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Commentary: Don't forget the toilet paper during harvest

Anika Pinke, 9, packed a roll of toilet paper for a harvest combine ride with her grandpa recently. Katie Pinke / Forum News Service1 / 2
Katie Pinke2 / 2

WISHEK, N.D. — As we left the house to head to the field to track down the combine, my youngest daughter, Anika, mentioned she packed a bag of snacks and other "things." She's joined her grandpa Fred for numerous combine rides in her nine years, so I didn't bother to look into the plastic sack.

We arrived at the field and found the combine parked and my dad fixing something on the header. Not until Anika handed me the sack, so she could climb up the steps into the cab, did I peek into her "snack" bag. In addition to a couple cans of Pepsi Wild Cherry — a caffeinated and sugary drink she never gets at home — my mom's homemade cookies, crackers, chips and nectarines, I found a roll of toilet paper.

I grew up tagging along in the combine until my uncle taught me how to drive the grain truck in the field when I wasn't much older than Anika. In all my memories of harvest, though, I never brought a roll of toilet paper to the field.

Anika saw I had pulled out the roll of toilet paper and said, "Mom! Hand that to me."

"Do you think you'll need this in the field today?" I asked.

(I won't go into details but farm girls have been known to improvise in the fields and make do without toilet paper.)

Anika turned around and said, "I'm prepared!"

I pulled out my phone to snap a picture of her holding the roll of toilet paper. She was prepared for the life moment — a long combine ride.

Does bringing toilet paper to the field prepare her for life? Probably not, but thinking ahead and preparing for the situations she will face is a life skill.

I think exposure to rural and farm life, no matter your zip code, forces you to be prepared.

My grandparents and in-laws often remind me to not take modern conveniences for granted in rural life. Running water, rural electricity and telephones all came to be in their lifetimes. For my generation, I imagine we'll tell our grandchildren about computers, the internet and smartphones, as well as the technology in our seed, crop and livestock management practices and farm equipment.

Even with today's modern conveniences, we still must be prepared, just in case we need to go a few hours or days without electricity or heat. We chop wood. We have generators.

In case there's a water issue, we have gallons of extra water in the basement. In case we have a big storm and aren't going anywhere for days, we have a pantry of extra food.

And my husband orders toilet paper, paper towels and laundry detergent by the case, so we're always prepared.

Anika's involvement in 4-H has taught her how to prepare. She earned her first county fair blue ribbons this summer on a few 4-H static, non-livestock projects. To me, it's not the color of the ribbon that matters most but rather the readiness for real life that's taught through programs such as 4-H.

In her first year of Badger Bunch 4-H (our local club), Anika learned the importance of following a process to complete projects on her own; how to work alongside others; new skills such as archery, woodworking and creativity in arts; and the importance of giving back to her community through volunteering in her first highway ditch cleaning, which the club does every spring outside our rural community.

One of the most important life skills we can teach our kids is to think ahead and prepare accordingly. On a grand scale, that might mean saving money for a new car or stocking up for natural disasters. When it comes to everyday life, though, that means grabbing a roll of toilet paper before you head out the door because you know you'll be a long way from the modern-day bathroom in the middle of a barley field.