"Where are the TV cameras?" yelled one of the media-wise Kansas farmers who had crowded into a hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building to complain about conditions back-on-the-farm and down-on-the-Mall.
"We're not concerned about television," answered Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-Kan.). "Anyone can grandstand. We're just here to meet with you and help you," she said, nodding also to Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), who was at her side.
But a few minutes earlier an aide to Dole, after hearing his boss agree to accompany Kassebaum on a tour of the Mall, had run from the room and alerted the three television networks of the "photo opportunity" among the corralled tractors.
Some of the farmers who are back here for the second winter in a row have discovered that it is much easier to get their representatives to pose with them among their farm vehicles than it is to win their support on legislation.
"We came here for one thing -- full implementation of the 1977 farm bill," another farmer told Dole and Kassebaum during the hour-long meeting on Tuesday, "but we can't get one Kansas senator to support us."
Because the meeting ran late, Dole didn't go to the Mall, but Kassebaum did.
So did Sen. Charles McMathias (R-Md.), who also was happy to get his picture taken in front of Maryland tractors, but who was not willing to support the farmers' demand for 90 percent of parity.
Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) outdid all his colleagues. He got up early Monday morning and drove a tractor in the tractorcade that helped ensnarl Washington in its greatest-ever traffic jam.
And dozens of members of Congress made speeches, at rallies on the Capitol steps and in large and small meetings in the various office buildings.
Because it is their second march on Washington, some of the farmers also have learned the value of the news media. After a rally on the Capitol steps Monday, leaders of the American Agriculture Movement (AAM) called for farmers from various states to "come up here and be interviewed for broadcasts in your home town."
In addition to the huge Washington press corps, the farmers are getting extra attention from reporters who have been dispatched here by their home town newspapers to follow a particular delegation.
When Kassebaum went to the Mall on Tuesday afternoon, she was trailed by home state reporters from Lawrence and Salinas, along with Washington-based reporters.
The crowd that tagged along behind "Nancy," as nearly all the Kansans called her, kicked up so much dust along the gravel walks of the Mall that one farmer said, "This is getting to look like a cow lot, ain't it."
Every two hundred yards or so, Kassebaum was led to another tractor, where she chatted with the occupant and posed for pictures.
She was boosted into the cab of a tractor occupied by Dave and Becky Schechter of Sterling, Kan., and their 7-month-old son Tanner. Mrs. Schecter complained that the police blockade had prevented her and her sister, who brought along a 3-month-old child, from driving their trailer out "to get formula for the babies."
And the cameras clicked.
Marvin Oerke of Butler, Mo., got Kassebaum to poke her head through the broken window of his tractor cab, saying it was the result of "a cop who beat it in with a club. Then one of them beat the heck out of my hand," Oerke said.
More clicks and flashes.
Dan Smith, 26, of Russell Springs, Kan., who could win a Billy Carter lookalike contest, told the tiny senator that the police "pushed me around like a sack of rocks" when he refused to move his tractor. "I didn't resist, Nancy," he said, whereupon he wrapped a bear hug around the only woman member of the Senate.
Before she worked her way through the throng to meet with officials of the D.C. Police Department in their mobile command headquarters, Kassebaum summarized her observations for half a dozen reporters who stuck microphones in front of her fur-collared trench coat.
She could "understand" that some of the farmers felt "threatened and frightened when ringed by police," she said, pointing to the busloads of officers nearby.
"But these tractors just appear awfully big, too," she added, calling for "a need for precaution and understanding."
And then she resumed her tour, only to be halted within a few feet by her escort, Gene Karlin, of Oakley, Kan., who whispered to her, "Will you do it (the interview) again? CBS just got here."
Kassebaum turned on her heels and greeted the crew. "Hi, I'm Nelson Benton" said the reporter.
Quickly spotting the camera, Kassebaum smiled and began: "I can understand how some of these farmers feel threatened and frightened..."