“Yes, there is a Nirvanah; it is leading your sheep to a green pasture, and in putting your child to sleep, and in writing the last line of your poem” —Khalil Gibran
There are many seasons in a life, and one helps strengthen us for the next. When my great-grandfather was a young man in Pittsburgh, he enjoyed school, church and helping in the family’s grocery and delivery business. He loved to sing, and often harmonized with his sister, Addie, for special events.
Life was happily filled to the brim with family and friends. Within one year, Charlie buried his only sister, his paternal grandfather, and his father. Charlie was the oldest at age 12. It seems difficult to imagine, but Charlie and his brother, Harry, left the cemetery on the day their father was buried, bound to Ohio with an uncle they barely knew.
They worked on the uncle’s farm for room and board. If we are to learn from those who walk this journey before us, and I have always believed we are strengthened through such knowledge, Grandpa Charlie’s legacy stands tall.
Sense of humor. He had learned through many losses and numerous hard knocks that a fellow can live through anything as long as he holds on to his sense of humor. One of his very favorite sayings, repeated by my own father many times, always brings a laugh.
“A fellow can only hope for one good woman and one good dog in his lifetime,” Charlie said, pausing to reflect upon it. “Well, I had me a good dog once. …”
Charlie, who often referred to that one good dog he called Herbert Hoover, also loved his horses and his sheep, and cared for them with great attention to detail. His wife of 50-plus years, Anna Chloe, often got after him for wasting his time shining up the halters and the harnesses when she felt there were more pressing matters on the farm.
He wanted his horses brushed and cleaned, and if he was going visiting or heading for church, the fanciest harness was brought out. Charlie enjoyed working from sunup to sundown. He raised 200 to 300 lambs each year, filling the upper barn and feeding them out.
He took great pride in his horses, and felt no great desire to farm with tractors. After his wife’s death, Charlie retired from farming but helped daily on our farm because he found great joy in work. One of my earliest memories is of my dad and his maternal grandfather joshing about a tractor that was giving them some mechanical trouble.
“If you’d kept a pair of work horses, we’d be in the house eating supper by now!” Grandpa Charlie chided with a grin.
The love of farm life runs deep in our bones, and it is when we are at work that we feel our best. As we look toward our future, we draw on our past. We are hopeful to one day, once again, have a barn filled with life. I am grateful to Farm and Dairy readers for the kind words of empathy and encouragement in the loss of our barn.
I am touched by the many readers who have personally withstood similar loss, for their words of understanding resonate deeply.