Like most farm people, I have moments when I have to rely on my own inventiveness to get out of a pinch.  Farmers are familiar with unexpected happenings, like a radiator hose leak, when we have to figure out how to repair them and don’t have the handy duct tape that Red (Steve Green) of the Red Green Show frequently relies on.

Yes, it’s called duct tape, not duck, although there is a brand named such.  What would you do to fix the problem and be on your way?

I’ve assembled a few episodes when I and others had to come up with novel solutions to serious problems without baling wire, duct tape or a pliers.  I call them MacGyver moments, named after the quirky but entertaining television character, secret agent Angus MacGyver, whose show ran from 1985-92.

Growing up on a farm, I especially liked to help my father and the “hired man,” the term we used to refer to a farm hand who lived with us and helped with farm work until he earned enough to start his own farming operation or left to pursue another opportunity.  One of our favorite hired men was Ivo.

I looked up to Ivo because he seemed to have solutions for a lot of quandaries and was a dozen more years experienced than me.  He taught me that if a bee or wasp stung me, all I had to do after removing any stingers was to mix water with dirt, then apply the mud to the sting site and let it dry.

As the mud dried, it sucked the poison from the welt.  After a couple hours usually there was little evidence of the sting.

When I reached thirteen, it was my turn to stack bundles of windrowed oats into shocks, for Dad didn’t yet own a combine and we threshed our oats.  Ivo had moved on; Dad expected my older brother and me to assume his share of the work.

As I picked up the oat bundles I uncovered a nest of bumble bees that promptly retaliated for disturbing their home.  They stung me several times before I could get away from their attacks.

I had no water to make a mud paste, for I had left my water jug at the field entrance a half mile away rather than to carry it as I encircled the field working.  What to do?

I determined to pee so I could make mud to apply to the bee stings.  By the time I worked myself around the field to take a water-break, my half dozen bee welts had disappeared!

In the early 1990s I attended a continuing education seminar where the presenting doctor told how one of his farmer patients treated bouts of irregular rapid heartbeats called tachycardia.  The man grabbed the positive pole of a tractor battery and the shock acted like a defibrillator.

I had developed tachycardia episodes two decades earlier.  They were concerning enough that I had a cardiologist examine me before I began farming in my mid 30s after resigning my position as a professor at the University of Virginia.

Medical tests turned up no evidence of a problem so the doctor said I was “good to go” with strenuous farm work.  I continued to experience periodic and more prolonged episodes of tachycardia but I didn’t tell anyone.  I especially didn’t want my wife to worry.  

After I attended the seminar I realized an electric fence would work the same way as touching a tractor battery pole. The brief shock stopped my tachycardia.

There is more to the story.  You can read about it in my book, Excellent Joy: Fishing, Farming, Hunting and Psychology.

I have a ranching friend whose diesel truck ran out of fuel on his way home from the grocery store twenty miles away.  He remembered he had purchased vegetable oil for cooking.  He poured it in the fuel tank and drove back to town for fuel and more cooking oil.

Recently while in Washington DC for a meeting I had an allergic reaction while attending a congressional reception at which shrimp was served.  I can consume most seafood without any problems because I react only to a particular type of shrimp and I didn’t know this shrimp was in the food I ate.

By the time I got to my hotel room around 10:00 pm, my throat was swollen, my entire face was puffy and I didn’t have epinephrine or diphenhydramine with me.  Breathing was becoming difficult.  

My hotel didn’t have antihistamines.  I was going to have to make a trip to a 24-hour pharmacy.

I determined if I jumped into the shower while it was running as cold as possible I could trigger the release of adrenalin, which acts like epinephrine.  Ten minutes later I was breathing fine.

Tell me about your MacGyver moments.  With your permission, I will publish them in a future column, with–or without–your name, as you desire.

Dr. Rosmann lives near Harlan, Iowa.  Contact him at:

By Mike Rosmann, Ph.D.

Share your thoughts. Email Dr. Rosmann at [email protected], or visit his website at  You can call him at his office in Harlan, Iowa at 712-235-6100.