Five-gallon farm collectibles
Some people collect antique furniture, or commemorative plates, or even souvenir spoons from all sorts of destinations. Others fill cellars with rare wine bottles, or garages with antique automobiles.
My father is a connoisseur of five-gallon buckets. And, by the looks of the majority of farm trucks parked in cafe lots across the High Plains, he isn't alone in his obsession.
There isn't a single farmer who doesn't have at least two random five-gallon buckets filled with assorted "necessities" in his pickup truck bed. Well, actually, there may be one or two bucket-less guys out there, but that's just because they've either left the dealership in their new ride, or their wife "helped" him by cleaning out his truck bed one Sunday afternoon without his knowledge.
Give them a day or two to rectify the situation.
My father never met a five-gallon bucket he didn't like. Actually, he never saw a piece of machinery, a length of baling wire, or a hunk of scrap metal he couldn't re-purpose into something useful around the farm. He's creative that way. Five-gallon buckets were no exception.
And, really, what can be more multi-purpose than the standard five-gallon bucket?
Filled with grain it can make 4-H livestock chores a little less time consuming, and can serve as a handy measuring device for steer rations. Filled with water and carried a ways across the farmyard it will develop muscles you never knew you had, and make you fully appreciate when the livestock waterer finally gets fixed.
Turned upside down, it serves as a rest spot for weary and aching bones during a long night of calving or lambing. Drill a hole, insert a rubber nipple, and fill with milk replacer and it just may save the life of an orphan lamb or calf.
But, without a doubt, the most favored use of a five-gallon bucket is as the flatbed catchall. Lashed to the headache rack with bungee cords, baling wire, or twine, they serve as receptacles for nuts with no bolts, useless bearings, broken sickle sections, bunches of cut twine, dirty shop rags, and a sealed plastic bag of dog treats for your best friend.
Of course, finding these multi-purpose tools is a quest in itself. Farmers guard their "bucket connections" like miners guard their mother lodes. Cooperatives, paint shops and farm supply stores all get their share of bucket hounds looking for strays. Dad's personal treasure trove was the local fast food restaurant, which used to receive pickles in the handy containers. Dad would stop by the joint every month or so, and come out with an armful of buckets, complete with the rare treat of actual lids that fit so that the future contents wouldn't splash about. As my sister reminded me recently, there's nothing like that "new bucket smell" of pickles.
But, more than likely the majority of five-gallon buckets are appropriated during morning drives in the country, where they can be found orphaned in ditches--careless victims of tie-down strap failure. Of course, more than one farmer has nearly caused an accident by stopping along the highway to rescue these poor pitiful containers, but that's the price to pay for a rare find.
As a collection, Dad's buckets will never grace the halls of an art museum, or start a bidding war on eBay, but don't tell him that. He's convinced that someday five-gallon buckets will be traded like commodities and then he'll have the corner on the market.
A man's got to have a hobby afterall.
Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached by phone at 620-227-1807, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.