“The bright sun filtered through the clouds, warming the fields of alfalfa that my father was mowing. Within a day or two it would be put into bales of hay, gathered from the field, stored in the hay loft and used to feed our livestock. I stood at the fence line with the lunch my mother had prepared for my father, watching as he cautiously guided the tractor up and down the field, head down, eyes closely observing the movements of the mower.”
— Bettie B. Youngs
Values from the Heartland
Just a week ago, I watched my nephew as he worked his farm, preparing to bale a bonus fourth-crop hay in November. I saw the intensity of his attention to doing everything right, and his focus reminded me once again that things turn out just like they are intended.
Even when Bryan was a tiny little boy, he knew exactly what he wanted to do when he grew up. I remember so well the day I took him and my son, both pre-schoolers, to see a new animated movie in the theater. I was so excited to share this colorful matinee with them. As the vibrant characters moved about on the big screen, I watched as Cort’s little face lit up and Bryan, two years older than Cort, stared rather solemnly at the screen.
When the movie finished, the boy we call Bub took his little thumb from his mouth, looked at me and said, “That was dumb.” I chuckled and asked what would have made the movie not quite so dumb. “Tractors, maybe,” he said with a very straight face.
As the pre-school years faded and this little brown-eyed boy grew, school was never Bub’s favorite place to be, to say the least. He just didn’t see the point. He wanted to be outside, watching what was happening on the farm, helping with the work. He bought his first feeder calves before he was even old enough to drive a car.
Ashland County Fair week was one of his favorite times of the year, not only because he could show the animals he had been working with for months on end, but because it got him out of school. He hung in there for 12 very long years, watching the second hand move agonizingly slowly on the schoolhouse clocks.
When he had finally put in his time, he celebrated high school graduation with a huge sigh of relief. My sister and her husband, as his parents, might have celebrated even more than he did.
There has always been a sparkle of orneriness in this nephew of ours, the only brown-eyed child among all of his blue-eyed cousins. If anyone needed a good chuckle on an otherwise dreary day, we knew to seek out Bub. He could tell the best stories, and those stories usually involved himself and the exasperating purgatory of his school days. He may not have been a teacher’s dream student, but he has always managed to bring laughter to everyone around him.
Life has a way of twisting and turning and putting us right where we are supposed to be. Bub is now newly married, and has a small farm of his own just over the hill from ours. Recently, he surprised us all by telling us he was going back to school. At first, we thought he was setting us up for another one of his jokes.
But, he has found his niche, studying crop management at Ohio State University’s Agricultural Technical Institute. He says it’s not so bad, but he still makes us laugh by describing the extreme agony of being forced to read a long book.
When I contemplate this young man’s life, I have to wonder about the many children just like him who were not born in to the opportunities of being a farm kid. Where would they find their passion throughout the long years of school? Bub could grin and bear it because he knew when the final school bell rang at the end of the day, he had a place to go that felt like a perfect fit. He was determined to ultimately own a piece of land to call his own.
Watching Bub work from the seat of his tractor is like witnessing the stars aligning just as they all are meant to.