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This past weekend I had the opportunity to take my youngest son Eli and go home to visit my dad for three days for his 75th Birthday. The father/son bond that we experience in agriculture in the family business is so remarkably strong. Our dads are our mentors, our teachers, our disciplinarians, our friends, our excuse to get out of the house when we want to, our reason for getting up early when we don’t want to, our first experience with bosses that we don’t always agree with, and where we get a tremendous amount of our common sense, work ethic, knowledge, stubbornness and love for the land, animals and family that are part of who we are.
On Friday, the three of us went to the National Farm Machinery Show. Dad loves going to that show and talking with people. I hadn’t been in a few years so it was good to see it is still as well attended as it was when I went when I was in FFA and the tobacco companies handed out free samples to anyone! It was also good bonding time for Eli and I as he asked questions and picked up all the free candy that he could. Eli was also excited to see the three houses in Louisville that we lived in before we moved to Michigan when he was 2 years old.
On Saturday, my brothers and I got to help Dad with chores on the farm and then got to have dinner together. I know my brothers and my sister and their families (see our family picture) get called on a lot to help since they live on the edges of the farm, but it was special to me to be helping and working with them in a small way on Dad’s birthday.
We stacked lumber that was cut from a tree on the farm. That reminded me of when I was Eli’s age and ended up with stitches in my head from a pry bar that slipped when Dad was moving lumber. I think about playing in the grain bins, riding on tractors and all of the other unsafe things we did as kids and how lucky we are that all we lost was three toes, my brother’s, not mine.
After stacking lumber, we went through partially frozen mud to feed cows, we helped a new calf and her mother deal with some eating and udder health problems and we moved equipment around to make it all happen. It always amazes me the simple tools that come in so very handy to get the jobs done like good gates to keep things where they belong, number 9 wire to hold things together, a pickup truck, utility tractor and ATV to move people, animals, equipment and feed, ether to start the cold tractor, and of course the trusty pocket knife and pliers that are a part of Dad’s wardrobe.
That night we celebrated Dad’s birthday with a cake made by my niece, John Deere tractor cookies, a delicious supper made by my sister-in-law, a pile of birthday cards from friends and relatives collected by my sister and topped it off with watching the first three episodes of the Dukes of Hazzard, a Friday night family tradition in the 1980’s before Mom and Dad would watch Dallas.
The next morning before leaving for church we found that two calves had gotten out and needed to be rounded up and put back in their pen. Another tradition of the cattle getting out right at the least opportune time.
My time with Eli this past weekend was just as rewarding for me as the time spent with Dad. Interacting with both of them together and individually generated some great memories. When I’m another 50% older, I hope that Eli and the rest of my boys have similar feelings about me that I do about my Dad. I hope they are proud of me and thankful for what I’ve been for them.
In my line of work, I get to work with a lot of great farm families like mine. Understanding the family dynamics, having and knowing how to use the tools of the trade and managing risks are extremely important for me to help them and for them to succeed. It is so rewarding to be able to help their businesses succeed so that they can continue to have their own generational experiences of working together for the good of their business, but most importantly, for the good of their family.