Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's Been A Charles Dickens Year

The following was written for the Midwest Producer Magazine which covers Kansas as well as Nebraska. That explains the mention of both states in the column.
It has finally come and gone. The long awaited day, the very object of our dreams, the goal has arrived for those in drought ravaged southern Kansas and the flooded parts of Nebraska and Iowa and beyond. What day am I speaking of, you ask? It's Christmas, or better yet the end of a long wearisome year. If this was a piece of music the word 'fine' would be in small letters on the calendar signifying the end or as one of my brothers likes to put it, "We finally wore it out."
It started as consequence of a particularly hard fall years back. It seemed that every day another big problem arose. We'd have to figure out how to get a loaded grain cart out of the mud when it had already sunk to its frame. The next day would lead to having to take the duals off of a tractor to clean the mud from between the wheels. Every day was a challenge and my older sibling answered my whiny question about when this is ever going to end by saying, "We're just going to have to wear the year out. Someday we'll wake up and it'll be Christmas and this will finally be behind us.
Well, it's Christmastime and 2011 is behind us and none too soon. It has been a Charles Dickens year in farming - It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I've talked to farmers from both states who expressed frustration at watching most all of American agriculture enjoying the best of times while others are, or were, hoping for the best from crop insurance companies to give legs to their hope that there indeed will be a next year for them.
The drought continues in Kansas. For those farmers, the drought isn't over, but there might be a bit of a respite while they wait for the hope of next year. Optimism reigns supreme if you're a farmer. As I type this, maybe the snow that is falling in Kansas will start the winter wheat crop.
Without being optimistic and having faith, farmers would be fairly reticent to hide several hundred dollars worth of inputs in the soil on each acre, each spring, without being sent to the loony bin.
We know the plants will spring from the ground in straight, neat little rows. They always have. It's simply too much work to believe otherwise.
The flood is the other story and I'll be the first to admit that I've avoided much mention of what has been the elephant in the room for us. As I've traveled, I am reminded that I have a connection to many folks across our great states of Kansas and Nebraska. It's a connection that is easy to overlook when the product is sent from my computer here on the farm to Terry Anderson's computer and then, well I don't know how it works from there.
I do know magic is involved to a certain extent. But the point is, I continually run in to readers who say something to this effect, "I've been reading about the river in the newspapers but how are you and Marilyn doing on your farm, you never say."
Happy New Years From The Morrows
The short answer is that it is one of those "best and worst" years for us also. The Missouri River has drained back into its banks and we were mostly left with few structural problems except for the trash that was left along the edges. The exception is one field that had 40 acres that was carved pretty badly. About the top 5 feet was washed away. We were able to hire a dozer to smooth it a bit and have worked it four times in four different directions and think the planter will be okay next spring.
Most of the ground I farm is flat. I've never farmed "gently rolling" before but now I have some. We lost another 40 to cutting by the river and sand deposits too deep to do anything with. We were the fortunate ones however. We have good friends who have lost their homes and buildings and some very large fields have hundreds of acres with sand deposits that have rendered the ground of no further use.
In small communities we know the people and the struggles that each one faces. The thing that really amazes me is that these are the same folks who greet you with a smile, a handshake, a question about your own well being as well as an offer to help. Yes, they want to help you when they are the ones who lost their home. The belief is always that it could be worse. Eternal optimists are everywhere in rural America. That's why we live here. It's not for the weather or the excitement of raging flood waters. It's for the people.
I talked to "Bill" at the big farm show in Lincoln. He came up to the Midwest Messenger/-Midwest Producer booth that I was in and looked at me for a bit and then tipped his cowboy hat back and said, "So, you're Cliff?" I admitted that I was. He continued, "I always read your article in the Midwest Producer." I thanked him. He continued, "That is if I don't fall asleep while I'm reading it."
I chuckled a little. He had a good belly laugh about it.
Yeah, it is the people.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Focus At Christmas

Our Baptist church choir has been working on a cantata suitable for Christmas. I believe working on special projects like this, and the one we do near Easter, is a healthy exercise for the well being of the choir, and a church body for that matter. It really helps us focus on what we're doing and why we're doing it.
Way back when I was directing the choir I couldn't help but notice the numbers in our choir would gradually dwindle if we didn't do two cantatas per year. The lesson for me was if you think things are beginning to stagnate, do something, and just get busy. It might be a temporary fix but at least it will be a fix.
For families, Christmas is that way, too. We should focus once each year on the reason we're here. Without that focus, some can become distraught with their family situation. Christmas dinner can turn into a hateful gathering of relatives. We can become lost. If we spend all our time filling the calendar with the wrong types of activities and shopping and the high expectations that this time of year can bring, then we're set up for failure.
Organized activities in churches and clubs and families is a healthy thing, don't get me wrong. The secret is to at least focus on something worth the time spent. Kids would be a good thing to home in on this time of year. Not the toys we plan to give them but a focus on the kids themselves. Give them time. Listen to them, and plan to show them how to spend their time to help others.
I began to notice years ago that immediately following a church service there were always certain folks who seemed to draw children like a magnet. It still goes on today. All of those adults with kids surrounding them have one thing in common: they all get their faces down on a level with the kids. They bend over or kneel down to speak to the youngsters face to face. Try it, it works.
Concerning gift giving, it used to bother me that when my folks reached a certain age, they began answering the question, "What do you want for Christmas?" with something like. "Please don't give me anything; I'm trying to get rid of stuff." "Just come for dinner if you can."
I've now reached that age myself. I know there is an unspoken obligation to give something to your parents for Christmas but really, think about it. I tell my kids, "I'm 61 years old, if I really wanted it or needed it, I've already got it." But stuff is gracefully accepted, I'll admit that I do smell better after I open a bottle of cologne on Christmas morning.
A few years back I received an envelope from one of our children. It simply said, "In lieu of other gifts, a monetary gift has been given, in your honor, to a named charity to purchase food for the needy." I wasn't ready for the instant effect it had on my emotions. It more or less knocked the wind out of me. It was thoughtful and heartfelt and exactly the kind of response Christmas time should evoke.
Don't misunderstand me, the Morrow family's trees will be filled with the usual fare and probably enough electronics to awaken us in the middle of the night and say, "What the heck was that." My wife will calmly say "something needs charging, go back to sleep."
But above all else we need to remember that those folks who are so loved by children that kids flock to them like sheep to a shepherd didn't actually invent the technique of coming down to their level in order to communicate.
That started about 2000 years ago near Jerusalem.
Marilyn and I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and Peace.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

We've Been Put In Our Place

This afternoon we made the 50 mile round trip to pick up my 91 year old Father In-Law from his senior home, brought him to our house and then later took him to our Christmas Contata presentation. We were pretty pleased with the way it went and thought all of our hard work and  effort had paid off.
He indicated on the way home that he was duly impressed with our choir.
We took him back and he was greeted by a nurse who began asking questions about his day. As we left the building we could hear him explaining what a contata was and that, "It was pretty good, the choir members were pretty old, but they were very good none the less."
I'm not sure why that made me laugh all the way home but it did.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Getting Around

I was just in a neighboring town. It was 16 degrees and another light snow left about 2 and half inches over the city. I saw a guy riding his bicycle with narrow tires, down an icy sidewalk.
I think I know what was going thru his mind.
"I'll never drive drunk again, I'll never drive drunk again, I'll never drive....."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Just Book It and Go

When last we visited, Marilyn and I had spent two days as Nomads wandering around Boston. But on this day we had plans to return to Logan Airport and meet up with my cousin and his lovely wife from Maryland. They are familiar with the area and I eagerly dropped the car keys in his hand never again to ask for their return.  A big load had been lifted from my shoulders, that and I was beginning to get the urge to do something about the people who had been honking at me. I’m too old to do something about people honking at me. Back home in Nebraska, folks honk but it’s to get your attention and then they’ll give you a wave. Okay, they also wave in Boston but it doesn’t resemble our farm waves. Only thing is, life is so fast paced out there that they drop letters from words when they talk and they drop fingers from their waves. I suppose it saves them time.
We had reservations for the next three nights at the Yardarm Village Inn in Ogunquit Maine. It was a fairly quaint little village with big square 2 and 3 story homes. We used Ogunquit for a base and traveled north into some low mountains for a color tour of fall foliage. Every fall is different back there and guarantees that the colors will be good do not exist. It was a below average fall for our tour but still pretty impressive.
One of our day trips went from Ogunquit up the coast a ways to Kennebunk and  Kennebunkport Maine. We visited the beach and the shops up town. One of our most memorable lunches was had in the middle of the downtown area in Kennebunkport. We stopped at Alisson’s Restaurant and had a cup of her famous Clam Chowder and a Lobster Roll. You can actually buy a clam chowder kit from the restaurant online. We haven’t done that, yet, but we will, just in the hopes that we could duplicate that flavor.  The restaurant and shops are all located near an inlet from the Atlantic Ocean and harbor area. It is fun to shop and relax in an area with boats floating nearby that are worth more than a new combine with a 16 row corn head.  Sorry but that’s how farmers think. A farmer wouldn’t be able to walk into the Boston Gaaden without saying, “Man, this place would hold a lot of baled hay. “

Photo taken a few hundred yards west of Plymouth Rock.
We finally returned to our place in Ogunquit because the girls had booked us for a play in the local theatre. ‘Miss Saigon’ was playing and my cousin and I figured we were in for amateur night in a small town.  We were wrong, most of the cast members had all played in the original Broadway production and it was pretty impressive. I’m not sure how they did it but I’ll swear they landed a US Army helicopter to evacuate soldiers’ right on stage in the second half. 
The next day we headed for our final two nights to be spent in Plymouth Massachusetts.  We toured a replica of the Mayflower and a museum that depicted a great deal of what life was like for the first settlers from the old world.  I’m not going to say they were the first white people here from Europe because they were approached by two Indians who could speak English.
Our trip was about over and even though we loved dreaming about seafood at every turn and we did in fact find that it’s true, we were becoming a bit weary. Oysters, mussels, clams, lobster, calamari, and crabs, and they were steamed, stewed, fried, on the half shell, sautéed, and smoked. I knew it was time to go when I saw turkey and dressing on an airport restaurant menu and it sounded good. I was finally tired of things that swam in the ocean.
We left Boston 45 minutes late and when we hit our connection in Detroit we were told they ‘might’ be holding our plane for us. It was just 10 gates away.  They did hold the flight but I could tell by the looks on the faces of the passengers that if it had been up to them, we would have been left to spend the night in Detroit.  We got to Omaha on the same flight as our luggage so I’d call that a good trip.
Thinking back on this I think the overwhelming reason for farmers to travel is to cement the truth in our minds that the farm is the very best trip to be on. It reminds us of why we live where we live.
Just book it and go.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


that it wouldn't get so cold in Nebraska this winter that I would need to wear a coat.
Vain hope.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Our 40th Anniversary And Other Reasons To Go To Boston

"Huzza, her sides are made of iron," yelled a crewman on the USS Constitution. Thus the name, Old Ironsides, was born. The crewman in question was on the USS Constitution, which was locked in combat with the British frigate Guerriere about 750 miles off of the Massachusetts coast on the 19th of August, 1812. The two ships were broadside at about 50 yards or less and the Guerriere's cannonballs were bouncing off the heavy oak sides of the Constitution.
The ship has had a long and storied career and retired undefeated. She is still commissioned and lies in port in Boston Harbor with a U.S. Navy crew of about 70. She is directly across the harbor from where she was first launched from the shipyard in 1797. In wartime she carried a crew of 450 crewmen which included 55 Marines.

I bring all of this up because my wife has had a fascination with this ship and its history and every year since I can't remember when has said, "We should take a fall tour into the New England states to look at the fall colors and maybe see the USS Constitution." Harvest being the devil that it is, has kept us from doing that. Early September would have been better for such a trip but all you would see is the color green at that time and I can stay home and look at a tractor or late season weeds to accomplish that.
This year was different. The Army Corps of Engineers had pretty well taken care of about 65 percent of our harvest with a slight miscalculation of the storage capacity needed in upstream dams to protect us down-streamers should it happen to rain or snow too much in the high country. Okay, slight is the wrong word but I wasn't sure how to spell gargantuan.
A few months back Marilyn suggested that this might be a good year to try our color tour since we don't have much left to harvest. "And besides, it is our 40th anniversary in September and we should do something memorable." "I guess so" was my long reply, and so we went.
Looking at the Google Maps satellite view made it seem like "well this big airport is here and the ship you want to see is right here. They were both in the same picture and it seemed possibly within walking distance were it not for this Boston Harbor which I later found the correct pronunciation to be Haba. Now if we can find some colorful trees nearby, possibly up on this Bunker Hill place, we'll be done in a few hours.
We could have made life easy for ourselves by getting into a taxi and saying, "We want to see the USS Constitution," and our cabbie would have said something like, "No pablem buddy, it's right across da Haba from heya." Nope, we're smarter than that, we rented a car. Those of you who have been to Boston are at this point slapping your hands to the side of your head and yelling, NO CLIFF, YOU DIDN'T REALLY RENT A CAR DID YOU? Yes we did and we later named it the "Albatross." We actually found a small parking lot about 10 blocks from our ship but later were shocked that it cost us $16 for the two hours we were there. The next day we backed out of a parking garage in downtown Boston after seeing their sign that began with "0 to 4 minutes- $6." We went back to our $16 lot.
Yes, we had learned the first lesson of Boston: come for a visit but we really don't want any more cars in our city.
We got tickets to a trolley company that stops at eight historic locations around Boston and you can get off, spend as much time as you care to and get back on. It was about $40 for all day and the drivers are as well versed with the history of the area as can be expected. Nothing can drive home the fact that we were at the birthplace of America than to have your guide say, "This is the historic Granary Burial Ground dating to 1660, here you'll find the graves of Paul Revere, John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin's parents."
The USS Constitution, the Bunker Hill Monument, the burial grounds, and many of the attractions are at no charge to the public.
We had some trouble finding our way around town, We went past the Boston "Gaaden" where the Celtics and the Bruins play, three times on purpose and five times accidentally. At one stop, I got out and walked behind our van. Marilyn asked what I was doing and I said I was going to remove the bumper sticker on the back, the one that says "I'm from Nebraska and I farm so please honk at me often." They don't like folks going a mere 5 miles over the speed limit, but it's hard to manage much better than that when a lot of the highways are under ground and you're trying to use a GPS map with no service.
The Boston area is a great place and I would encourage you to visit but use the 'T', Boston's subway line. Turns out you don't need to take your own drawn butter either, it comes with the 'lobsta.'
On our arrival at home, the two brothers who help me at harvest already had the soybeans harvested and had started on the corn. Now we need to find some place to go until the corn is done.
Next issue, we'll head up the coast to Kennebunkport, Maine, and down the coast to Plymouth, Mass., and talk about the food.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


We got back from our trip to Boston and Maine on October 19th. I had missed the soybean harvest as my two brothers had completed that during my absence. (remember most of our farm ground was flooded all summer)
On Thursday the 20th I joined the battle of the corn and that was completed exactly one week later on the 27th.
Throw in County Board meetings, articles for a magazine, church activities and now regular field work as well as flood repair to come and I haven't been very good about getting around to see you guys but I assure you I will.

If you get the chance don't miss Alisson's Restauraunt in Kennebunkport Maine. The lobster rolls and clam chowder were to die for.
In the near future I might post a couple of pics with titles but nothing else to save time. I'll also post my latest article that explains our first few days in Boston also.

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Apologies

I'm sorry to have been neglecting this blog but as of late we've been to Boston and Maine for a vacation and we returned to full harvest and dog grooming activities. I'll try to catch you up asap. I haven't forgotten anyone, I'm just busier than a one armed wallpaper hanger.  cm

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Meet Danica Leigh

 Danica Leigh already has a smirk.
 Grandma Marilyn with her Grandaughters. 4 are sisters, the oldest one lives here on the farm.
 Danica joins these folks at home. You can see where all the girls get their good looks.
From me of course.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Off Balance

We had 8 Grandchildren.  4 Boys 4 Girls
Now we're off balance again. News and film at 10:00.

Monday, September 05, 2011


I now have a Muslim Doctor. So instead of an apple a day I've found a bacon sandwich works best.
 (yes, I am in possession of stolen intellectual property) (But I've always been told there is no such thing as original humor) You decide.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Now We're Talking

This morning it was 51 degrees with fairly dry air. We had a high of 70. I'm in heaven. The flood water has gone down some, about 4 1/2 to 5 feet but we have a ways to go to get the fields dry but at least it has gone down.  There are some bad things happening to some. I think some irrepairable damage in some places.  One friend has a 65 foot deep channel cut through his lane to his house. He had a new house, now what.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lucky Dad....Lucky Boy

Happy Anniversary Tom and Steph!

Out of a thousand or so pics I usually get 1 good one.  Here's two in one summer. I'm on a roll.

Monday, August 08, 2011

I Am Now Very Comfortable

We just returned from a Morrow Family Reunion in Branson, MO. Although I was a bit uncomfortable on the way down there, you know, from sitting on my wallet; It was quite flat and just fine on the way home.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Debt Ceiling Vote

Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska said of the recent debt ceiling vote, “This plan sets up a maze of convoluted procedures that will only continue the chaos and po­litical games Nebraskans are tired of seeing,” and said he will oppose it.
I assume he was referring back to the Health Care bill that he was instrumental in passing.

Monday, July 25, 2011

(I think I fixed it) I Participated In A Triathalon Yesterday

Go to  and click on the  Holmes Lake Hosts Cornhusker State Games video.
The boat in the background of some of the interviews is mine. See. I told you I participated.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A Good Night For Colton

On the left is our 12 year old  grandson who is a resident on this same farm. In a game last week his Uncle Tom came up to watch a midweek game.  Not an easy task as he brought his 3 boys along. His wife was closing at work that night so he was unaccompanied on this trip. The oldest boy is 3 years old but Tom handles it all in stride.  Colton appreciated it and rewarded 'Unca Toms' 180 mile round trip with a win. Three hits and scoring twice made the smiles here pretty easy. By the way, I think these two are the same height at just short of 6 foot.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Muddy Mo

I'm sorry to say I haven't posted anything as of late,  but I've been a bit busy. Most of you know we live on the banks of the Missouri River and it is an ugly river at this point in time.  It is flooding and many folks are affected all the way from Montana to the Gulf of Mexico after it joins the Mississippi River by St Louis. We are fortunate and reports are that it's supposed to not quite reach our house.  It is however dealing us fits with the loss of crop land.  Below is  a pic taken a few weeks ago when the river was about to begin it's big surge that is to last most of the summer. The second photo is of the same field taken yesterday.  This is about 320 acres under water. The last pic is of another 140 that will be under water by tomorrow night. Here the water is beginning to back in on it.  We have another 80 that is under and another 80 that is scheduled to succumb.
The bright side is I've always secretly wanted to live in a house by a stream but just not in a stream. I'm looking forward to being able to say, "Marilyn, I'll be on the porch fishing if you need me."
Also I've never had time to play golf in the fall because  harvest concerns have kept me busy before.
As a precaution I've purchased a 53 foot dry van trailer and parked it behind the house. Yesterday, with the help of family, we pretty well emptied the basement in preparation for high water. Now if we need to scatter quickly, we'll simply need to get a lot of help, fill the trailer with our top two floors and head for higher ground which for us will be about any direction.

Friday, May 27, 2011

We're Not Raising Grass

My grandson recently ordered and received a shipment of chickens to raise. Watching them learn to survive less than 24 hours after kicking their way out of the egg is pretty amazing. We improve their chances for success by making feed and water available but they have the intuition necessary to find it and begin to eat and drink. They are aggressive right out of the box, and have an instinct that makes their success almost guaranteed. Humans aren't that way. We need help.
This point between Mother's Day and Father's Day is a good time to remember those present and past who have helped to mold us into the people we are today. In our sometimes convoluted world of the modern family, the parenting roles being played can be peculiar at best but the results seem to work out okay, as long as every kid has a fully engaged family of some kind.
If you fly at passenger jet altitude for a couple of hours across our heartland and gaze upon the farmland below, you are soon filled with awe of the vastness of this country and the fact that for every little city and town and village below, there are families trying very hard to do the right thing by their kids and to carry on the tradition that their parents and grandparents started before them.
The fact that kids don't come with an operators manual (Marilyn would tell me that men wouldn't read it if they did), together with the reality that Mom and Dad come from different family histories, cements my theory that the family is the very fabric that holds this country and more especially rural America and rural communities together.
That's why most of the strong families stay strong. It was the way they were brought up. Mom and Dad or a parent and an aunt or uncle or grandparent became very involved in a child's life to ensure that the "instincts" of God, and family, and hard work were implanted into the next generation.
Chances are you had someone involved in your welfare as a child or you couldn't be reading this. You were educated. You were the most important thing going on in someone's life at one time. I recall the remembrance of Harmon Killebrew, Hall of Fame slugger for the Minnesota Twins, when he explained that his dad had taken him and his brother into their yard to play baseball and his mom came to the door to scold his dad, "You guys are tearing up the yard by playing baseball out there all the time." Killebrew's dad replied, "We're not raising grass, we're raising boys."
It's exactly that kind of thinking that has made rural America great. Every community has their share of solid families, setting an example for all to follow. The example is being set by the moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas and schools and youth program coaches, and scouting programs and pastors and servicemen past and present and the list goes on forever.
That's why this time of year is so important when we honor mothers and fathers on their special days and sometimes on Memorial Day if they've already left us. We also take the time to hold up our fallen soldiers who are responsible for our freedom. They for sure understood community as it relates to family. They served, some died, but all of them longed to return home to add to the family and community and to continue to set an example.
Our fabric needs continual care, everyone's experiences need to be intertwined to make the fabric strong. It's appropriate that we should pause and celebrate and honor our parents, our soldiers, our graduates and get the family together for an occasional picnic. It keeps the threads of our fabric tightly woven. We're not raising grass

Saturday, May 07, 2011

You Must Visit Nora's Blog

Nora has done a masterful job with some old photos. Her love for family and friends is really touching and should be a good example for all of us to try to emulate.  You'll need to click on 'older posts' at the bottom of the first page to see the complete series. Good Job Nora! 

Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Creature in the Wall

In the spring of 1971 I was attending what is now the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis. I'd like to say I spent all of my time on education but that wouldn't be entirely true. I had met a pretty brunette from Denver who was taking the Veterinary Technician curriculum at the same school and found her to be different from every other girl I had met: She would go out with me.

We dated and attended college classes, seemingly carefree while back at home spring was nearly ready to break out once again with all of its challenges. I'm sure my parents were probably alternately worrying about the mud here on the Missouri River bottom and how they were going to fit their youngest son into the farming operation when he graduated in a couple of months.
Dad was 66 years old at that time, 5 years older than I am now, and I can imagine that both joy and apprehension welled up in both of my parents' minds. Joy thinking that someone young enough to do the more physical tasks about the farm would soon be here to start life with that girl from Colorado, and apprehension that the farm would now need to support their son and that girl from Colorado.
I bring this up because this morning I got to thinking about the night of the "creature in the wall" that took place in our bedroom some 40 years ago. Today our bed is in the exact location it was in on that night back in 1971, when Mom sat straight up in bed, grabbed my sleeping father by the arm and yelled in a kind of whisper, (yes, you know what I mean) "Art! There's something in the wall."
Dad was a sound sleeper but this type of stuff will unsettle anyone. "What do you mean there's something in the wall?" Mom shook him again, "I can hear it." Dad shrugged it off and fell back asleep while Mom lay there for about an hour when something else caught her attention.
Another shake and then "Art … wake up, there's something in the wall and I can hear it breathing." The reply for her came in a rebuttal, "It's probably a mouse but I know you can't possibly hear a mouse breath. Just close your eyes and wake up in the morning." And morning was fast approaching. The scene repeated itself several times during the night.
Mom repeatedly said she could definitely hear heavy breathing coming from the wall and Dad dismissed it each time, with "You're just hearing things."
The day finally dawned for my poor mother and she got out of bed glad to be alive but very tired none the less. She went to the front door which is on the same side of the house that their bedroom was on, and looked out to see if any of the standing water from the spring thaw had sunk away.
I should interject right here that when our house was built they dug the basement and used that dirt for fill around the house so the house is elevated in relation to the rest of our farmstead. It is that high spot around the house that Mom saw that morning when she opened the door to find about 150 head of fat Hereford steers bedded down on the only dry spot for miles around: Mom's lawn.
Dad had left the gate unlatched when doing chores the day before and the cattle found the exit in the middle of the night. The high and dry lawn was a piece of Hereford Heaven if you will. As her head scanned to the left, there lay a gloriously large steer, physically leaning against the wall of the house right beneath my folks' bedroom window and yes, she could hear its labored breathing.
"ART! Come look at this."
I'm sure there was an "I told you so" or two that followed, but the result was a completely torn up yard and new Mercury that had been used as a scratching post by some pretty muddy cattle. They had left some of their winter coat tucked under the chrome strips on the edges of the car as a reminder to latch the gate.
I came home soon after that to begin life on the farm with that girl from Colorado. The first thing we had to do was start a new lawn for the folks.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Spoiled Brat For A President

"The Republicans are trying to balance the budget on the backs of the Poor." ....can be translated to mean "I'm doing very well giving money away to everyone so they'll support me with their votes." AND "If I don't get my money to give away to voters, I'm going to lay on the floor and kick and scream and stomp my feet until I get it, I don't care if we don't have it, I don't care if it brings the country down because by golly I like this great big house we live in."
Next time lets elect someone with just a tiny bit of business acumen. Somewhere in their background a President needs to have had several years of their personal banker looking grimely over the reading glasses and saying, "Cliff, If you don't get this turned around by this time next year, we may need to part company." OR put another way..."You're fired."
If we confiscated all of the income from all of the business men in our country, we still couldn't balance the budget. (and we'd run out of employers quickly) We must stop spending. Across the board cuts are the only answer.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

We're Back

We've been gone. All over the mid section of our great land. We stayed on Padre Island a bit with my Brother Ed and Shirley pictured below with my bride on the left. We've also been to Denver and back.

This is the view of the Gulf from their guest bedroom. Life is rough. We did have to leave here to play golf every day. There are no spring break kids in this pic but they were there. I told Marilyn she could take one of my shirts and make about 10 swim suits with it. Not to worry. I didn't stare.

We toured the USS Lexington that has been decommisioned in port in Corpus. I'll not go into her history as it is readily available online.  The picture below this one shows the list of her actions and battles.  She would have been a major target at Pearl Harbor but had left port a short time before the attack. We've read several stories and one book on her crew and aviators and I can tell you that the bravest men in world served America on her deck.  Some were launched into eternity from her short runway. I recall one pilot who later related that he was dismayed at having left the ship  in such a hurry on the way to battle that he only had 2 cigarettes with him. He decided to smoke them both on the way to the Japanese carrier group they were heading for, because he was sure this was going to be a one way trip. It turned out that he returned to the Lexington.  Their target was so far away that several of the planes ran out of gas and  fell in the water that night while circling our carriers waiting their turn to land.  I urge you to look up the ship on line and see how she got her nickname the "The Gray Ghost."

Sunday, March 06, 2011

I've Had To Have A Talk With My Wife

I've had to have a serious talk with Marilyn. After a morning of writing and printing checks for cash rents for farm ground, repair bills, diesel fuel bills, grain bin electricity bills and  basically half of our annual outflows for the farm in just one day... I was in no mood for her choice of stamps to put on said bills. It's just not right.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Corned Beef and A Fairlane

The year 1991 was the 20th year reunion for our graduation from the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture. When I say "our", I mean Marilyn and I graduated from that school in Curtis, Neb., and so we attended the 20th year reunion held in Kearney, Neb., that year.
We were traveling home with our family in the back seat, down old Highway 30. We had agreed to do that instead of speeding down Interstate 80 as a result of a deal I had made with our 14-year-old son, Dan. He wanted to find a classic car to fix up and we were both pretty sure that Highway 30 would be the place to look.
We hadn't traveled many miles when I spotted something that changed the direction of our family forever. Right in the middle of Gibbon, Neb., sitting in all of its faded out glory, was a black 1957 Ford Fairlane. I slowed quickly, circled the block and stopped to examine the old car with a 'For Sale' sign in the left driver's window. The car was mostly intact, had a little rust along the bottom edges but we deemed it to be perfect.
We went home, discussed the purchase amongst the family, also with some local experts as well as a body shop, and I decided that the deal was going to be too expensive to bring to a conclusion. Dan had 4-H calf money and was going forward with or without me. I decided that 'with me' was better so we contacted the owner, reached an agreement on price, hooked on to a flatbed and on March 17, St. Patrick's Day, we brought the old Ford home.
The Corned Beef and Cabbage was ready on our arrival at the farm, but what to do with the old Ford weighed heavy on our minds. We had much to try to learn in the next few years.
We learned that black was the color of choice for old car enthusiasts. Their body lines are straighter because the factories in the '50s would search for the cars on the assembly line with the most correct lines to paint black. Black paint, we found out, will show the slightest imperfections in detail.
Dan and I started on the project. We farmed out the body work and we took the Y block 292 V-8 out and had it rebuilt. Slowly but surely it came together. We did the interior work ourselves as well as the trunk and mechanical.
By June, two years later, he was ready to drive his Fairlane. It turned out very well and looked great but more than that it was one of the biggest influences to have ever hit that young boy. It took a lad who wasn't terribly interested in farming and who was pretty clumsy around an end wrench to someone who found they had real talent and a burning desire to be in the collision repair business. During high school, he began working for the body shop that had worked on his car. He graduated and attended auto collision repair school.
Now, 20 years later, it has led to marriage, building his own collision repair business in Lincoln, Neb., and hiring his brother as the shop manager. The place supports those families plus two others and, most importantly, helps support six of our grandchildren the boys are raising for us.
Spotting an old car back in 1991, in the middle of a small town, led to quite an adventure.
I often find myself listening to some parent talk about their son or daughter and the wild off the wall thing their offspring is involved with. It might be a part-time job, paid or volunteer, or a hobby that has them completely enthralled, or a group performing a song or a play or a speech they've been working on for weeks. I usually say, "That's good because, well, you never know."
I seldom can think about St. Patty's Day without corned beef and cabbage crossing my mind as well as a '57 Fairlane rolling off a flatbed into our shed.
I now know that when children ask questions or permission to do something that is out of the ordinary, "No," shouldn't automatically roll off your tongue because, "Well, you never know."

Dan's Fairlane left--On the right his award winning Probe he built and painted in his College years. The Dupont Paint Company featured it in their company publication.The paint process took 27 hours of non-stop work before he could stop.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I Had A Great Blog Planned...

and it was going to include a movie from my sons' phone. But I couldn't get it sent to me so I'll tell you all about it.
The new Grandson pictured below, Boston, rolled over on his 13th day of life. Dad was sure he'd placed him face down on a blanket in the living room and went to the end of the hall and when he returned, Boston was on his back.
"Wait a minute" went through Tom's mind and  some doubted the story until Mom yelled two days later, "Tom, come here, he did it again." Tom rolled the baby to his stomach again and immediately the baby rolled to his back so Tom got his phone out and sure enough, filmed him rolling over for the third time that day, on his 15th day of life. He's been doing it regularly since.
A bit early for this I'd say.
But on the other hand, he still isn't talking yet. cm

Friday, February 18, 2011

Yesterday In A Grocery Store Far From Home...

Well it was 70 miles from home anyway, I saw a senior citizen coming down the aisle toward me.  She was pretty ordinary looking and she shuffle slowly along the aisle as though her plan was to make this shopping trip last all afternoon.
The message on her T- shirt caught my attention:

             I USED TO CARE.
           ....But now I take a pill for that.

I have either a finely honed sense of humor or it's 'sick' humor, but I laughed on and off all afternoon about the shirt. To me, the funny thing isn't what is said but it has more to do with who said it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines Day 2011

This is pretty exciting. It's before noon, and I've been outside loading a truck. The only outer wear I had on was a pull over sweatshirt. I feel as though I've been set free.  I don't know how warm it is but we're contending with mud so it must be above freezing which is just as good as 75 degrees to those of us who have been living in the locker plant for the past two months. I did hear 50 degrees plus, for a high in our forecast. Now, where's my speedo. (it was a joke so knock off the laughter)
I took this picture with my phone which isn't too good at sunlight stuff but I liked it just the same so here it is. Beautiful Nebraska. That isn't snow on the ground, it's the white that's left over after the snow melts.
This being Valentines Day, my wife and I exchanged pleaseantries today and then renewed our vow to each other as we are in the middle of our 40th year of wedded bliss.  Actually we've agreed to stay married to each other so as not to run the risk of ruining two other peoples lives.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Let It Snow

We find ourselves, once again, in winter's icy grip. There is no cute little name for this. We have the hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer; the dog days of summer; and cool crisp fall air but all January can give us is someone quietly singing to themselves, "Let it snow, let it snow, let it." … That's about all that gets out of their mouths before someone yells, "Hey! Why don't you shut your pie hole?" Yeah, nerves get on edge this time of year.
It seems that what should take 30 minutes to accomplish in July or August could possibly take at least all day or maybe two days this time of year. One mental error can slow you down significantly. Forgetting to plug in the block heater on a loader tractor, for instance, can cost hours of delay. A tripped breaker can have you off chasing electrical problems and frozen cattle waterers or bring you to the realization that you now have two tractors that won't even consider starting until after lunch. Just after lunch is the time you're supposed to be at the pesticide training session that won't be offered again until Monday, 200 miles from here.
The cold tends to freeze things in place, like the time I was hauling a wooden feed bunk with the loader and had to tell my dad that "we'll need to go back next spring and get the legs for this bunk, they're still out in the feedlot."
Aging has a huge effect on farmers and the winter cold. I've found that even at the age of 60, things I used to take for granted have to be planned for because of poorer blood circulation. Extra layers of clothing and mittens and boots and facemasks and stocking caps are necessary, and oh yeah, a stepladder to help you get into the cab of your pickup.
My buddy Paul related to me that a phone call to friends on a farm in North Dakota had revealed that we really don't know what bad weather is. They had had three feet of snow and high winds for days. The farmer said it was a sad situation and that his wife had just spent the entire day staring through the kitchen window. He said that at about sundown he began to feel sorry for her and let her in. I'm very aware that entertainment is hard to come by out here on the farm but that's something I'm probably not going to try. Marilyn didn't think it was a funny story, I didn't either and quit laughing immediately.
I do look forward to late December and January because of all of the college bowl games and the NFL playoff schedule. I got on the Internet and found a schedule of all of the games as well as a listing of the central time zone start times and what channel they would be on. I carefully set each one to record and told my wife I was set to finally "be a man." I'd be able to watch each game without interruption. My wife said, "Yeah, you'll get four hours of uninterrupted sleep during each game, that should be great." For some reason Jackie Gleason came to mind, "One of these days, to the moon Alice."
Through the entire football schedule I have also come to realize that I have marketable skills. The folks in Las Vegas will be praising me for my abilities some day. What are the chances that out of seemingly 50 or 60 games, I would not be rooting for one winner.
I will now make a prediction based on my vast knowledge of pro football. (ahem) Now keep in mind that I'm writing this before the last two playoff games so I've no idea who the teams are that will be playing in the Super Bowl. I'm pulling for Green Bay to win the Super Bowl. That information, knowing that I'm rooting for the Packers, can make you more money than knowing when the price of corn is going to peak. Place your bets.
Now I have to go unlock the door for my wife.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I Got An Email From Snapfish Today

The computer generated email was an attempt to get me started using their Picture Printing Services. The email said:

Hi Cliff,

A few weeks ago, you uploaded digital photos to Snapfish. You earned a credit for 0 free 4" x 6" digital camera print in your account, but this credit will expire soon.

I became very excited. I need to act quickly. Like the time Ubawahna was promising me that $1 million for helping him hide from his evil relatives.
Life on the farm was never this exciting until I got a computer. Yea! I just might cancel my Directv. Who needs that when you've got the internet.

Monday, January 24, 2011

And Then There Were 8

This is Boston Arthur. He is the latest Morrow born to our youngest this past week.
Mom is tired and beautiful, Dad is beaming and both are proud and should be. 
Boston will join Hudson and Cooper at home.
8#7oz   January 20th, 2011
 This is a picture of Boston holding hands with Grandpa.
Grandma and Grandpa are BREATHLESS once again.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Communication May Be Overrated

Last October during our soybean harvest, I ventured to town with my tractor-trailer with a load destined for our local elevator. It was windy, cold, and overcast and of all the things to worry about, flies or mosquitoes were down the list quite a ways.
But as I pulled to the back of the line, I could see a group of farmers swatting. They were swatting first their chests, then the sides of their vests, then their jeans in the front and then their jeans on the backside. If just one of them had been doing it I might have thought of the term the old timers used and called them teched (as in, he was teched in the head, meaning a bit unstable mentally) (I think they meant "touched").
What were these folks doing? It looked much like a training exercise for future major league third base coaches. ("Okay men, the steal sign will be 5 touches to the body, but only after I've first touched my hat.")
What could these folks be doing? I got out of the truck to investigate but on my arrival to the party, everything seemed normal. After a few minutes talking about the local farmers who had made some "public" mistakes during harvest - like who hit a tree with their unloading auger or how that truck on the county road had landed on its side while turning into the field or who had pulled the unload switch on the combine when they meant to hit the "auger swing out" switch instead and left 50 bushels of beans strung in a line, right by the side of the busiest blacktop in the county.
Well they weren't talking about me this time so I was feeling pretty smug when the swatting mystery was solved right before my eyes.
One person's cell phone rang and everyone started swatting at their bodies in search of their own phone. It looked like a group of TSA airport agents in training. It is indeed a problem for farmers because where their phone is, depends on how they are dressed and what job they've been doing. If they have on vests or sweaters or jackets or coveralls, the phone could be anywhere. And believe me, it could be hard to get to. No one recognizes their own phone when it rings because we all learned a long time ago that we can have a different ring for each person who calls us and so there could be someone whistling or my wife is calling. A band is playing a jazzy little tune on the radio or my buddy from Colorado is calling. A doorbell is ringing in this tractor cab or one of my sons from Lincoln is calling.
I've even been known to be driving down the road in my pickup while moving my hand around the dash trying to stop that incessant buzzing noise emanating from deep inside my gauge cluster, only to realize my phone is set on vibrate and is sitting in plain sight on my dash, and that my wife is calling wondering why I won't ever answer my phone. The short answer is that I couldn't hear it ringing. Because, well, technically it wasn't ringing.
Most meetings I go to have attendees seated at tables spread with note pads, calendars and their cell phones. If just one of those cell phones rings because it hadn't been put on the silent setting, everyone else picks up their own phone. It gives the appearance that they are doing the only polite thing and checking to make sure their own phone won't ring. In reality they've picked up their phone to check for text messages. I can only imagine how disconcerting it is to try to speak to a group preoccupied with their phones.
Old guys who have lost some of their hearing are particularly vulnerable to cell phone problems. More than once I've had someone interrupt a conversation we were having by saying, "Is that you." I answer, "You mean, am I me?" "I sure am." Next they ask, "Is that your phone that's ringing." I start swatting myself.
I'm not sure we're making upward progress in this technology arena, but at least we're busy. Give me a call sometime. I may answer but only after a quick pat search.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Changing Out an Insurance Company

I've had my boat insurance with Progressive, but had recently heard some very disturbing news about it's CEO and his philantropy's.
I looked up his bio and found that what I had read is true and have decided that the ACLU and George Soros do not need my help bringing this country to an end. They're both succeeding in that endeavor with out my money.
He'll need to look elsewhere for my couple of hundred dollars.
It was as much fun as I could have had without laughing.
...Okay, I did laugh.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Year: New Rules

This might be my last column here. I just got an email from someone in Egypt, Ahcmed, who will send me $2 million and all I have to do is keep it and write a check back to him for half of it when he gets to the United States. If I'm a millionaire in the making I won't need to mess with this writing thing. Oh yeah, plus I also need to buy a ticket for him to get here but that's nothing for a rich guy like me. I'll not go into the awful thing that happened to his camel herd.
In case this doesn't work out, I've decided that I need to tidy up my act for 2011 with a form of resolutions list for this farmer.
When I was a kid, we got to stay up until midnight on New Years Eve. We looked forward to it. Nothing could be better. Then as a young adult, I did stay up until the clock struck 12. As I began to age I couldn't stay awake that long. As time progressed, midnight seemed quite the insurmountable objective. Perhaps a useless goal. Now, midnight is about the time we begin thinking about getting up. As nearly as I can tell, in a few years, a celebration beginning at midnight will be easy once again. Only then we'll be frying eggs and bacon for the party.
Now for some things that need changing…
I'll try to never ever again buy a bin floor, attachment or assembly of any kind that uses the words "sometimes it might be necessary," "some field cutting will be required," or my favorite, "If for any reason you have trouble with this product do not return it to the store where you purchased it." They always fail to add the words "You're on your own, baby." They instead want you to deal with their factory, which just happens to be in China.
I will no longer purchase products with instructions that will require approximately two days of leaning against my pickup and staring at papers trying to figure out where slot B and hole hh are and what country the dude was from who wrote these words.
I resolve to not be surprised by the first snow fall. After 60 years on this earth you'd think I would learn that it snows in the winter around these parts, so get ready for it.
I also resolve to never again try to run a heavy duty five-gallon can of gasoline through my snow blower. Let's just say I was lucky.
I resolve to quit reading labels on products like shampoo and body lotion. I've found that volumizing shampoo doesn't (I suppose there's little to be done with just a few strands of hair.) and why use a body lotion that promises to "relax my skin." Isn't that the problem to start with? We need skin that's at least just a little tense. Mine's kicked back in a "skin recliner" mode.
I resolve to find a machinery dealer whose shop manager hasn't looked up the credit balance left on my Farm Plan account and then tried to find enough work on my combine to somehow use it all up.
I hereby resolve to not pay $500 for a bag of seed corn. At least not yet.
I will fight the urge to put a $30,000 automatic steering system on my $15,000 tractor. But I could use the sleep. I'm worried though about the Missouri River that is at the end of one of my fields and not waking up to turn the rig around in time.
A Happy New Year to one and all. May your next year always be better than the last. And lastly, I think it best to align yourself with the man who said he had resolved many years ago never to make New Years Resolutions. He said that so far, that was the one resolution he'd been able to keep.