I received an unexpected surprise in the mail recently.
Before I go any farther, the grammarians of the world would say that I cannot receive an unexpected surprise any more than I can get a free gift.
After all, in order to be a gift, wouldn’t it have to be free and wouldn’t any surprise be unexpected?
Now that we have that out of the way, let me tell you about my unexpected surprise.
It was a brown envelope, the kind that is for items too big for a regular envelope. It was the size that would hold a paperback book.
I didn’t have to open it to see the surprise. The return address did that.
The name in the corner was from Michigan and the same name as me.
That would not be a big deal if my name was Jim Smith or Bill Johnson. But it isn’t.
My dad gave me his last name and my mother told me he picked out my first name. If I had any say in the decision at that time, his choice of a first name would not have been my first choice. It would not have been my second choice, either.
All things considered, I cannot say my name has done any damage to me. Whatever things in my life have held me back, it was not because of my name.
Before the Internet, I figured I had a one of a kind of a name. Searching for my name revealed that name-wise I was not the one of a kind person I thought I was.
Chances are, the same named person learned the same thing.
If I remember correctly, I believe there was also a person with our shared name in Alabama. Who knew?
Of course, by now I was exceedingly curious about what a man with the same name as me and whom I had never met would want to send to me.
Inside the envelope was a booklet with a handwritten note.
The note said that he had read my written pieces and learned of my farm background. He grew up in a suburb and had enjoyed reading from a farming point of view.
The booklet he sent was published by Sinclair Refining and was the fifth edition of Sinclair Farm Time Savers.
The handwritten note pointed out that the copyright year of 1947 made it the same age as both of us.
So what kinds of farm savers were there in the pre-Google year of 1947?
The opening page had the headline, “Planning Ahead for Better Farm Management.”
The paragraph stressed the importance of planning and more importantly, long-term planning.
It concluded with the sentence, “The success of a farm, just as in any other business, depends on good management.”
There is no arguing with that.
But the booklet did not just make big sweeping statements that lacked specifics.
For example, it said to drive the posts holding an electric fence in at an angle to allow mowing under the fence to keep tall grass and weeds from shorting the fence.
If there was a subject that was not explained, I did not find it.
In 64 pages there were tips including building placement, livestock handling, machinery maintenance, handy shortcuts, gestation times, weights and measures, soil and crop management, record keeping.
Reflecting the time of 1947, there was advice on plowing and told about what to do with a two- or three-bottom plow.
And as befitting a publication from Sinclair Refining, there were pages devoted to the importance of proper lubrication and its scheduling.
Good advice in 1947 is still good advice today and that was perhaps the best surprise, unexpected or not.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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