John's World: Don't Mock My Label Maker

John's World: Don't Mock My Label Maker

If you are a Y-chromosome human, sooner or later you will be given a label maker. It’s the necktie of the 21st century. Despair not. Instead, label some lemonade, so to speak.

Elitist contempt for labels is a conceit of a functioning memory. I also believe if you haven’t come to appreciate the power of labels, you don’t have enough stuff. Researchers have found farmers waste between 20% and 80% of their time looking for stuff. Not really, but they would if you could do a doctorate dissertation on labels, I’ll bet.

Back when agriculture was simpler, it was pretty easy to identify and locate the hoe. You had memorized where the horse was and which direction it should be pointed. But today, it’s not intuitively clear where stud extractors are stored. Guessing which of five hydraulic controls is the grain cart gate and not the auger fold has a significant penalty for the wrong answer. [Note how many carts have a scoop wedged in the ladder.]

Also consider configuration numbers for guidance, sieve gap, down pressure, rpm or the width of spray boom sections. You could rely on your alleged memory, but after several combines/sprayers/planters in your career, might you recall an obsolete figure? Count on it.

Thus, the wisdom of proper labels soon becomes obvious to even the most hardened skeptics. Meanwhile, label enthusiasts, guided by discreet, helpful hints posted on controls, storage and the underside of their cap bills, enjoy a higher plane of existence as they glide through the day untroubled by forgotten details of everyday life.

For example, count the number of buttons on just one of your TV remotes. Mine has 127. I routinely use three, occasionally five. They could be hiding anywhere in that button herd and frequently move about, I suspect. The needed command could even be on one of the other four remotes, including those in the back of the couch. Thanks to button-by-button directions affixed to the back, I can switch from satellite to Internet, record a show and even change the volume without muttering blasphemously. Better still, I don’t have to try to relay this information to visiting viewers who are trained on wildly different remotes.

Did you know your keyboard can make a degree (˚) sign? I did (neener, neener) because a neat label at the bottom of the monitor tells me how. It’s next to the label with all our credit card and banking numbers. C’mon, what are the odds North Koreans are going to break into my house when they can (and do) easily hack them from big box stores? 

Years ago, we remodeled the kitchen in our church. As a veteran of many men’s Easter breakfasts, where every task began with opening multiple doors and drawers to find something, I brought up the idea of labels. You’d think I had suggested a graffiti contest on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Fast forward to today when the median age of our church is umm, substantial. Suddenly, labels appear on the doors with no male fingerprints on them. The Tide of History is clearly marked with arrow labels.

Some wrongly fear label dependency. The horror of knowing exactly which button does what strikes freethinkers as dangerously efficient. If anybody can wander into your shop and find a drift punch or a 3⁄8"x 4" fine-thread Grade 8 bolt, exactly what is your economic contribution to the farm? Too much of what passes for the wisdom of age is a shortage of labeling.

Our world is becoming more complex. Labels, unlike the so-called “Internet,” offer realistic hope for coping. After all, you can label at one bit per minute or less.

So the fact that alongside my smartphone, Leatherman and inhaler holsters is a fanny pack for my label maker does not make me a geek. It indicates a commitment to logic, efficiency and doing things the One Right [my] Way.

For those thinking I’m lame for proudly labeling, a reminder: I’m not the one with a tattoo. 

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