By Ross Markman
I realize I'm probably not in the minority here, but let me just make one thing perfectly clear: I don't like stepping in animal feces.
I despise stepping in animal feces, maybe more than anything else in this world.
Two weeks ago, I, along with my editor, moseyed over to the Mule Shoe Ranch in Chinook. We were there to watch sheep be sheared.
What we got were feet practically caked in dirt, mud, hay and animal excrement. Not exactly how I wanted to spend my afternoon.
Perhaps it's my fault, because I wasn't properly attired. Had I known we were going to be wading through Frisbee-sized mudpies, I would have worn my sheep-and-cow-dung-sloshing boots.
My editor and the ranchers laughed at my expense. And rightfully so.
I'm a city boy at heart, and I don't like dirt.
Even as a kid, when my friends would be outside frolicking in the filth or digging for worms, I would rather be shooting hoops or riding my bike.
And even though I had been around farm animals before, this was my first time on a ranch, my first face-to-face experience with sheep and cows and donkeys.
And their leftovers.
Don't worry about your shoes and pants, my editor said. It will all fall or wash off.
I knew she was right, but that didn't matter. I'm stubborn and I was not in my element.
Sure, walking through my hometown, I periodically encountered some unscooped dog stuff, but it's nothing like ranch life, a virtual minefield of pooh.
I salute farmers and ranchers everywhere for the fortitude and unparalleled heart they exhibit each time they venture outdoors.
Despite my battle with cattle (dung), the experience wasn't entirely awful.
I got to watch sheep being sheared, something not exactly common practice in Philadelphia. I learned about the ranching industry and saw firsthand the effects of the drought.
If only animal feces could be converted into rain water, Hill County producers would see record highs in their crop production.
My editor says she's assigning me to cover an upcoming bull sale. I cringe at the idea and am considering bringing my own pooper scooper.
I bet by now you've fallen off your chair laughing at me, not with me. I'm sure you find it hard to believe that a 24-year-old man could have such a fear of animal sludge.
Well, think about this.
Today is the first day I've worn the shoes I wore to the ranch. The smell is gone and so is the pooh.
But the thought of doing the backstroke through that mud and excrement haunts me still.
I wake up in cold sweats. I fall asleep with hot flashes.
Even thinking about it right now, I struggle to catch my breath.
With all due respect to ranchers, the next time you'll find me on a ranch is when sheep and cows are potty-trained or when someone invents full-body feces-repellent armor.
Whichever comes first.