What Bill Nye Knows About Farming

| 10/6/2020 3:22:00 PM

A Texas toad. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) 

In 1885, two of the existing farm implement papers at the time, Farm Implement, published by E.J. Baker, and Farm Implement News, merged under the editorship of Charles W. Marsh who, along with his brother William, invented the celebrated Marsh harvester. The first combined issue was that of April, 1885, and, even though humor was a rarity in the farm papers back then, it contained the following more or less humorous story.

During the past season I was considerably interested in agriculture. I met with some success, but not enough to madden me with joy. It takes a good deal of success to unscrew my reason and make it totter on its throne.

Agriculture has a charm about it which I cannot adequately describe. Every product of the farm is furnished by nature with something that loves it so that it will never be neglected. The grain crop is loved by the weevil, the Hessian fly and the cinch bug; the watermelon, squash and cucumber are loved by the squash bug; the potato by the potato bug; the cabbage and tomato by the cutworm; and so forth and so on, so that no plant need be a wallflower.

Well, I began early to spade up my angle-worms and other pets to see if they had survived the severe winter and found they had. They were unusually bright and cheerful—oh, the potato bugs were a little sluggish at first, but as the ground warmed up they pitched right in and did first rate. Along in April I had not seen a cutworm and began to fear they had perhaps perished in the past winter’s extreme cold.

One morning late in the month, however, I saw a cutworm come out from a cabbage stump and take off his muffler and ear muffs. He was a little stiff in the joints but he had not lost hope. I saw at once now was the time to assist him if I had a spark of humanity left. I searched agricultural papers, the encyclopedia and the almanac to see what farmers feed their blamed cutworms, but nary a word. I feared that I had brought but one cutworm through the bitter winter and now I was liable to lose him unless I could find what to feed him. I even askes my neighbors, who jeered and spoke sarcastically. Apparently all their cutworms had died last winter and they couldn’t stand to see me get ahead.


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