Agricultural roots run deep. As I write this, our community will say its final farewell to an old farmer. A giant of a man – not in physical stature, but of character.
He was a quiet and hard-working man who stayed busy enough taking care of his own business that he didn’t have time to worry about anyone else’s. He was a kind and gentle man who loved his family and the work that he was called to do in this life, raising the food that feeds the world.
But to him, it was more than food for the world. It was who he was, and his identity as a farmer ran parallel to the love he had for his vocation, but especially for his milk cows.
That love of farming and of milking the cows ran just as deep for his wife. They worked together for all of the 65 years they were married. Much of their time together was spent working together on the farm, but some of their favorite time was spent in the milking barn.
Devoted to their lives on the farm, they rarely ever left other than to haul commodities to the elevator or run a few errands in town. So when their son announced that he was to be married away from their hometown, it meant that they would need to spend a few days away to attend the wedding.
But it also meant they would be away from their milk cows, whom they protected almost as much as their own children.
It also meant they would have to trust someone with their care, but whom? It was the first time in a quarter of a century that they would miss a milking.
Certainly it had taken them hours of thought to decide who they would leave their beloved cows with, but apparently my husband had made the cut. And so the date was set for my husband to come over and get the how-to’s from them for doing their chores.
There were various chores, but when they entered the milking barn together, my husband could plainly see that it wasn’t just about milking the cows, it was about the relationships that these people had established with those four-legged and gentle beasts.
As they walked around, the man’s wife showed him where all of the equipment was, and then she introduced my husband to each of the cows in their small herd. “This one likes to be scratched under the chin,” she said as she showed him exactly where. ” and this one likes just a little extra slab of hay … and this one’s name is (whatever).”
Her quiet husband followed behind, smiling and winking at my husband as she laid out the specifics about every cow in the barn. He didn’t have much to say about it, except to lovingly suggest to her that she might be telling my husband a little more than he really needed to know. (Followed by that characteristic and peaceful smile and wink.)
It was clearly going to be hard for them to leave for those few days, but it was going to be the most personal experience of milking cows that my husband would ever have, given that responsibility by two people who could only be taken away from their cows by such an event as the wedding of one of their children.
My husband learned something in that time as well. He decided that if reincarnation was true, he would want to come back to earth as one of their cows, because he could see by their gentle nature, how well they were cared for. (That may or may not say something about the way I had cared for my husband; names can be changed to protect the innocent.)
He could see that those cows not only were loved, but felt loved. They each produced far more milk than he could have ever imagined.
It was a sad day a few years later when they decided they were no longer able to continue milking, and the cows left the farm. Farewells were said between man and beast, and quiet tears followed.
Those quiet tears will flow again today as we take this wonderful man to his final place of rest. He will return to the land he loved so much, to be part of it in a different, and perhaps, more personal, way.
Agricultural roots run deep. And thank God they do, for the sake of the next generation, who will also find themselves someday resting in the land they have loved.
That depth of love could only be handed down to them by their brothers in agriculture, just like the one we remember today.
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org