The family was cleaning out his desk. A heart attack had taken him from them suddenly. The desk was full of partially finished projects, new proposals, business cards—the usual sort of stuff you would find in a desk of a man in his position. All those things and a rock. Not a small rock. A rock with some size to it. It took up most of a large drawer. His wife, although surprised to see it, knew exactly what it was. It was a rock picked from a field on their farm. The farm they lived on and operated when they were first married. The farm they sold when the children were young and the work became too much and the money became too little. Her husband had gotten a little more schooling and found a job in the city. Together they bought a beautiful home and did not do without the 1)niceties of living. His hard work brought promotions and a good income. Most days came with a crisis or two, but life was good. The children graduated, married and began families of their own. It all went so fast.
She looked at the rock. She remembered picking rocks alongside her husband. It was the day he was trying to teach her how to drive that old tractor more than 10 feet without 2)killing the engine. Picking rocks was not for 3)sissies. It was hard work under a blazing hot sun, but it didn’t matter. They were young, very much in love and so excited about their future on the farm. They had so many plans.
She looked at the rock and though she thought she had no more tears to shed, she cried. She wanted to go back. She wanted them to go back. She realized now that that had been living—something he must have never forgotten.
The rest of the family began to carry boxes filled with his possessions to the car while his wife sat in his office and held that rock. She sat for a long time. In that rock she could see herself and her husband as young newlyweds and wondered why life had chosen this course for them.
Is there anyone who doesn’t know an ex-farmer? They are everywhere. It is tough to make a living with 160 acres and little equipment. Farms are getting bigger and bigger. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Opinions differ. A small farmer has a bad year, followed by another bad year with prospects for more of the same. Farming can be a happy life, but happiness can’t buy money.
Farming offers its share of peace, independence, solitude and of course, stress, every job’s partner. Farmers talk about having to “get a job” in order to make ends meet. It is not a happy time when the decision is made that another job is required in order to support a farming habit. This is more than a mere 4)complication in one’s life. Working in town can lead to a complete change of occupation. Work ethic, innocence and honor all grow well from the soil. Good families have been the true 5)bumper crops produced by the farms of this country. I hope we never reach the point where we find these things to no longer be a necessity in our lives.
It is a shame that we cannot all do what we want to do in life. Call me a romantic, my wife will disagree with you. We compromise. We don’t farm, we garden. We can’t help it, we were brought up that way. I remember when I was a small boy helping my father milk the cows.
“Farms are nice, Dad,” I said. “But they sure don’t have much of what you can find in the city.”
Dad’s reply was, “Thank the Lord!”