The land blesses us, so we give back


Part II
Though my father never knew his great-grandfather Samuel Young, he was fortunate to spend a great deal of time with his own grandfather, Samuel’s son.
My father was certainly very much like the great-grandfather before him. Though he started out with nothing when he came of age in the early 1950s, my dad worked incredibly hard, often holding down two jobs and farming late in to the night, in order to acquire his own square of land by the time I was old enough to realize his pride in this accomplishment.
When additional, adjoining ground became available, my father was financially strong enough and his reputation solid enough that he could make a purchase agreement with a simple handshake.
Connection. I was still quite young when I realized that we held a strong connection to this land. My father continually told us that his goal, and ours, should always be to better the land which blessed us with life.
If a wind storm did damage which he alone could not repair, he called someone who could.
One thing each of us remember from our dad at the end of the day was the constant question, “Did you close the barn doors?” He was insistent upon treating those big old barns with respect, as a nod to the talents and hard work of those who had built them many years before our arrival on this land.
If my dad had been anything other than a farmer, he would have made a great history teacher, because he held both U.S. history and our local history in such high esteem. It went without saying that he expected us all, his four daughters and his son, to do the same.
From ground up. My father was not given anything to help him get started, which he said was a blessing in disguise, because it taught him to work harder. When his own father died, he purchased the farm on which he had grown up from his surviving sister and brother.
He went about repairing the large bank barn that great-grandfather Samuel had built in the 1880s. He spent a great deal of money to bring the barn back to usefulness and beauty.
I remember that event so well, the crew he had hired buzzing about like bees on the roof of that enormous barn, my father watching with delight from the ground below. He was filled with regret that the once-beautiful home that Samuel had built had deteriorated over the years and was beyond repair.
Pitching in. Even as an adult with children of my own, I was often pressed in to service on the farms, pitching in whenever Dad asked.
I remember large “stone-picking parties” with two of my sisters, nieces and nephews and my own small kids all working at clearing stone. It was hard work, but we managed to make it fun. There were weed whacking expeditions, too, when an otherwise pretty cornfield had been violated by random weeds.
I continued to milk the cows whenever asked, and there were many times Dad needed me to help unload hay during the summer.
Heart and soul. I have a friend who simply cannot understand why I would have ever done this, nor can she understand why I stay in this area now, when there are more suitable locales for living, places where snow never flies, for example.
She was stunned when my husband and I bought a 70-acre farm in this area at a time when she thinks of down-sizing to a condo in the suburbs somewhere in Florida. My father is no longer here to care, so why must I?
I have asked myself this a million times myself. It is because he asked us to care. It is because there was a vow repeated many times along his path of life: Leave this land which has blessed us better than you found it.
So, we found our own farm on which to repeat this process, and there is great pride in doing so.


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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.