Thursday, December 23, 2010


The word "contrast" is defined as "the degree to which light and dark areas of an image differ in brightness." It can also be explained as "to set in opposition in order to show or emphasize differences."
Contrast is why some of us farm and enjoy rural America so very much. We indeed have mundane jobs at times, even in farming. Just like a factory or desk job, running a tillage machine or a combine for the third week in a row begins to wear on the nerves.
But without a doubt, there is hope. We eventually finish what we've been doing and go on to the next job. Book work leads to taxes which lead to the planting season, certainly a nice contrast which leads to tending crops and on and on. It is the contrast that makes it all worthwhile.
Maybe it's the "grass is always greener" aspect of human nature, but it always seems that what we're about to do is much more interesting than what we're doing right now. The weather is going to be better next season. We love spring but it leads to summer which makes us yearn for fall and then here we are on the edge of winter and we've already begun to dream of getting the planter out of the shed.
It's all of this anticipation that makes life exciting but it can also ruin your very existence. We get so tied up with looking ahead that we fail to see the blessings we should be thankful for every day. We plan to get involved in Christmas programs, parties, shopping and when the time comes we say "Okay, we sing at 10 a.m., but we can't hang around after the program because we have to load up and get over to Sarah's for dinner "but Dear, you'll need to leave Sarah's early to drive little Bobbie over to the neighbors." … and so it goes.
I read this week that we need to be careful of everyone's feelings because each of us is carrying an unseen burden. The part about all of us having burdens is for sure true and with that in mind I decided to try an experiment a few days ago. I was walking through a crowded store in a neighboring town and being in a holiday mood I decided to watch folks carefully and see if I could get a smile out of them.
With the exception of one woman with three young children in tow, no one looked at me. She smiled but almost everyone I looked at just stared at the aisle ahead of them, or the floor or for the most part their husband or wife who were walking along side. They almost all had a look of disdain on their face. I didn't find many happy people except for the workers in the store who were being paid to smile. It was part of their job.
What have we come to? These folks need some contrast in their lives.
I think it's a benefit of age that we eventually figure out that money or what we have has nothing at all to do with being happy. We get around finally to learning how to be happy with what we have and who we are and what we can help others become.
For your contrast this season try taking a deep breath, think of your family and friends and think of them as the gifts to you that they are. Handle all with love. Keep your finances and emotions in check, slow the pace down and decide to be happy.
Getting back to that store. They were decorated all the way to the ceiling fans in red and green and trees and toys but yet the word Christmas was missing. Not to be found anywhere. How is it you can try to make a significant portion of your yearly income by selling Christmas presents, yet you're afraid to use the word Christmas. I think they're afraid of the contrast. That being the dark world lit up so brightly by a star over a small city a couple of thousand years ago.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2 7 3 - J 1 2

That was our phone number when I was a kid here on the farm. The phone at that time was a black wall mount with a receiver and a button on the side and nothing else. The last of the hand crank phones were being phased out of service on the farms and the new technology was upon us.
The button on our phone was so you could pick up the receiver and listen to see if anyone else was using the phone. It was a party line so if the line wasn’t busy, you could simply push the button and you’d get a lady who sounded as if she had a clothespin on her nose saying “Operator” and then you’d simply say the number you wanted. “273-J12 please.” The neighbors couldn’t hear you ‘pick up’ so you didn’t disturb them if you listened for a moment and then hung up and waited for a while. No one I ever talked to had ever listened in on the neighbors phone calls, that was a no-no in those days, but on the other hand everyone was also convinced that the neighbors were involved in some kind of covert action and listening to every word.
We couldn’t use the phone on Monday mornings. That was when the neighbor lady called everyone in the township for news for the newspaper. She was paid by the word so we had some trouble getting the line. When she called here, Mom had news for her. Dad never, ever, had any news for her. He didn’t like seeing his name in the paper. “Nope, we haven’t had any company, bye,” and click the conversation was over. When Mom had to be gone on news day, she would return and immediately ask if we had talked to anyone on the phone. She was fearful that we might have spilled the beans about someone coming to visit as a ‘Saturday evening dinner guest’ when it was not their turn to be here. She didn’t want to offend any of her friends. She would say “Oh no, you didn’t tell her that did you?” to which we replied, “Mom, I told her we didn’t have any news but she asked about last Saturday night, she said she had seen Blanche and Harold’s car go right by her house on the way down to ours.”
The J 1 2 on the end of our number, was meant to inform the operator that it was the J side of the line and she should ring us by one long and two shorts or RING-ding-ding. One neighbor was J 1 which was one ring and the other neighbors were J 2, or two quick dings. There was an R side to the line but we didn’t hear them ring. But we were all trying to use just the one line.
My sister was an operator and so we didn’t get by with many shenanigans. If we called too late in the evening to give her a number, she would ask “Are Mom and Dad gone?” and then she’d say “you should be in bed.”
The operator was the original 911 call center in our town. We had a flashing red light mounted on the lumber yard on the east side of main street in the middle of town where a bank is now located, and if someone needed the police the telephone operator would turn the light on and when the constable finally saw the light he would drive to the pay phone by the Octagon Restaurant and use the town’s only pay phone to call the operator to find out where the emergency was.
I remember another time when a severe thunderstorm marched through town on the evening of the 4th of July and everyone called the operator to see if the fireworks had been rained out.
They had been.
Long distant call start and stop times were written down by the operator. Believe it or not, we would call ‘person to person’ meaning if the party you wanted to talk to wasn’t at the location you were calling; then you didn’t have to pay for the call. Those calls however, if connected, were charged at a higher rate than station to station.
As circuitry capabilities advanced, they eventually ruined all of the communication technology by going with some new fangled rotary dial phones that effectively put the operators out of business. It was pretty neat stuff though, once we got used to it, no more operators telling us when it was time to go to bed or that we might get in trouble if we called her that late again.
To top it all off, along with the new phones, the phone companies had the nerve to require all of us to get a new phone number with, (wait for it) another number added. That meant everyone now had to learn a 7 digit phone number. Then of concern was how big the phone books might get with all of these new numbers, after all, ours was already as big as a church bulletin with 20 pages. These were all big changes but we were assured that the new number, even though incredibly long, would probably be the last number we would ever need to learn.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

What If?

A few Sundays ago we were in Church.  We, meaning Marilyn and I and our daughter Juli and her two kids were there too. Juli plays the piano and organ for our church and did, that day.  After services we planned to go home, eat lunch and travel to Blair to watch Colton play the first of a few of the play off games his team participated in.
We had been in the house a few minutes and a neighbor called to say Juli had rolled her pickup and had been thrown out as it rolled over.  We don't really know how many times it rolled but think it was two complete rolls. It landed on it's wheels and she was found walking in a daze in the cornfield by her truck.  It was a Ford F-250, the doors still shut and top crushed down to the top of the seats. She was walking around the corn field looking for her kids but she didn't realize one was at the farm where we were and she had just dropped Colton off at the neighbors house so he could get to the game early for warm ups.
We got there as fast as we could and the EMT's and the squad arrived shortly after we did. They transported her and she was eventually released after a  c t scan.  A concussion was the result and some pretty sore core muscles. She still has a hand that bothers her when she plays the piano for the school system but she thinks time might eventually cure that. (soft tissue and tendon tear)
The culprit in the accident was the left rear wheel. It came off while she was still on the gravel road and it pulled her into the ditch. I guess the What If factor is what has gotten to us. What if she hadn't survived...which looking closely at the truck, it's easy to say she shouldn't have. What if she had been belted in? In that case she certainly wouldn't have survived. Also, how did she get out?
It would have ended life as we know it and that's for certain. I don't know how we could have carried on... or even why.
But the good news is that we don't believe in luck.  She's with us still, obviously for a purpose. We had a good Thanksgiving and now you know why.
The truck was here on the farm for a while. People who saw it were stunned, very quiet, and then found Juli to give her a hug. But none of them have been as big as the hug  God gave her that day.