Dad knew the secret to happiness

sunset on a hay bale

“The secret to happiness is not to do what makes you happy — it’s to be happy doing what you’re already doing.” 

— Anonymous 

“Today we’re gonna have a stone pickin’ party, and you’re all invited! And feel free to invite all your friends!” 

This pronouncement made on some random spring morning by my dad paints the picture of how I remember him at his best, a happy soul shining with his love of farming. 

The extravaganza of parties spanned the seasons, and no one was left off the invitation list. There would be hay baling parties, fence checking parties, milking parlor scrubbing parties, barn floor picking-up parties, weed pulling parties, hog sorting parties. 

“Now, if you know if you didn’t get invited, your feelings would be hurt, right? So, extend the invitation to friends and fellas who used to work here but have moved on to more worldly jobs, because you know they sure have to miss all of this,” he would say with a wry grin. 

For a man who was raised in such a somber home, I have come to realize his sense of lightness and humor was a gift he pulled from thin air. Born in his love of farming was this ability to see the joy in the life he had chosen. 

“If I had to sit behind a desk all day and be told how to think, now that would be some kind of torture, wouldn’t it?” Dad would pose such questions out of nowhere, gently reminding us to make our best path in the world. 

He was a happy man and wanted others to be, as well. Stone pickin’ parties found him in his finest form. 

“Today’s inventory is endless — run out there and see who can land the biggest crop of the day!” 

Flatbed wagons were strategically placed and moved as the rock harvest ensued. I remember being filthy in no time flat, carrying and throwing stones on to those wagons with wild abandon. 

The stone crop proved Dad right, maybe even outweighing the annual groundhog numbers that he said he wished could be listed as breeding animals on his inventory balance sheet. 

“Where do these stones keep coming from?” one of us would ask. “We did this field last year!” someone else would lament. 

Don’t you worry. The focus of all these fun parties never did run out. Pick 25 stones in a square yard, and somehow overnight, 25 more will rise to the surface. 

Sweep loose hay or straw from a barn floor, pick up broken baler twine until the cows come home, and within no time flat, it will be right there waiting to be done again. On a farm, the fun just keeps on coming. Plan those parties, one and all!


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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