Thursday, June 23, 2011
The ups and downs of having a farmer father
This past Father’s Day I invited my dad to dinner to show him how much I appreciate him. When I made the “Father’s Day” call, he told me that he would try to be there, but it depended on if he was able to empty the manure spreader and/or if he was not going to cut hay that day.
What? He may not come so he can do chores? It surprised me more that I was a little disappointed, since the conversation has been a pretty familiar one over the years.
I know full well what it means to have a business tied to animals. My suburban, horse-crazy mother made sure to find a husband that shared her equine interests. The year they were married, they purchased 9 acres with a run-down house and an area that looked like a riding arena, and that was the start of it all. Nearly 30 years later, their farm has evolved into a home for more than 30 horses, and a wonderful recreational/sporting retreat for hundreds of horse fans. But even in the beginning, with a few chickens, rabbits, goats and our first few horses, the rules were presented to us as if from the Mount: the animals eat before you do, and they get taken care of before you rest or play.
The upside to this is that we were taught responsibility at an early age. I had farm chores ever since I can remember, and I got in trouble quite a bit because they were not attended to with the upmost satisfaction. As we and the operation grew, so did the responsibility. We mucked horse stalls daily, packed water and brought in the hay. The fact that we were girls made no difference. As soon as little sister was old enough to guide the tractor and wagon, my older sister and I took our turn throwing hay. As hard as it was, I was pretty proud of my muscles.
Hay harvest usually occurred in May and June and again in the fall. Occasionally we would harvest three times during a year if we had great growing weather. I knew that my dad would always be “on call” at these times of the year, and I remember several school functions where he could not attend – awards ceremonies, games and concerts. Graduations were even tough for him to attend, but I knew he was working to take care of the operation and his family. Did I mention that he also had an off-the-farm full time job up until about 15 years ago?
Back to Father’s Day - I cooked all day, and at about 6 p.m., my mom called and said the manure spreader had broken. Knowing this is a vital piece of equipment, I figured my dinner plans were over; Dad is also the “fix it” man.
But all was not lost. I began thinking about how my life was shaped because of my father’s dedication to his family. He works endless hours every day to make sure my Mom is happy and the business is successful. He taught me that you pave your own way, you don’t stand with your hand out, “smart” doesn’t come from a book, and a man with soft, manicured hands is just about useless. Dad still deserved that dinner, so I packed up the food and the family, and we took it to him.
Even though life on the farm did not allow my father to stand beside us a lot of the time, he was, and still is always behind us. Thanks, Dad! I appreciate you so much!
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