“My father asserted there was no better place to bring up a family than in a rural environment. There’s something about getting up at 5 a.m., feeding the stock and chickens, and milking a couple of cows before breakfast that gives you a lifelong respect for the price of butter and eggs.” — Bill Vaughan
One morning while eating breakfast after a particularly difficult morning out in the milking parlor, my dad once asked, “How much does a dozen eggs cost these days?”
I don’t remember my mother’s answer, but I remember Dad’s response. “You’ve got to be kidding me. That is the cheapest buy in the market. It’s not right — poultry farmers deserve better than that.”
In both little and large ways, we were raised with an awareness of others and the work they did for the rest of us. It likely wouldn’t have been as easy to have received these daily object lessons if we were being raised in a high-rise apartment in the city. Dad would ask us pointed questions about such things as “Did you see the deer and her does drinking from the pond this morning?” This was his way of reminding us to notice the gifts of Mother Nature.
Memories. Sitting on the porch with him at the end of a work-filled day, watching the sunset, was as good as it gets. When Canada geese first began appearing in this area, Dad was fascinated by their family-minded mentality. He watched with awe and amusement as the mama goose would lead the babies across the road in single file, with papa goose bringing up the rear. As he pointed this out to each of his children, he often said that humans should aspire to such team parenting.
Acts of kindness. Dad would often sprinkle shelled corn near their nesting area, saying it might keep them from wandering in to the road. He claimed it was to keep them from causing an accident, but his soft heart for all of God’s creation played a big part. Dad would often leave a small strip of field corn standing at the end of his harvest season for the wildlife, saying they were in need of a little helping hand to get through a tough winter just like the humans of the world.
None of this was ever said or done in any big-deal way, but in a quiet, often wordless, act of kindness. It was absorbed by all of us, and I see his teachings in each one of us who had the good fortune to work side-by-side with him. Fourteen years have now come and gone since my father’s passing, and it goes without saying that his family and his community lost a good man far too young. But, his soft-spoken, positive presence while he walked this land remains through each of us.
Man not forgotten. My son said not long ago, “I still can’t get over how many people ask if Stan Young was my grandfather, and how positive their response is when I tell them yes.” In the 1950s, my father left a high-paying factory job as a young man to become a full-time dairy and crop farmer, saying it would make him a better man and a better father. It meant daily risks and hard work around the clock and throughout the calendar, but he instinctively knew that what he was doing was right. With passing time, I realize that he became who he was by having emulated the best from the many good people who played a part in his upbringing.
I see the fun and ornery spark of a great-grandfather, the community-mindedness of another, the thirst for knowledge and amazing work ethic from a mother who he adored and lost while still a child. He developed a wide variety of interests from many beloved aunts and uncles who played a part in raising him.
Giving thanks. Near the end of his life, he said to me, “I have been one of the lucky ones. I got up every morning knowing I was doing exactly what I wanted to do.” That optimistic spirit and the life lessons he taught by example live on. What an incredible gift!