Last autumn, in honor of Patriot Day I chronicled our family’s farmers and their roles in conflict since the 1860s. For this Memorial Day Weekend 2015, I will share it again. So many of you have joined us here at Beef and Sweet Tea since last September that I think it won’t seem repetitious. In fact, I hope…
…if you’re a farmer, you’ll be encouraged.
…if you serve(d) our country, you’ll know you’re appreciated.
…if you feel like an average consumer, you’ll know you’re important. Since you care to be here reading about agriculture on a big beef grillin’ weekend, my Farmer and I think you’re certainly above average.
Have a read and know how hard we work to feed all people – a matter that keeps peace the world over.
Of Boots and Fields
a summary for the family scrapbook
My Farmer’s Great-great grandfather Taylor pulled on his boots and fought in the Civil War for two years and one month before he was shot in the shoulder at the Battle of Etowah Creek near Atlanta, Georgia. This injury brought him back to his home town to try to start his life again. Undoubtedly, it was not the same, but he pressed on and in a few years he began running beef cattle on this land, married and raised 6 children.
Though his military service was over, his boots still tread on fields.
After Taylor’s death in the early 1900s the farm was inherited by his only son, Jim. The son farmed on but struggled to keep the land during the Great Depression, so his inheritance passed out of the family for a while. Then, one of Taylor’s daughters, Mary, purchased the farm back into the family in January 1943.
Mary asked her second son, Marvin, and his wife, Sallie, to run the farm. The US had been involved in WW2 for 13 months, but Marvin was not drafted. He was 31 years old and married, so it was less likely that military service would be asked of him if he didn’t volunteer. In her own way his mama drafted him to rehabilitate her childhood home, but overall, Marvin and Sallie were never ones to shirk their duty – their community and the Allies needed food, so they did their part and farmed.
And, yep, you guessed it – their boots hit the fields running because there was a lot of work to be done on the neglected farm.
Sallie told her daughter, my mother-in-law, that there was a hole in the farm house kitchen floor so big you could fall through to the dirt below. The yard was littered with dozens of bricks and cats.
To this day, if only farmers could market cats profitably…or at all.
It wasn’t their first choice to reclaim this family space. They both enjoyed lucrative careers in town that yielded twice the income of this farm in those early years. But Sallie and Marvin set to doing their part and they brought a rundown family farm back into agriculture production for the remaining two and a half years of the war. They produced milk, eggs, chickens and beef cattle. Over the next 50 years they raised their daughter and continued to farm.
After college and graduate school, my mother-in-law went on to live her life as a school teacher with her avionics engineer husband. They raised a son, my Farmer, in the Midwest and kept the farm in the family and running after Marvin and Sallie died.
They put pen to paper, ledger to QuickBooks and boots in suitcase – keeping fields, so that boots could and would continue to share the family paths here.
My Farmer had almost finished his Bachelors in Animal Science when four hijacked planes crashed purposefully on US soil in September of 2001. He remembers procuring an agriculture college department truck early that morning in order to drive across the prairie about 90 minutes to some dairies to collect data. As he drove the reports began coming across the radio – general news subscription service reports every half hour on this local prairie station. Once he returned to campus in the early afternoon he was able to add the visual of 9/11 television news footage. Then he understood as much as any of us could that modern acts of terror had just shifted to the unthinkable.
My Farmer finished his school work a few years later and moved to the family farm. He started his own business because his family farm isn’t big enough to support a family in a modern economy…
…though it’s definitely big enough to shake a turnip at…
In between farming and working he became a volunteer first responder several years ago. He runs into troubles, not out of them, all while feeding the world and the stomachs that march.
Each Memorial Day we acknowledge service in many different conflicts, remembering and respecting those who don boots and tread into disasters.
While we remember, may we consider:
whether farming or not,
volunteering or staying home and holding down the fort,
living freed or living oppressed,
we are inextricably woven into a pattern of history involving boots and fields.
For our part, our FARMily knows all endeavors and armies (of volunteers, etc.) “march on their stomachs” and we have been here for 150 years of this reality – For giving back to the community,
for training days,
for tiny towns on the bottom of the sea called submarines,
for mess halls and MRE’s behind dangerous lines.
It fascinates me to think of MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat). We put the water in to nourish plants and livestock. The food preparers take the water out for longevity of the meals. The soldiers put the water back in so they can nourish their bodies and minds.
Not unlike first responders, farmers have been here voluntarily filling boots with competent, well-trained, courageous families – men and women of profound intent who show perseverance in the face of enormous obstacles and ignorant criticisms
who daily offer generosity and personal sacrifice in honor of human dignity no matter race, culture, government, religion or crime
who volunteer in our communities like we don’t have anything equally pressing to do (and we don’t when it comes to our neighbors)
who dutifully and steadfastly march on harsh beautiful fields regardless of myriad unknowns, flood, drought, pests, even death
who march to a beat most recently rarely heard by the modern many but resounding in our family history, in our deepest heart and sometimes echoing across generations though the family farm was sold years ago.
It’s the beat of life – of hope – of planting and coaxing and trusting growth, not at all unlike what you are growing in your own life and career and sphere of influence – growing something good – cultivating life – volunteering what you have to meet greater needs.
After living with a Farmer/First Responder for almost a decade I have come to understand deeply and personally that we are all on the receiving end of each other in good and in difficult times. In the spirit of Memorial Day may we intentionally remember all we receive from first responders, soldiers’, sailors’ and farmers’ boots – the bounties of help and provisions
– not free
– always earned by someone
– on harsh beautiful fields.
Going FarrrTHUR?…next stop.