technologically because if they found a lost arrowhead, they could use it again. Not so with my artifacts.

My biggest farming accomplishment is finding stuff once lost: a grease gun, a gas tank lid, a corn knife, an axe and a splitting wedge three times. Retracing steps to find lost objects is often mind-bending. I must recall every footfall I made between now and the last time I remember using the tool. This requires lots of imagination because, of course, I can’t remember where I last used the tool and so must spend hours trying to reproduce mentally every living moment of my existence for the last month or so. Just last week, I realized that my pocketknife was not in my pocket. This is sort of like a baby realizing it does not have a pacifier in its mouth. I can’t function without my pocketknife in my pocket. A half hour of meticulous meditation revealed that yes, I had used the knife to pry up a lock washer embedded in the homemade wood frame of my two row, hand-pushed corn planter. I knew exactly where I had pried up that lock washer. I went there. No pocketknife. More meticulous meditation. I searched the underfooted area. I had to have laid the knife down somewhere close by. Aha. There it was, on the back of the four-wheeler, about six feet away. Why had I put it there? Don’t ask me. It could easily have bounced off as I roared around the farm looking for something else I had lost. So now I don’t have to buy the 15th new pocketknife of my life.

I have developed the art of misplacement to such a high degree that I have lost bales of straw and five gallon cans of gas off the back of my pickup without causing an accident. I am very proud of the fact that I have never lost the pickup, which is now thirty years old, although once it coasted down an incline and ran into a fence post before I caught up with it.

My poor son gets blamed whenever I lose something. Jerry must have borrowed it, I say. Of course he has not, but I have to blame something other than my skill at losing things. He says that I should work for a roofer for awhile as he did. A roofer wears a belt as wide as a trampoline, and it is always stuffed with tools so he does not have to crawl down off the roof every time he needs something. Jerry says that when he first started, if he left a tool lie on the roof, his boss would throw it off onto the ground below. That’s how Jerry learned to put tools back where they belong, in this case in his belt, when not in use.

I know that wouldn’t work for me. I’d lose the belt.



Gene since I found your blog again and was writing up my review I realized you’ve written several new books; so they are going on my wish list. Just the title of Pope Mary has me laughing! And I know it will be at least as good as everything else I’ve ever read from you. Blessings. Mary

maryhysong, thank you so much for your kind review of my work. I don’t know what I would do without people like you on the internet providing a little publicity that more traditional and popular review sources seldom give us writers out on the ramparts writing about food and farm culture. At the risk of sounding boastful and used-car salesmanly, I hope you would take a look at my new novel, Pope Mary and the Church of Almighty Good Food. You might get a chuckle or two out of it. Not exactly a garden/farm book, but not exactly not a garden/farm book either. Gene

Love it. Fortunately most of the time I can figure out where I left something. If I can at least get in the general vicinity I can usually find it. By the way Gene, you are one of my gardening heroes. I love your books. I’ve just written a review of my four favorite gardening authors and you were first on my list. I have been reading your stuff almost as long as you’ve been writing it 😉

Dave Schulz, My mower is very adept at finding bale wires that somehow get lost when I remove them from bales. Lose a bale wire in a hundred acre field, and a mower will find it in fifteen minutes. Gene Logsdon

Update to the previous post. Today, I found a hammer and a tamping bar that had been lost for a fencing season or so while I was building a new fence line! At least I did not find them with the hay mower!

My 94 year old neighbor found a set of fencing pliers along his fence line last spring and could recall losing them during WWII. They were pretty neat pliers with a pronounced hammer head on the end, quite different from current fence tools. My girlfriend is really good at losing pocketknives and is even more skilled at losing the better quality knives. I seem to be better at losing tamping bars and the rings that keep the teams lines from getting tangled. This last winter several socket wrenches were lost while replacing shear pins on the tractor’s snowblower. All except one of those has been found. I lost a special tool for banding yearling cattle that has been put back in the same location for years. There I was with all the soon to be steers caught up in a pen and people that could assist me and I went to the cabinet and the bander had vanished!!! I had to order a new one and do the whole thing another day.
Sometimes my neighbors are to blame as I will spend painful, valuable time searching and cursing for a tool that I swore I put somewhere only to find that someone had stopped by to borrow it.
Two other factors conspire to make me lose things ……tall grass and deep snow

One Art (Elizabeth Bishop)

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

–Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

On the subject of losing glasses, I cleaned out my chicken coop last fall and set my glasses on the top of my head because they kept fogging up with the dust mask on my face. Somewhere along the line, they fell off of my head between the coop and garden where spreading took place. I searched and searched to no avail. This spring I was doing some work around the orchard where my chickens are pastured and happened to look down to discover the long lost glasses. The frames looked fine, but the lenses were so scratched from getting worked over by the chickens that they are rendered useless. At least a found them, which was at least a hollow victory.

I just spent the last week looking for my sharpening stone, the one I carry with me when I am using my hoe. I looked everywhere for it, but could not find it. Of course someone else must have misplaced it because I am sooo good about replacing my things.

I spotted it finally on my bookshelf, on top of a couple of my favourite books. But did I put it there? I am starting to suspect my wife and kids of playing games on me because I swear I don’t remember putting it there….

My husband doesn’t lose a thing. His tools are precisely cleaned and put away. But our little farm conspires against him. Lately it’s been his glasses. A turkey attacked awhile back with such ferocity that my spouse didn’t even realize his glasses were tossed aside. Hours later we found them on right where a tractor had passed by, surprisingly unharmed. He also lost the same glasses while loading hay. The whole family stomped around looking for them, only to find they’d been scooped off his head by a tiny tree branch on his walk back to the barn. Looked for all the world like a myopic tree.

I’m glad I’m not the only one …

Gene, Gene, Gene… I used to think it might be fun to farm with you!

You’ve obviously never spent much time with a Virgo: “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” Well, my dear wife has given me a fine appreciation for that trait, because when I lose a tool, I can go into her craft room and instantly fetch a replacement! (Woe to me should I lose her tool!)

EcoReality is a co-op farm. There are a large number of people running around here: members, investors, work-partiers, interns, apprentices, WWOOFers, etc. I find they have collectively given me a fine appreciation for putting things back. When it’s your farm and your tools and no one else is messing with them, you can get by without putting things back. But when people drift through on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis, losing things stops being a humorous annoyance and becomes downright debilitating.

Having all these strangers in and out of our workshops and barns has turned me into a reluctant “tool putter backer.” I had no choice! The last time I went to the pegboard where at least five hammers should be, but none remained, I decided that if I expected people to put things back, I was going to have to be an example. I can’t ask people to do what I will not.

And yet it goes on. Virgo Carol’s favourite watering can was not where it was supposed to be. She spent half a day, searching high and low, in all the places she might have used it. She spent several more days pining its loss, and began slowly re-arranging her entire gardening life around poor substitutes.

Then it was found outside a WWOOFer’s trailer. “How did it get there?” we asked him. “Well, I lost the red one, and I was in a hurry, so I went to where I knew the green one would be.” Hmmm… “And why didn’t you put it back?” we asked. “Well, I was in a hurry.”

Pity the poor organized folk, who go through life being taken advantage of those less organized. Oops! I lost my pen… but I know exactly where one is on Carol’s desk… 🙂

I have come up with a great solution to things “disappearing”. I put them in a “safe” place, and then can’t remember where the “safe” place is….oh to get older!

Oh, how true! And with four resident adults, three kids and one ranch hand on the place, the opportunities to lose things multiply exponentially and then some…I figure if I had a nickel — heck, even a penny — for all the things I’ve mislaid over the years, I could afford an operation like the King Ranch. And that doesn’t even include what my spouse has lost!

Gosh, Gene. Wait ’til you lose your mind!

Oh my! I can severely relate to losing things. It’s a sad little art-form. My husband and I are both very good at it, that’s why we have so much grace for each other. Little by little, in our late 50’s we are starting to establish “places” for things like the car keys etc. One step forward, two steps back…

So funny and so true lol.

Having spent the last few days feverishly walking my fields searching for some very old, irreplaceable tools that didn’t even belong to me, thanks for making me feel better. My only good news is that I found every tool and carefully put them back in their proper assigned spots….

I love this post! How true, especially during the even busier times of spring and fall. There is always something that needs to be done, and just as you get going on one job something more urgent magically appears! Your honest humourous posts is what keeps all farming. I look in those”farming or country living magazines” and I think to myself, why can’t I be like that? Keep on writing!!

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