A Three Legged Stool


The little boy asked the farmer, “Why does that stool you sit on to milk the cows have only three legs instead of four?”

The farmer, always eager to educate the young ones, answered, “Because the cow has the udder one.”

Then author and humorist E. B. White said, “A good farmer is nothing more nor less than a handy man with a sense of humus.”

The best puns are bad enough to curdle milk at 10 paces. Those qualify, in my opinion. Sorry!

Seriously though, farms and farmers have provided one of the strongest legs that American history has stood on for nearly 250 years.

America’s farms and farmlands are rich and productive. Unfortunately, not all farmers are. Their soil might be good. Their cows and bulls might be as fertile as their land. They might even work hard and long for many days and years. But the culture they try to grow in is often dry hardscrabble.

Will Rogers was famous for telling jokes, but he was not kidding when he said, “The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.”

One of the farmer’s problems is that he is too good, so good that nobody notices him. It is so easy to go to a store and buy a bunch of bananas, a New York strip steak and a gallon jug of Grade A milk. A couple of easy miles in your car, a few bucks from your wallet and you are done. Easy.

Nobody sees the sweat, the years of hard work, the investment paid out long before the hoped for payoff, the dedication and the rare work ethic that makes every day an “I get to do it” day, not just an “I have to do it” day.

Yet, the farmer so often goes unnoticed. His needs go unappreciated, misunderstood, and when it comes to his country’s duty to nurture the work he does for everybody else, his landscape goes unfertilized, watered… dry hardscrabble.

This week your Jamestown Gazette invites you to the visit places and meet the dairy farmers who need and deserve your attention, gratitude and your friendship. Their passion and their plight can be, should be, ours as well.

More than 200 years ago, Oliver Ellsworth, one of the framers of the United States Constitution, a United States Senator from Connecticut, and the third Chief Justice of the United States, set a target we’re still aiming for today. He said, “It may be assumed as a fixed truth that the prosperity and riches of the farmer must depend on the prosperity and good national regulation of trade.”

Whether Ellsworth words or this week’s story influence your voting or shopping, community involvement or community spirit, we hope it will make a difference to Chautauqua County’s dairy farmers who work harder for us than most of us ever know.

That old fashioned, three-legged stool that farmers used to sit on hand milking their cows is a little outdated today, but the dedication and work ethic it supported then is still as real as it ever was. That’s a leg we can all stand on.

Enjoy the read.

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.