Weeding was a job that needed to be done, and girls can weed just as well as boys. Therefore, I weeded the row crops on the family farm right along with my 2 brothers while growing up. However, when I reached the ripe responsible age of 12, Dad also didn’t hesitate to teach me how to operate the John Deere 4020 tractor. As I proved my ability to operate machinery, Dad advanced me to balers, caterpillars, combines, and land movers. It wasn’t easy being a girl, working alongside brawny guys, but I had a Dad who stood undaunted by my side. Dad impressed me with the fact that sex, stature, or fear was not an obstacle to progress. However, what makes Dad more real to me today than ever before is he lived the fact progress can’t be stopped.
You have a mind, don’t be afraid to use it to the best of your ability; was Dad’s motto. He spoke from experience.
Almost 50 years ago, Dad was of the mind to pack up his new small family and move from the rocky farming ground in upstate New York to the better soil in Idaho. Within 3 more years, Dad packed us all up again and we moved to the warmer climate of Southeast Washington’s Columbia Basin. From that point on, I spent more time out on the farm with Dad, than in the house with Mom.
Cooking? Sewing? What’s that?
But, give me a double-stick shift Mack dump truck and I can gravel your roads. Thanks to Dad.
Besides moving to the Idaho farm, we moved to 4 different farms in Washington, leaving them healthier and more productive then before we arrived. Dad never missed a chance to improve the land. Even when the family went on vacation, we were expected to leave negligible impact on the land. Maybe foot prints, but no litter, no holes, and no markings.
Dad was tight with his money, in that unawareness was not affordable. I would get in trouble if I bought 36 bolts and didn’t know the price of each was $1.15. What if the price of bolts at the store next door was $1.02/each? But, Dad was generous beyond words when it came to church, the community, or helping people who needed a leg up.
When the local school district asked people to open their homes to visiting teachers from Japan, Dad made sure we had the opportunity to do so. A teacher was given my room. I was sent back to sleep with my 2 sisters. The adventure of meeting another culture and language immediately negated any sense of sacrifice.
Dad was a successful potato farmer. However, when I was in High School, the activity of developing an apple orchard was presented to him. Dad stood unfazed by the prospect of a different management style, different fertilizer plan, and different everyday life. His one remark to me was, “I always wondered why I took that fruit tree class at Cornell.” Dad simply applied the principles of hard work, honesty, and open-mindedness to achieve the result of success.
For advice on how to progress as painlessly as possible, Dad would read books and seek out answers from people who weren’t afraid of change. It isn’t that Dad went against the standard practice in orchards, he raised the standard. For example, Dad implemented the latest technology that allowed farmers to plant twice, or greater, the number of apple trees per acre. Production increased and because the trees were shorter, harvesting the apples was much easier for the worker.
The day Dad bought acreage in Oregon State’s Blue Mountains was a milestone in our family’s history. We discovered Dad could engage in recreation.
Well, sort of.
The first thing we had to do was plant the 1000 evergreen tree saplings he mail ordered. But, after that, through my junior and high school years we hiked, picked huckleberries, and snowmobiled in the Blue Mountains.
Dad had a mountain cabin built and then he taught me how to sheetrock and plaster a small room in the cabin basement so I could have a room of my own. It was freezing cold in that room, but better than listening to someone breath at night, which is my nemesis. Needless to say, my sisters didn’t think I’d ever find someone to marry me. But I did. And, after 27 years now, we are still happily married.
Guess what, I married a farmer (big surprise). We raised 2 fabulous daughters and fostered intriguing children for 15 years (okay, they raised and fostered us), and I taught myself how to cook and sew. Dad lived to see most of this, and although his body is gone, I still feel the essence of a father who stands by me when I face up to my fears and join the flow of progress.
My husband’s and my children are now on their own, so we sold the orchard and our house on it, and then sold all of our possessions. We then bought 2 used Suzuki C50’s, packed our saddle bags and drove across the United States, landing in upstate New York where we now live and have property. Dad was correct; some acreage in New York is too rocky and hilly to farm. Not a problem, I immediately located a certified Forester and signed up for Forest Management Plan.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I miss you but I know you are with me.