Our Rural Roots

Pig Pen to Rubber Duck

(Jennifer Campbell)

Long before cell phones or flashing beacons on full combines, two-way radios were the party line of farm communications. They were monitored by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), you were given call letters, and each person had a unit number.

"KFD318 Unit 33 1/3 to Unit 13 (that's my husband, Chris), what's your 10-20?"

It's highly possible I was a long-haul trucker in a past life. I was a tad overexcited to use terms like "that's a big 10-4" or "that last load have too many eggs in the basket?"

My father-in-law assigned me 33 1/3 -- that's right, thirty-three and a third would be my official unit number. I believe his words were something to the effect of me being odd and the odd man out. It didn't matter, I had a unit number, and I was happy.

I'm the first to admit my hand signal execution and interpretation is subpar at best, so harvest is when our two-way radios pull their weight. Quite honestly, the range isn't all that great by today's standards, but there is usually someone in between to be a relay responder, and our base/home unit with the tower catches all the chatter.

But, with the good comes some awkward moments. Like when the combine operator calls and wants to know where you are with the grain cart, and on the "party line" you must admit you are lost in a field. In my defense, it was really dark.

I've caught grain for three generations of Campbells running the combine, and those two-way radios keep whoever is running the combine in contact with this cart driver.

These days, no one is even surprised when I belt out "Convoy" lyrics: "Pig Pen, this here's the Rubber Duck. And, I'm about to put the hammer down ..."

Here's to a safe harvest, good buddies. Unit 33 1/3 over and out.


-- Jennifer (Jent) Campbell can be found communicating on an Indiana family farm where she writes a blog called Farm Wife Feeds (farmwifefeeds.com). Follow her on Twitter @plowwife and on the podcast @girlstalkag


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