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.