“The land is steep here, and the bale wagons showed it. Dad or my grandfather would sit at the end of the field and watch, but we couldn’t go on the steep areas. We turned a profit that year, and my brother and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.”
— Randy, speaking of the family farm during his teen-age years.
A connection to a plot of ground is difficult to explain to others who have never experienced it, but for a dyed-in-the-wool farm kid, it needs no explanation.
Randy is an all-American farm boy, through and through. He tilled his first ground at a very young age, planted some seeds, which in turn planted a seed in his heart, and by age 8 or so, he was hooked.
Sadly, his grandparents’ farm went to a family member who really had no interest in farming, has since moved several states away, letting the land go wild with weeds, the old Cape Cod house his grandfather built now in disrepair.
With a phone call granting permission to knock the weeds down, Randy spent 45 minutes on the road driving the Deutz with the plow, which came new to the farm in 1972, giving him lots of time to think.
“It felt strange to be bringing that particular equipment back to that farm. Being there working the ground again brought up so many memories… mostly for the good.”
Randy stresses, though, the importance of our oldest generation being quite clear in writing their intentions with a farm. Family strife over ownership runs deep in this story.
Back in happier times, Randy ran the farm until 2000 when he graduated college and moved to Maryland to work. Those teenage years were happy ones, though Randy’s mother lost sleep worrying over her sons working the steep farm.
The higher land is roughly inclined. “Back in the 1920s, they built these high tension power lines,” Randy explains. “Dad didn’t want us bringing loaded wagons down off the hill on the normal road we went up on, as it was steep with lots of loose dirt and rocks; tractors have gotten away there on much more experienced operators. He devised a gentle way for us to get off the hill by crossing between the 2 and 3 tower.”
One particular day, baling with help from his father, an uncle, brother and three friends, Randy recalls a story his mother still doesn’t know to this day.
“Last wagon of the day… how we all ended up on the top of the hill, I don’t remember. Everyone was in the wagon, it was about half full. I had the Deutz I still have today, with the new square baler and that big kicker wagon, which was a no-no, pulling loaded down the hill with the baler in between.
‘“As I came between the 1 and 2 tower, the upper wheel on that tractor started spinning backwards…I completely lost control and was desperately trying to aim the tractor back up the hill or get it stopped. The wagon had too much weight and the baler didn’t weigh enough and the wagon kinda took control.
“Eventually, I got us stopped, with the tractor starting to point up the hill, the baler jack-knifed between the tractor and wagon, and the wagon had broken its tongue off and jammed itself up against the kicker, broken it loose from the baler. I don’t think I ever had my heart so high in my chest. I wasn’t older than 16 at the most.
“I could have killed five people in that wagon. God was clearly holding that wagon back. Today, I realize there is no reason that wagon didn’t go over the hill end-over-end, throwing people out of it. I think that was the day I swore I wanted a flatter farm!”
Now sentimental. Randy, now married with two very young daughters, has decided it is time to move the family farm, just as his ancestor did generations back.
With the sentimental soul of so many farmers I have known well during my life, Randy has worked hard to reclaim his grandfather’s equipment, even tracking down that old Deutz and buying it back.
(Next week: Part 3, Visions of a future family farm.)