Story-Line

A farmer’s concession

David

Title and Deed

Although I have not always worked on the farm, I can say I have worked the farm most of my life.  Even when I worked in town I still worked on the farm and called myself a farmer.  What does the remark  “Just a Farmer” mean? I hear it all the time “He just farms.” or She is just a farmer.” Is he or she “Just” and nothing more? Society often places the farmer in a class less admirable due to a path seen less noble.

Success is not measured in degrees, the temperature is.

I am just a farmer.  While others sought debt for a college education, I sought debt for acres of land. While others walked halls carrying books. I walked fences carrying pliers. While others lost sleep studying for exams, I lost sleep assisting births and harvesting grain. While some found reward in making a grade, I found reward in fostering life. While some saw assets in academics, I saw assets in equity. While most felt achievement in a degree, I felt achievement in a clear title and deed.

For you see, you are really no different than me, you too can be who you want to be. Just a doctor,  just a lawyer, just a teacher, or just a farmer like me – Rick Friday

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Fear not the wrath of vile night that comes for you before the light
Fear not the deep and weeping bite from shadows swaying in the night
Fear not to stain the virgin white of sins and souls that serve you spite
Fear not the voice that stirs the fight
Fear only, foe, what I might write. -Rick Fridayrick

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Where the Grass Never Grows

treehouseWe all have a favorite place where we played as a child. Mine was in and around a huge maple tree near our house on the farm. I filled the old tree with lumber left over from projects or that were discarded for their flaws. These boards were nailed to limbs hidden deep within its canopy. The intertwined construction from my hands and my thoughts allowed me to navigate freely throughout the branches. I saw the world from this tree and although much of what I saw may have been my imagination, it seemed so very real.

The tree was so vast with leaves it would shade the summer sun and the roots were deeply entangled in the ground to support its size and never ending thirst. This is where I conquered empires and fought my foes. Where I garnered scars and broken bones. Where I would dream and sometimes cry.  All under this tree where the grass never grows.

Later on in the years, when returning home late at night, the headlights of my car would shine light on the tree and for a few seconds the old tree would find new life in hopes the little boy would once again shake its limbs with his spirit. The young man could see the shadows of his youth hidden far within the tree and he knew the little boy would never return.  I have grown old and my eyes can see that the tree is forever gone and the grass beneath where it once stood is thick and lush. Concealed below this cover of green are treasures destined to be lost, yet my mind will always return to the place where the grass never grows. -Rick Friday

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The Weeping Windmill

windmillThis winter morning is unseasonably warm and very pleasing. The snow is barely surviving in isolated spots and the sound of geese overhead give us promise of spring. I travel to our family farm just a mile or so away to feed my bulls. The mud is awkward and challenging but is the best of two evils, when you wish for a thaw you have to deal with the mud. After feeding, I place the empty buckets on the ground to secure the gate. Nature gently taps me on the shoulder and whispers to my soul, “Stop! See my beauty, hear my voice and feel my tranquility.”

I rest my arms over the fence and allow this beautiful morning to consume my spirit. I witnessed my father do this many times while I rushed to meet all of life’s unflinching demands. In the still of morning light, the senses become keen and less distracted. The smells of a winter’s melt can be rancid and stale. The sight of leafless life against the pale blue horizon offers very little appeal, yet the warmth of the sun will awaken our sleeping ambitions. It is the weeping cry of a windmill touching the landscape that nourishes my thoughts.

The windmill wails psalms of loneliness and despair over countless hours of time. The long swooning squall is a chilling chant of the struggle between becoming obsolete and enduring existence. A somber song we must all sing as we near our end of days. I watched my father reconcile with the weeping cry of the windmill. Something once useful and necessary now idle and bound to the shadows of the past. The universe maintains a balance of creation and extinction, including all that is made from the human hand. The windmill has prevailed the hardships of antiquity and survived all generations before me. Blessed am I to have heard the wails of the weeping windmill. -Rick Friday

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Grandma’s Ruby Red Rhubarb

sissyThere were many tests of strength and endurance growing up as an Iowa farm boy, such as trading rocks, arm wrestling, kneeling and slap jack. All of this competition was necessary in gaining a respectable status in the association of mocho-ithics. I was rated in the top ten of my class as far as ruff and tuff. Despite the fact there were only an average of 10-11 boys ever enrolled in any of my elementary classes.  During summer vacation my friends in town would bicycle out to the farm with any or all new kids moving to the area. These new kids would challenge me in my front yard to be accepted and establish a rank in our fifth grade society.

If a young man held his own in an old fashion fists to cuffs or wrestling match, he went through a series of other tests to measure his endurance. Next we would trade rocks, by hitting each other in the arm with fists until someone screamed “Uncle”  or enter into the challenge of kneeling, which is locking fingers together and try to force your opponent on his knees. There was also a competition called “Slapjack”, where we would lick two fingers and slap each other on the wrists until only one player was left.

If the new kid didn’t ride off in the dust crying and was still interested in testing his rank in our little social club, there was one final test of endurance and that was running across the road to Grandma’s Ruby Red Rhubarb patch.  There were rules at the rhubarb patch; everyone had to peel a stalk of rhubarb at the same time and everyone has to eat it without stopping, all on the count of three. This was a sure sign of perseverance and definitely separated the weak from the strong.

On the count of one, your mouth begins to water profusely and a shivering jolt runs up your spine from the tip of your toes to the top of your head. On the count of two, you can feel goosebumps suddenly rise on your chest and forearms and your ears begin to tingle. On the count of three, as the rhubarb slowly enters your mouth you instantly shut you eyes, but only for a moment, you must see what’s happening on your rival’s face. Tears block your vision as you struggle with your senses and your face tightens to a pucker. There are moans of tartness and bitter laughter with the crunching sounds coming from chewing the crisp stalks of rhubarb. Once half the stalk has been consumed you forget your motive and focused on surviving  this sour adventure. Bite after bite, you struggle with the torturing of your taste buds.

When everyone is finished and the dare is over,  huge teardrops are wiped from all faces and there is a brief moment of silence before a winner is announced. Suddenly, a small voice says, “Hey guys wanna do it again?” Standing proud and petite, toe to toe with newfound brothers, wearing holed and frayed cut-offs, ratty blonde hair and an orange stained grin, my little sister eagerly reaches for one more stalk of Grandma’s ruby red rhubarb. -Rick Friday

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The Light of a Moon

moonThe Great Juan and I took in a few hours of the Iowa State Fair and as we were driving home in the late evening I noticed the illuminating crescent moon shining in the distance. While The Great Juan slept off her food inebriation, I meditated with the sound of the car rolling down the highway. This brief time allowed me to reflect on my experience at the fair.

Like moving ants on a disturbed hill, thousands of people maneuver chaotically throughout the fairgrounds. People of all types weaving from one direction to the other, like waves of ocean water. Unease fell over my solitary soul with this sight of the human cluster.  I live on a dead end road where not a single person will drive by my house and in my peaceful world the sound of nature is the only choir. I must travel nearly a half an hour to see a single stop light, or find a crowd to hear the voices of many. Population is conflicting to the rural life I have chosen, a life seen as unhurried and undemanding.

As I sat on a bench with my companion in life I became mesmerized with how truly vast this world is with mortal souls, as mine. From young to old, from small to large, from weak to strong and from grace to crude,  people allured my attention like a colorful abstract of fine artistry. Although I may feel distinct from others, I am not. Although I am left to my own thoughts, beliefs and passions I come to understand that individuality can be lost with the gathering of so many of mankind in one place.

I enjoyed watching people and witnessed a cultural evolution before my eyes. Sometimes we view others who are different than us as defiant, however, it is not always defiance people seek. To surrender to diversity is merely an act of humanity and the first step to accepting those who are different is to concede to the fact that diversity truly is a human attraction. We may be strangers, but there is a common we all share; the breath of life and the light of a moon. -Rick Friday