Midmorning sun moves above a blinding eyeline of late autumn. Sounds of my childhood stir out over the ridges and ripples of this old dairy. Although it was quiet earlier, I could hear the freshwater spring babbling up out of the old spring house foundation toward the stream it forms. The Knobs hem us in, protectively. Children squeal in delight.
Someone starts up a chainsaw. At least they waited ’til now to begin the work of preparing wood for fires. A heavy tree falls, bounces. Limbs crash. For those on night shift, perhaps sleep will once again enfold them with the comforting hum of saw whirling through wood.
Each autumn, our parents would load us up in a borrowed pickup truck. Burgundy and sliver, it jammed us in — hip to hip — with our coats at our feet or over our knees. I straddled the gear shift of that well-kept stick. Goodness knows I haven’t been behind the wheel of one in more than a quarter century.
Instead of feeling old, I am majestic. I have seen this and known it. I bridge the gap between what was, what is and what will be. I am a keeper of the stories. I know what it meant when my Great Uncle Doc went “tromping.”
Our dog would boldly ride in the back of the truck — proud and fierce — as we lumbered down the highway to the county roads that took us to the family farm. Dad had long-since scouted the seasoned wood. We bumped and tossed on the old gravel path. No seat belts, mind you — there were none for the middle bench back then. We braced ourselves against each other and palmed the dashboard. Dust billowed behind us. With giggles and hoops, we danced our way to the back fields and pastures. I can only catch glimpses of them in my mind’s eye now.
With a creak and a groan, the doors swung open. Dusty didn’t wait for us to open the tailgate. Off he went to scout, defend and protect. Dad pulled the starter to the chainsaw. He had worked through the week, tuning it up for work that happy Saturday. The sun shone bright. The wind blew dried up leaves. Mom stacked small logs in our arms. We took turns, toting and stacking the back of the truck. I remember wondering how the underside of the truck wouldn’t scrape the bottom of the ruts in the road.
Full aware many still gather and stack wood, season upon season, I miss the rhythm. A little too citified am I ... now. This — this is not nostalgia. I remember full well smashed fingers, deep splinters and stepping in cow piles. It was rough, hard work. It made me strong and wise in a way that kids who grew up in well-landscaped neighborhoods never knew. I knew the value of a calf, a solid crop, a good price.
Now our farmers face stressors brought on by well-intentioned goals of so-and-so politicians who possess no keen knowledge of a ripple effect. The suicide rate for farmers is escalating. Bad prices, ruined crops, inability to plant, trade wars. We pray for our military, our veterans, our police, our schools, our teachers. Let us also pray for our farmers who hunger to dig their fingers into the rich earth and to bring forth that which will sustain us all.
Imported caviar, champagne, truffle oil — yada, yada, yada — it’s a fine thing to know how to taste fine food. But if we do not know how to grow and preserve what we eat, what future do we really have?