Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

July 27, 2012 08:52 PM
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Even Dr. Phil would have trouble mediating the complex relationships between farmers and their seed salesmen 

You saw it coming. Promises were broken. The excuses were feeble. Pleas for you to "Give me
another chance—I know I have what it takes to make you happy" didn’t sway you.

It was time to face the facts: Your relationship with your favorite seed salesman was over.

If the truth was known, both parties were at fault. There were rumors you’d been seen looking at test plot results with a young seed salesman from the next county.

The breakup wasn’t pretty. Your longtime seed salesman was frantic. "We’ve been through so much," he sputtered. "Remember all the great yields we had?"

You were embarrassed but defiant. "You’ve been taking me for granted," you replied. "I heard about you and my neighbor Fred. You’ve been saving all your triple-stacks for him. I’d expect that sort of behavior from Fred—he’ll do anything for a free hat—but you, I thought you had standards."

The separation was ugly. For months, you barely twitched your hand on the steering wheel if you met him on the road. It was no accident that your favorite go-to-town hat and coat were emblazoned with the logos of a competitor’s seed company.

But your eyes always lingered over the full-page ads for his seed company in farm magazines. When neighbors bragged of their yields, the numbers of his hottest new varieties stuck in your head, no matter how hard you tried to forget them.

This year, things didn’t turn out like you hoped. The bin-busting hybrids promised by the smooth-talking salesman from the next county were good, but not as good as they first seemed. The coffee at his field day was a little bitter, his pulled-pork sandwiches required Tums for
dessert, and you felt ignored when he spent his time fawning over another farmer who has a bigger planter than you.

Then, one day at the hardware store, you and your former seed salesman turn down the nuts-and-bolts aisle at the same time. It’s awkward at first, but he eventually complains about the weather, and suddenly it’s just like old times again.

Every joke you tell sends him into gales of laughter. Every comment you make on politics or the economy draws an agreeing nod. But you know the question is coming.

"So," he finally asks. "How were your yields last year?"

The question hangs in the air. Eventually you shrug, give a crooked grin and say, "Good enough. But I guess they could’ve been better."

He nods, and ducks his head to hide the predatory salesman’s gleam that sparks in his eye.
"Y’know, we’ve got some new numbers that are topping all the yield contests," he offers cautiously. "I could probably get you a few bags."

You stifle an impulse to reach for a pen, and rally your dignity.

"Don’t go there," you say stiffly. "All summer you’ll promise I’ll have to build another grain bin to handle all of the extra bushels, then you’ll spend all winter giving me excuse after excuse about the weather, bugs and sun spots. I’m not going to be the farmer who gets stuck with all of the leftover seed in your warehouse."

To emphasize your point, you turn away and busy yourself by selecting bolts.

He steps close and lowers his voice. "How ’bout I get you a couple free bags of our new XYZ triple-stack with flame-thrower roots, just to try?"

You pause, eyes slightly glazed. You want to be angry, want to say something spiteful, but the thought of once again walking corn rows together on a sunny June day and analyzing root structures, of debating stalk characteristics over coffee and donuts on cold winter days, is too overwhelming.

You face him and nod."I suppose I could try a few bags. But we’re doing things different from now on. I plant what I want, not what you have, or I’ll find somebody who will treat me right."

"I understand completely," he says. "No problem. Hey, after you get your bolts, let’s swing by my truck. I’ve got some new hats that just came in..."

If anybody asks, you can say you got back together for his kids. They’re all attending private colleges.

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