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This time of year, it’s a good idea to have some extra things in your car when you travel. AAA and other travel organizations have a whole list of things you should carry, including a blanket and some extra warm clothes, in case you become stranded in the cold.

These are useful, but the past few years as a farm reporter, I’ve discovered a list that is uniquely my own.

Extra clothes

It’s fine to have some mud on your shoes on a farm interview, even a little manure, but if you’re heading to a business meeting afterward, you had better change.

This was most difficult when I worked for a local daily newspaper, and covered both county government and agriculture. Sometimes, there wasn’t time to change, and so I explained to the officials at the meeting, why I wore blue jeans and work shoes, instead of dress pants and dress shoes.

Lights

In September, I learned the valuable lesson of keeping a flashlight in my car. Although I was technically done working for the day, I decided to see if there was any damage to farms from a storm that had just passed

What I found was one of the worst damage from a tornado in recent history had struck the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster. Trees were uprooted and scattered hundreds of yards, homes and buildings were in ruins. (You can see some of my photos in this related article.)

http://www.farmanddairy.com/news/breaking-news-major-damage-at-wooster-oardc-campus-some-say-tornado/15789.html

I couldn’t even drive up to most of the damage, having to park my car and walk a lengthy distance. And I was just fine, until it turned dark … very dark, because most of the power lines were on the ground and electric poles shattered.

Luckily, I did have a reflective orange vest in my car that says PRESS on the back, in big bold letters. It helped other people see me, although I could barely see any of them. Aside from emergency lights, which blinked continuously, I had nothing to see where I was going, except my camera.

So, every 15 feet, I took a picture of the ground, so I could illuminate the power lines and tree branches with the flash, to avoid stepping into harm’s way.

It was kind of hideous, but it worked. A few weeks later, I discovered there actually was a small flashlight in my glove box, I just couldn’t find it the night I needed it.

Vision

Light is important, but so is having good eyes in the first place. I recently learned that on my way to the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board meeting. One of my lenses crumbled into pieces, and I found out how hard it can be to drive with one good eye. Even though I had a pair of glasses in the glove box, the lenses were about eight years old, and didn’t really help.

The long and the short of it is, I now have some extra lenses in the glove box, and they’re the right magnification.

Addresses

Because many of the places I go are new to me, especially county and township roads, I use a GPS that can find just about anything. It’s very rare that the address a farmer lives on will not show up on the GPS, but if it doesn’t, I can at least get to his road, and figure it out from there.

Other things.

Of course, there are also many miscellaneous items. I have a phone book that lists the three local counties, a bag with basic medications, extra batteries and battery chargers, pens and paper, and a roll of toilet paper in the glove box — don’t ask.

Honestly, I’m not as clumsy as it might seem. But when you have to act quick, and travel to different counties for sometimes unexpected conditions, driving down roads you don’t know, you learn the value of being prepared.

It’s something I’m still learning, and I’ve never yet met anybody who was prepared for everything. I’d be afraid of such a person.

But I love the feeling of having the things I need, when I need them. My incidents just help to remind me of that.

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties.
Chris Kick
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