The month of May was a strange one for my family. A lot of change and the loss of friends and loved ones made it seem like I was looking at the outside world through a window as it went by.

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The weather was like nothing I have ever seen for May – 102 degrees and dry as a bone. People weren’t even on the lake for Memorial Day weekend. Now that June has brought cooler (normal) temperatures and some rain, the corn is coming out of its wilt just in time for pollination.

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Our corn will be made with another week of rain and my partner and I have surrounded some of the food plots with electric fence to keep the deer off of the new ears until they have a chance to make. Even then, the deer and raccoons will have their due.

Now it’s time to get the chufa in the ground. The raccoons and crows have already decimated the test plots I put in with last year's seed. I may have to choose a few new places away from the creek bottoms to give the seed time to germinate. You have to plant food plots as if you intend to harvest them, otherwise you are just wasting time and money.

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First you have to mow the weeds and tall grasses down. Then you have to kill the weeds with some sort of herbicide to give the seed a jump start. Then you may need to disk the plots to turn the stubble under unless you have no-till planters.

I try not to herbicide plots for winter plots and just disk and plant right before the first frost. It’s a lot of work. It gets harder every year. As you get older, you have to rely more on machine than muscle and determination. Each year when I write this column I think, “How much longer will I be able to do this”?

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Most of my dental school classmates have retired and sold out. They now live leisurely lives in beach or mountain houses and are quite happy. I have had my chances to do the same, but doing so would have been unfair to my patients, my staff and ultimately to me.

No, I suppose they’ll load me in an ambulance here at the office one day. My father worked until two weeks before his death at age 90. I have a lot of him in me, but I suspect I won’t work that long.

My hands and vision will retire me before then. I really believe what you do your whole life makes you who you are. When you stop doing those things, you become someone else. Not better or worse, just a modified version of yourself.

I can’t imagine life without my patients. I can’t imagine not having dirt under my fingernails on days off and weekends. I don’t look forward to the day I can’t put up a deer stand or climb into one. That day comes for all of us, but I’ll go down kicking and screaming.

Have you ever noticed that when people just all of a sudden stop working, they don’t seem to live that much longer? Obviously, those of us fortunate enough to retire very early adjust to it and do quite well. I don’t think the question is so much about work as it is about having something to do. Some reason to get up and keep our bodies and minds on a schedule.

Before I married, my land gave me a purpose outside of work. The most important thing to me is my family and my God. Not being a regular church-goer, I find my God mostly while being on my land. When times are troubled as they have been recently, it is my family, particularly my wife, I turn to and she to me.

But the land is where I find the peace and the connection to make important decisions in a place I can think clearly and pray. You know, on second thought, maybe I would rather just fall out of a deer stand and be covered with leaves rather than be carried out of my office. If only one could choose.

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Dr. John Rheney has been writing his outdoors column for The Times and Democrat since 1984.


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