Patience is a missing commodity


It has long been said that patience is a virtue. I think it is not just a mere coincidence that we are seeing less patience in the world, just as we are seeing fewer family farms out there in the world.

The pace of country life in days gone by, nurtured the growth of many admirable virtues, and patience simply has to be listed right up there at the top of the bumper crop.

Story of patience. “His patience is a family legend,” writes Anne Rivers Siddons of her grandfather, “and its finest hour was when one of his best milk cows, an obtuse Jersey named Dora, escaped from the pasture and disappeared.”

Siddons tells that her father, her uncle and two cousins joined her and her grandfather in the search for Dora the Jersey on their Georgia farm.

“The loss of a milk cow was a financial disaster to the farm and a personal agony for Dad Rivers. For three days, we searched woods, fields, along the highway and railroad right-of-way, on neighboring farms.

“My grandmother fussed and chirred in her kitchen as suppers grew cold, waiting for the flashlights to come bobbing home, growing more vocal and exasperated.

“On the evening of the third day, we found the place where Dora had gotten out; the barbed wire that skirted the edge of a deep, red-clay overhang along a dirt road that bisected the farm was down.

“Shortly after that, we found the cow, and it was Dad Rivers who led the witlessly lowing, bursting-bagged Dora home to be milked, with just a hand on her muzzle.

“Supper spoiled again, my grandmother started her Greek chorus of raillery at dumb beast and man alike. Dad Rivers would have none of it.

“She ain’t roguish, Clyde,” he said mildly but with iron in his voice. “She just fell out of the pasture.”

Worth remembering. Patience, past the point, actually, of anything that can be merely defined as patience, but more like an undefined type of saintliness, is what I remember about so many of the farmers I have known all my life.

What I have grown to realize is that their very life exemplified the almost perfect place for such a virtue to grow and take hold. My dad could stretch a minute of quiet into what seemed eternity as one of us waited for an answer to a question.

He would light his pipe, lean against a big tractor tire (or the window sill in the milking parlor, or a wall of stacked-tight hay bales) and it would seem that time stood still while he gave some thought to whatever the question at hand happened to be. He would not be rushed.

I have come to realize that it is this – as well as a fair and analytical mind – that made him such a good parent as well as a good businessman.

Time to ponder. He took the time to ponder, to study, to consider all the many consequences, before he jumped in with an answer.

And that certainly required a truckload of patience, especially considering there was a time when he had four teenage daughters at once!

There always seemed to be time. Time to think, time to talk, time to ponder.

“I remember so much about him,” Siddons writes of her grandfather. “The trips to the gristmill in the laden wagon, when he let me take the reins of the twin harness wherein Alec and Jane twitched mellowly down the red road.

“The faces and baskets he used to whittle out of May’s green maypops. How he could bring down a fine branch of mistletoe with one deft .22 shot.

“Yates apples from a basket beside the fire in the bedroom where we always sat, which he would toss me wordlessly when I grew bored with grown-up talk.”

All in a look. Wordlessly. That also seemed to go along with the most patient of them all. Much could be said without words, sometimes just a raised eyebrow would do.

Much could be accomplished with a dose of patience thrown in to the daily mix of hard work and deliberate decisions.

Wanted: Patience. It is something we could sure use a whole lot more of in this world today. We just don’t seem to be growing this particular crop in any abundance anymore.


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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.