COUNTY AGENT GUY
As I am the senior male member of my family and Father’s Day was this past Sunday that would make me something like the grand old father.
It is never anything I thought much about but since I am the one, I can accept the honor.
However, even though my own dad, who passed away in 1999, was not here for Father’s Day, that doesn’t mean he was far from my mind.
Perhaps the thought that enters my mind most often about my dad is wanting to ask him, “How am I doing?”
All of us want our dad’s approval and that desire follows us, I believe, all our lives.
When faced with a decision, that question “What would my dad do?” is considered in the final answer.
That doesn’t mean my decisions are what my dad would do because I have done things he did not do when he had the chance.
My big example is buying farm land. He never bought an acre after the purchase of his only farm in 1944.
Figuring in a mortgage payment as part of the cost of raising a crop was not something he had to allow for.
We also differed on livestock. He had hogs and cattle most of his farming career and I preferred raising only corn and soybeans.
What I did learn from him and made it a big part of my decisions was having an appreciation of running a business conservatively.
For example, I bought used equipment and used it until there was not much left.
He showed me the importance of work and play. There is a life on the farm and off the farm.
I also learned to appreciate the importance of taking a leadership position in my family.
Be generous with your time and attention.
I believe my dad’s only deficiency was his inability to teach, which was a part of his impatience.
He wanted jobs to be done well and done promptly. For him a mistake meant you messed up and was not something you learned from.
I went the other way and decided I would use patience and instruction to teach, allowing room for errors and second and third chances for myself and those around me.
I now look at my son and wonder what he has learned from my example because we lead by example. So I try to be a good one.
I can see some of my attitudes in my son such as using a conservative approach to make decisions.
I see him being kind to the people around him and wanting to be a good provider for his family. Those traits go back to my dad.
My son can look at me and see places where we differ.
He wants to raise livestock and his energy and love of farming are identical to my dad’s, surpassing my own.
My son and I have some differences. He got tired of the frequent repairs that come with used equipment and prefers buying new or late model used when he can.
I tell him, “Just remember, you’ll have to pay for it.”
I can look at the three generations of farmers, my dad, my son and myself. All three of us wanting to do things our way, but looking to the previous generation for some guidance, guidance we may or may not use.
My dad’s dad passed away in 1944, a farmer who raised three sons as farmers.
It wouldn’t surprise me if my dad wanted to ask his dad, years after he was gone, “How am I doing?”
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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COUNTY AGENT GUY
“My neck hurts,” I groused to my wife. “I think my head might be stuck like this.”
She glanced at me and grinned. “You look like a baby bird that’s waiting for a worm.”
It was my own fault. My obsession with old aircraft had led me to spend most of a day in Granite Falls, Minnesota at the Ray Fagen Memorial Air Show.
The Fagen Fighters WWII Museum has an excellent collection of vintage war birds and a slew more flew in for the show.
This was right up my alley.
I’m a Baby Boomer, so these planes are the kind that our parents used to win the war. And there’s a certain romance to those old war birds.
They were made in an era before computers began to rule our lives, a simpler time when the world was run by magnetos and carburetors.
As a kid, I would see such airplanes fly over and be exhilarated by the thought of ripping up the sky in a Lightning or a Mustang. I would spend the rest of the day running around with my arms outstretched as I made airplane noises with my mouth.
Soon after my wife dropped me off at the air show, I was deep in the grips of aircraft euphoria. Among the drool-worthy planes was Aluminum Overcast, a B-17 Flying Fortress.
The iconic bomber bristled with machine guns, its four massive propellers ready to frappe anything that got too close when its colossal engines were running.
They were offering free tours of Aluminum Overcast so I got in line. The tour was theoretically a walk-through, but was actually more of a crawl-through.
Despite the B-17’s grand size, its interior was cramped. On the plus side, all that armament means that you get to park wherever you darn well please.
Soon after I squirmed out of Aluminum Overcast, a P-51 Mustang called Sierra Sue II was wheeled into a parking spot nearby.
I couldn’t resist taking a closer look at this gleaming gem of aluminum awesomeness.
I espied a guy who had an aura of authority about him, so I struck up a conversation. It turned out that he was John Beyl, Sierra Sue’s crew chief. I asked him how much cash it would take to buy this pristine fighter plane.
“At least $4 million,” he replied. “Probably more. Mustangs that have been restored to this level are extremely rare.”
“What was the hardest part about restoring her?” I asked. “Was it overhauling the V-12 Merlin? That engine has more moving parts than a watch factory.”
“The biggest challenge was locating original military hardware,” he replied. “For instance, her machine guns were gone and we had to find some of the original avionics.”
I glanced into a small compartment atop her starboard wing. Inside nestled a trio of .50 caliber machine guns that appeared to be fully loaded and ready to go.
I asked John if they could loan me Sierra Sue during deer hunting season. He said that it wasn’t likely. Bummer.
Among the throng of air show goers was a young lady who was wearing a flowery frock that was straight out of the 1940s. I chatted with her and learned that she had been part of a WWII battle reenactment which had taken place earlier that day.
As she waxed eloquent about the lost elegance of that bygone era, I got the feeling that she felt she was born eight decades too late.
The airborne part of the show commenced. As thousands of necks craned skyward, a dastardly Japanese Zero zoomed across the prairie, conducting a sneak attack on the strategically important grain bins of western Minnesota.
Moments later, a Corsair fighter appeared and engaged the Zero in a dogfight. As the two titans blasted low over the airfield, I thrilled to the full-throated bellow of the Corsair’s 2,000 horsepower Pratt & Whitney engine. What an elegant sound.
A B-25 bomber named Maid in the Shade taxied onto the runway and an old farmer standing next to me said, “I got a chance to ride in a B-25 once. Cost me a few hundred bucks, but it was worth it. Best money I ever spent.” I was instantly jealous.
By late afternoon I was hot and tired and footsore and sunburned, so I called my wife and told her I was ready to go. While we motored homeward, I began to recount the day’s exciting action.
“Keep your starboard wingtip out of my face,” she exclaimed. “And throttle back your engine or I won’t be able to see anything out the windscreen.”
Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at email@example.com.