It started, innocently enough, back on one Saturday in May of this year when my wife cheerfully asked, “Why don’t we clean out your shop building today?”  
“I’ve got other things planned,” I replied. “You know how busy things are around the farm during the springtime. Do you really think it needs cleaning, anyway?”
My shop/machinery building is a 40’ x 70’ all-steel building with six overhead doors, a concrete floor, and a fully stocked refrigerator, that I had built approximately ten years ago. I’ve never cleaned it out. Sure, to the untrained eye, it might look a little messy, but I know the whereabouts of every tool, chain, bolt, grease gun and empty feed sack. My intricate system of organization is quite complex – on purpose. I, and only I, can find anything in a matter of minutes. A thief would drive himself crazy trying to rob the place.
When it was first constructed, I could park both tractors, my truck, the stock trailer, a boat, and my baler inside with plenty of room to navigate around the outer edges. In May of this year, I had room for the truck and a lawn mower.  The rest of the space was occupied with “stuff”. Important stuff, mind you, but just stuff.
In June, Judy was less cheerful when she implored me by saying, “Please, Jerry, let’s clean out that building today.  If both of us get after it, we’ll be done by noon.”
“We’ll get to it soon,” I answered, “But I’m right in the middle of haying right now and simply don’t have the time.” I promised her that I would haul off the feed sacks, empty boxes, the winter residue pile of baler twine and net wrap. I did haul away two truckloads to the burn pile that week and then had room to park the little tractor inside. I thought things looked pretty good.
By July, my wife was becoming more demanding in her attempt to prod me into the dreaded task.  
“We just HAVE to clean out that building, Jerry!” I reminded her that even though we were having a much cooler-than-normal summer, it was much too hot to start on the cleaning project at that time.
In August, the threats started. “If you don’t help me clean out that shop building, I going to do it by myself.” Panic set in, for I knew that I would never be able to find anything, ever again, if she attempted the project by herself. Not to mention the fact that she would end up throwing away very important “stuff” that I would most surely need 20 years from now. I promised her that we would do it on Labor Day weekend. She relented and agreed, while I was sure the promise would slip her mind and she would make other plans for the long weekend by the time September rolled around. It didn’t.
When the fateful day came, I tried, once more to dissuade her from the immense job at hand. “You’ll be sorry,” I warned her. “You don’t know what you’re getting into.”
“We’ll be done by the middle of the afternoon,” she confidently replied. We finished three days later.
The good news is that you can now eat off the floor, anywhere you want, in my “new” shop building. After hauling away five truckloads of trash and junk that I couldn’t justify as ever needing, I can now park all of the items I did when it was first built. I even found some things I had forgotten I owned.
The bad news is that during the very last hour of our cleaning and rearrangement, Judy dropped the end of a livestock grooming chute on her flip-flop exposed big toe and ripped the toenail clean off. She had to go to urgent care where the doctor on duty informed her that it was so bad, it might take years to grow back – if ever.
When she called me from the doctor’s office I tried to comfort her by saying, “Oh, I’ll bet you get the toenail back before we ever need to clean out that shop again.” Add that to the long list of things I should never have said.       
Jerry Crownover farms in Lawrence County. He is a former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University, and is an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to and click on 'Contact Us.'


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