I have written about moving to my dad’s home farm in 1975 to help my uncle who was raising corn and feeding cattle.
It was his generosity that made the next part of my life as good as anyone could hope for and I feel very fortunate and grateful for what he did.
My uncle passed away in 1998 at age 83, keeping the farm check book in his pocket to the end.
That doesn’t mean he was unkind or uncaring; it was the way he thought things should be.
For me, working with him was mostly good, except that until the day of his death, he was in charge and I was, more or less, the hired man or possibly “the kid.”
He knew there would be day when he would not be in charge and I would likely take over. It just wasn’t today. Tomorrow didn’t look very good either.
I have described my uncle to people as a 20th century hermit. His life was the farm. And nothing else.
He never married. He had no hobbies. He didn’t have any friends he visited and only a few people ever visited him.
He never sat at the elevator with the locals for coffee and a little gossip. His brother, my dad, was his best and possibly only friend.
Every Friday, for many years, he had local women, usually a widow, who would show up to clean his house, do the laundry, fix a noon meal, and tell him what she knew about people in the neighborhood.
And of course, as far as he was concerned, it was all he needed to know as what they told him was the truth and nothing but the truth.
When I was growing up, I would see him and his brother, who farmed with him as partners, in church twice a year – Christmas and Easter. Their attendance was probably at the insistence of their mother who kept the house for these bachelor farmers and referred to them as “the boys.”
After the death of his mother and brother in the 1970’s, I believe his next appearance at church was for his own funeral. Yet, the pastor was always welcome for a visit.
He had his farm and his dog. Life was complete. If he were to retire, what would he do?
So, I showed up, married, with a family. I had hobbies. I enjoyed coffee with locals at the cafe.
As much as I enjoyed the farm, I enjoyed leaving it to see what was happening off the farm. I was active in community groups, church, and I took vacations, something he didn’t do.
My uncle was also a kind and gentle man. I believe he was quite introverted so the farm was a safe and secure place for him.
For him, farm work was why he got up every morning of his life. Me, not so much.
When I got up in the morning, I wanted to have coffee for an hour with the people I would see at the local restaurant. I needed that socializing as part of my day. Once that was done, I was ready to come back and stay for the rest of day.
I am sure there were times he would look for me when I had gone somewhere to do something I thought was important.
His introverted, bordering on shy, nature created a problem; he was practically non-communicative. He worked all the time and I believe he thought I should, too.
His lack of communication probably had an advantage for me in that I never got the chewing out he wanted to give me for being absent when he was looking for help.
He was a very good person who was difficult to work with.
Which is probably what he thought of me.
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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