"Great googly moogly."
The phrase, which has its roots in the Delta blues, and made popular by a 1950s-era movie, was used by a neighboring farmer whose strong faith prevented him uttering stronger language.
"Great googly moogly" entered the conversation when his pigs escaped woven wire fencing, a fox stole into the chicken coop, or the 40% chance of July rain came and went without a drop falling.
Mother appreciated his restraint, because not everyone practiced the same decency under her roof. She cringed when one of Dad’s friends took the creator’s name in vain, but never complained until after the visitor took his leave.
Mother, who taught that frequent use of swear words was the product of a shallow mind, did not tolerate coarse words from her youngest son. It was better when assigned to beat dust from rugs hanging on the clothesline to utter made up words that spoke of frustration but do not offend the creator or Mother.
She was appalled when during a ballgame I was thrown out for bad language. The umpire had identified the wrong offender, which spared me severe punishment.
There have been a few googly-moogly moments recently in the neighborhood. June has been dominated by a heat wave, which is poorly timed because many farmers have been prevented from spraying soybean fields. Regulations cover times and temperature when applying dicamba. In the heat, beans might well fry beyond recovery.
What comes around goes around — a belief popular among farming veterans. You watch, one warned, July and August will be cold and droughty just like it was that year in the 1970s. A Labor Day freeze abruptly ended the growing season. There was little reason to harvest the five-acre-per-bushel soybeans, given that fuel and machinery wear and tear exceeded return.
You have not forgotten the Father’s Day freeze, have you?
It happened in the early 1990s, when the summer that followed was cold and wet. Cornfields that were cultivated the day before the frost were hurt worst because stirring the soil allowed cold air to sink deeper. Damaged corn filled the air with silage aroma for days afterward, which was a sickening reminder of the unthinkable reality.
Most farmers will say that there has never been a total crop failure. However, there have been a few close shaves. The bone-dry 1930s and the grasshopper plagues of the same decade caused thousands to leave the heartbreak behind to seek the future in California.
The spring-born birds have left their nests to test their uncertain wings on the electric line that runs from a pole to the house. A few robins search for fat nightcrawlers in the grass. I watch them while sitting in a lawn chair that strains under my considerable weight.
Kathy interrupts with a garden inspection.
“You have a green thumb,’’ she says, and proceeds to tell her sister to expect a bounty of vegetables come August.
Great googly moogly, please do not jinx it, for it is unwise to count chicks before they hatch or hay bales before they're stacked in the barn.
Squirrels have taken to digging up plants in the garden. They may have displaced walnuts or do so out of natural habit. It causes me to utter a few made-up words and vow revenge. Other than a lecture, the squirrels know that threatened harm is as empty as the rain gauge.
Googly moogly, it is hot and humid.
I retreat to air conditioning and recall a time when we slept outside to beat the heat. Alfalfa and small grain chafe stuck to our sweaty bodies along with determination to wake up the next day and finish the harvest — if the good Lord willed it to be so.
Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minn., with his wife, Kathy.