Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Farm Camp in the Delhi


"This place is like Deliverance."

That was the first thing that came to mind (once I could form words) as we drove towards our destination. My friend Chrissy and I (yes, Chrissy and Krissy) carpooled to our Large Animal Medicine class, aka "Farm Camp", at SUNY Delhi College of Technology (code for agriculture school) in Delhi, NY. Quite honestly, I was shocked that my college had chosen to send us the whole way out to East Bumblefuck. I was just waiting for the banjos to start playing.

"They couldn't find anything closer to civilization?"

This was my next comment during the last hour of our drive, which took place on desolate mountain roads, also known as NY-110.

Delhi, NY is literally a one stoplight town in the Catskills. Everybody knows everybody. They talk about the weather a lot and use phrases like "he's good people". The two or three radio stations that we could find were either country or classic rock. Unfortunately, the classic rock station had the worst reception. Our dining options were McDonald's - I had my first Big Mac in 15 years, Tuna sushi restaurant - no way was I eating sushi in the Catskills, and Pizza Hut - our dinner choice for the first night in town.

Farm Camp, we came to find, is a bit like going to Las Vegas. What happens at Farm Camp stays at Farm Camp. Therefore, to really understand what we went through would mean that you would have to travel to a remote farm town, live in college dorms, spend four hours a day in lecture and four to five hours a day at the farm doing hands-on work followed by an evening of doing laundry, studying and attempting to make dinner without the means of a real kitchen. I don't think it's possible for me to really explain my two weeks at Farm Camp, much of the surreal experience came from sleep deprivation and a severe lack of testosterone. I haven't lived in a dorm setting in ten years and, well, I didn't really care for it the first time around. I quickly grew tired of the close quarters and the "let's do everything together" mentality that comes with dorm life. We had to jockey for position to get a shower. I had to deal with listening to other people's music (apparently, I'm a music snob). I had to sleep in a fucking twin bed.

We were not the only school attending Farm Camp. There were also students from Bergen County Community College in New Jersey. While we tolerated each other it was easy to see that none of us were there to make new friends. I won't go into details other than we managed to come up with some inventive nicknames for some of the Bergen girls so we could talk about them and everyone from my school knew who we were referring to. Some of the best were Biohazard, Chatty Cathy, Jesus Fish, and Black Eye (an unfortunate choice since when pronounced fast it came out sounding like "black guy".)

The class itself was overwhelming. Ten days of school with one day off in the middle. In the course of the ten days there were four tests and one lab practical, which was basically demonstrating everything we had learned with the animals. Our long-winded lecture professor, Dr. Dutka, insisted on talking to us like we were eight year olds and had a tendency to add the word "what?" mid-sentence, not unlike Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. We soon discovered that much of her information was contradictory to what we were learning from the farm teachers, and we were much more inclined to believe the farm teachers. I wish I could better explain what it was like to sit in a windowless classroom for four hours listening to her drone on and on, but there really is no adequate way to describe it without experiencing first hand the painful bore that is Zippy Dutka (a nickname I gave her after we found out she was 45 minutes late for lecture one afternoon because she had to go to driver's safety classes.)

As far as our hands-on work, well, we got down and dirty. Day one I had to catch a chicken and a piglet. These are not easy feats to accomplish, and a squealing pig could quite possibly rupture an eardrum. Day two I rumped a sheep, which is much less dirty than it sounds. The next three days we worked with horses, the highlight of farm camp as far as I was concerned since I have such a fondness for them. Following that we worked with goats, which are actually very friendly animals and we rounded out our two weeks with the cows. I was not too psyched to work with the cows initially - not that I don't like cows, I just had little interest in them. But it was quite fun and Chrissy and I "cast" a cow, which means we tied a rope around the cow in a certain way, heaved with all our might and brought that cow down to the ground. Not impressed? Remember, this is a 1200 lb. animal that does not wish to lie down just because you want it to. Yeah, we rocked. The crowning achievement with the cows, though, was performing a rectal. That's right, I shoved my arm up a cow's ass. I don't think there's much left to say after that.

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