Down on the farm

Published 11:54 am Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.

I know you have heard that before, but I think about it today as I congratulate Douglas Dean and Frances Edmunds on their selections as Decatur County’s Agricultural persons of the year.

Although I don’t make my living based upon agriculture, specifically, my connections to that industry are never far away. It’s just impossible for me not to be affected by the smell of green peanuts being plowed up and soon to be picked.

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I will always prefer walking out into a field of corn and pulling my own roastin’ ears to buying them in the store. I’ll always want to know how much hogs are selling for even though I haven’t fed one out in over 40 years. Some things just never leave the mind.

I have too many blessings to count, but The Post-Searchlight’s “Down on the Farm” annual feature reminded me of one. Growing up in the country as part of a farm family is something I will never regret. I was thinking about that the other day.

Suppose someone came up to me and offered me a million dollars with only one stipulation. For me to receive the money, I would have to choose another childhood. I could have any other I wanted, except growing up on the farm.

A million dollars is a lot of money, but the temptation would be short-lived. As they say when it comes to making easy decisions, that one would be a no-brainer. The size of the offer could be increased to a billion dollars and I would still say, “Absolutely not!” Some things are not for sale.

Of course, back in the ’50s and ’60s when I was growing up on the farm was a lot different than it is today. No industry has remained the same and farming in 2008 doesn’t resemble the farming that occurred in 1958. I would suspect that Mr. Dean, particularly, might give a big amen to that.

The family farm of my childhood was 50 to 200 acres. The road I lived on in Mitchell County was named Stagecoach Road. The short section of the road that included our farm was only about a mile long. Yet along that section there were about six different farm families represented.

Although we lived in the country as we called it, we had a sense of neighborhood or community. If one farmer had a need, the others were willing to help. The children of the farmers were friends and formed a pretty good pool of labor.

There was plenty to do.

One of the main crops in Mitchell County was tobacco. I have mentioned before how labor intensive that crop was, but there never seemed to be a problem with finding enough workers. Once a child reached an appropriate age, that child was thrown into the neighborhood labor pool. I didn’t realize it at the time, but learning to work was a great lesson.

My life’s journey has taken me away from the farm, and I’ve had many kinds of jobs. Some of them have been good and some not so good. There has been one common thread. No job I have ever had has compared to the work I learned on the farm.

Pulling buffalo grass out of the peanuts will make any other task seem fun. Topping and suckering tobacco at three o’clock in the afternoon when the temperature is 98 degrees and there is no breeze will prepare you for just about anything that comes down the pike.

When I worked in sales at Opryland Hotel in Nashville, not everything went my way. Sometimes the customer on the other side of the desk could be very demanding and the boss man even more. However, when the staff sat around and complained about how hard they worked, I would think (I wouldn’t say it; just think it) about that day I spent in that corn bin loading out that last trailer of corn by hand. This was a cakewalk.

Along with that lesson of knowing what hard work was, there came another lesson associated with it. It had to do with money. Not only were we expected to work, but we learned to accept the going rate of pay and did not allow low pay to result in a bad attitude toward our work.

First of all, work for daddy didn’t pay anything. That was real low pay, but I would never have thought to mention it. My daddy would always say that our wages were pretty good when the cost of housing, clothing and feeding were included. I might not have agreed with his economic argument, but I kept my opinion to myself. That was good for my backside.

When we worked for other people, the wages were unbelievable when compared to today’s. Four dollars a day was the going wage for a full day’s work. It’s amazing when I think about paying someone $50 for cutting a yard of grass that takes a little over an hour.

We got to work about sunup while the dew was still dripping from the leaves. We worked until noon and got an hour off for lunch. The afternoon was hot and we worked until we were finished. It might be four o’clock or five. It didn’t matter. The pay was the same.

By now someone might be thinking. If someone offered me a million dollars for that kind of childhood, I’d take it and laugh all the way to the bank. I guess I wouldn’t blame anyone for that attitude.

There might be a hard lesson coming our way soon. We might find that money is not as important as it used to be. It might be hard to come by. Then the lessons of working hard and appreciating whatever we may get will come in handy. I’ll be glad I learned them early in life. I learned them on the farm. Thank the Lord!