What Would We Do Without Farm Caps?

Published on: 16:11PM Nov 07, 2008
Vance Ehmke

Here’s something I’ve been thinking about. The etiquette—and strategy—of cap wearing. Say you’re getting ready to go to town. Do you guys think about what cap you’re going to wear? We’ve all got millions of them.

If I’m going to the John Deere dealership, out of courtesy, I put on a John Deere cap. But if I’m going to the Agco dealership, I’ll go with a more neutral selection—like a Pioneer seed cap, since we drive green tractors.

On the other hand, if we’re in the market for a new tractor, maybe the Caterpillar cap is the one to wear to the Deere dealership. Or would they see right through that?

When I’m going to the First National Bank in Dighton, should I “shake them up a little”, and wear a PCA cap? Of course, this can backfire on you. Next time you go in for a loan renewal, you might find the interest rate on your line of credit has jumped a whole point.

When I’m going to meet with somebody I want to impress, I’ll for sure wear a brand new cap—maybe even color coordinate it with my shirt.

But what do you do with all those caps? Every time we buy a tractor, the dealership gives us 4 or 5 caps, a new jacket and a little toy tractor. Plus, we’ve got all these other caps flowing in from seed dealerships, banks, chemical people, custom applicators, from farm shows and farm organizations and from elevators and coops. It’s an endless supply.

I don’t know how many caps I go through a year—but, it’s not many. My parents lived through the Depression, so now I’ve got the Depression Ethic encoded in my genetic makeup. “Don’t throw anything away until it’s used up or worn out.” So by the time my caps finally get to that point, they’re pretty well gone. And I’ll tell you what, they’ll burn like a house a fire, they’re so greasy.

Consequently, I’ve got a growing stockpile of caps. But out of all those caps I get for buying a new tractor, one of them always goes to our CPA. And that’s to make darned sure he remembers to get that tractor on the depreciation schedules. Years ago I bought a new tractor after a pretty good year and when I got our tax returns, that tractor was no where to be seen. No Investment Tax Credit. No depreciation. Fortunately, I caught the mistake. Otherwise, I don’t know how many thousands of dollars we would have lost.

But after that harrowing experience, I realized: this is a great place to get rid of one of those caps. And it may save you $5,000 or $l0,000 or $20,000.

What’s one of those caps cost anyway? Nothing? Guys, this is a good investment. Give one to your CPA.

You know, there’s a lot of people who don’t get free farm stuff like this. There’s actually people who have to buy caps. Some years ago we were up in Manhattan KS doing a little shopping with one of the kids. And in this one Main Street store, they were actually selling John Deere caps. I couldn’t believe it.

Another thing I couldn’t believe was the “international currency value” of US farm caps. A number of years back, Louise and I were in Morocco in northwest Africa. And in the bazaars and open markets, local merchants were constantly approaching me wanting to trade something for my cap. Guys, we could be sitting on the Mother Lode. All of these years, we’ve been trying to sell them wheat. What they really want is our caps.

But it is funny. I’ve got a lifetime supply of caps. Yet every time somebody gives me another one, I’m thrilled. Getting something free is one of the deepest pleasures known to mankind—getting anything free, even a cap. While the feeling doesn’t last long, it’s very real.

Farmers, this is a question we need to ask ourselves: Is getting free stuff like caps, one of the real reasons why we farm?

I don’t know, but can you imagine farming without free caps?

And finally, your words of wisdom for the day: Make it idiot-proof and someone will make a better idiot.