The insanity of March Madness

By Andy Juris
President, Washington Association of Wheat Growers

wheat field

Well, it’s that time of year again. Even though you’re reading this in April, it’s March as I’m writing it. Everyone is getting excited, talk of how things are going to play out fills the coffee shop, brackets are filled out, bets made, statistics studied. March Madness, the time of year we all look forward to with dread or anticipation. For me, both. So, who’s feeling good about their brackets this year? Personally, I have “unusually cold spring” winning over “early drought” in our area, then “fertilizer plugging” losing to “expensive flat tire.” After that, it gets hard to anticipate. But if a dark horse like “perfect May/June rain” wins over “late frost at flowering,” my bracket is totally shot.

The pressure of making good bets during March Madness gets farmers, as they say, pretty twitchy. Who’s going to be the first to get started? How many of you have had the devastating news that some insolent jerk in your area has had the gall to get started a week before you were planning on running? “What?!! Are they crazy!” you exclaim. “The weeds aren’t even up yet.” You secretly hope they get stuck. “Darn them! Every year they do this, and they spent a month in Mexico!!” 

A couple of years ago, while attempting to predict the team lineup of who’s going to start, I accidentally discovered that a good amount of fun can be made of this stressful time. While attempting to warm the oil up in my sprayer for maintenance, I took it for an early March tour of the neighborhood. The resulting panic led to more than one neighbor stopping by in agitation, only to sigh in relief at the sprayer now torn apart in the shop. So, throw caution to the wind, folks, and take the sprayer to town for coffee tomorrow. Then, you can bet on how many stuck sprayers you’ll pass on the way home.

March is the moody teenager of the calendar year. One minute the sun is shining, and the smell of spring is in the air, and the next, the full wrath of a sudden snow squall is hammering away in all its adolescent fury. I suppose it can be tempting to be swept up in the young emotions of the season, the possibilities of a future good crop, the first yellow bells growing in the scab ground … but then the cows get out, you lose a boot in a muck hole during a downpour, and NOAA suddenly forgets to remind you it’s going to be 23 degrees tonight and you leave the sprayer out. 

The last time I was tempted to have pleasant thoughts about early spring, I ended up helping a cheery, ham-sandwich-eating fellow from Goldendale pump out my septic tank. Dang this month! The Ides of March is the 74th day of the Roman calendar (March 15) made famous by the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44BC. While the passage of time has erased many of the details surrounding this, I read recently that Caesar was rumored to have started seeding two weeks before anyone else was remotely ready. This, coupled with a winter spent in insulting indulgence on the Mediterranean Coast, was just too much for his neighbor, Brutus.

So, as we all enter the start of our year of work and the spring madness takes hold, I wish you all the very best. May your equipment work well, your crops be good, and may the cows stay where they’re supposed to. May we all make it safely to the other side of this season together. Whelp, time to go drive the sprayer up for coffee.