Some years ago, NASA – who should consider changing its motto from “To infinity and beyond!” to “Oops!” – announced its Mars Climate Orbiter had been lost. NASA admitted the $125 million probe veered disastrously off course when a flight controller erroneously sent navigation commands to the doomed probe – get this – using the metric system.
    Well, geez. No wonder that probe crashed itself. Nobody likes to use the metric system.
    Like many Americans, I have nothing but disdain for the metric system. This despite the huge amount of effort that the government has put into luring me into the metric lifestyle, even going so far as erecting subliminal road signs.     
    At least that’s my theory. I figure that’s why, some years back, we began to see changes in our road signs. That’s why road signs mysteriously began to appear that read something like: “West Undershirt – 10 mi. / 16 km.”     
    Government agents, cleverly disguised in bib overalls and battered seed corn caps, began to hang out in small town coffee shops to gauge the effectiveness of this campaign on our farmers. What they hoped for was to start hearing conversations that went something like this:     
    “You know, that farm just down the road from the old Gunderson place. It’s 6.43 kilometers north and 4.82 kilometers west of my place.”     
    “I heard that his soybeans yielded 100 more kilograms per hectare on that 16.18 than the ones on his home 64.74.”     
    “Man, it was a real scorcher yesterday. It must have hit a high of 40. A few centimeters of rain sure wouldn’t hurt.”     
    But, none of that happened. And, when you think about it, the effort to convert us to metric measurements doesn’t make much sense.
    After we booted out the English during the Revolutionary War, we said to them, “And take your silly monetary system with you!” We then created our current currency, the dollar, which is neatly divided into 100 equal parts. This is essentially metric money. Yet at the same time, we decided to cling to the English system of weights and measurements, a system that is inherently goofy.     
    For instance, a foot is supposedly the length of an average foot. This might be a handy rule of thumb for your average Joe, but what about non-average guys like my neighbor, Albert, who wears a size 14 boot and has feet the size of snowshoes?     
    There are also 12 inches in a foot, which makes absolutely no sense at all. My guess is that there are 12 months in a year and someone in the distant past thought the lowly foot could use some kind of cosmic connection.     
    An acre was once defined as the amount of land a team of oxen could plow in one day. As you can imagine, this varied depending on whether or not the oxen were good team players.
    Some English king finally decreed an acre measures exactly one rod wide by half a mile long. This sounds good until you consider that a rod is equal to 16.5 feet. Who came up with that wacky number?     
    And, that is just the beginning. What about leagues and furlongs? Is a nautical mile a nice mile that has gone bad? Why do cars measure their speed in miles per hour while airplanes do so in knots? And, whose bright idea was it to measure air speed by dangling an old chunk of knotted rope?     
    Why on earth did they set the boiling point of water at 212 degrees? Just so they would have a good question for “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” And, could somebody explain why 8 quarts of water would be 2 gallons while the very same amount of wheat is 1 peck? And, what does a quick smooch have to do with measuring grain?     
    It’s enough to drive one to drink, except for even that can quickly become confusing. You could start out with a wee dram and wind up being in your cups or fishily to the gills. You simply can’t escape the weirdness.     
    Not that any of this changes my feelings regarding the metric system. I will continue to cling to the English measurement system despite its many twists and eccentricities. I guess it sort of reminds me of me.     
    And so, I will keep on enjoying my quarter pounders, passing up on those sissy 113.4 grammers. And, they can have my yardstick when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.