I looked at the time on my bike and realized I had almost three hours before my next commitment. I turned left – going down a road I had never traveled. My first thought was to avoid the congestion of the construction I encountered on my way to the factory but then Dad’s voice rang in my mind… “why go home the same way we drove to get here…there is so much more to see.”
It got me to turn left and think about the top three things my Dad taught me:
Respect the Earth: As field after field faded into the horizon of my rearview mirrors I thought about my Dad and the fact that he grew up on the same dairy farm I did. He had polio at 3 and struggled with things that were common to other kids but he learned how to farm, how to manage money, and utmost how to respect the earth. Ecclesiastes tells us that from dust we come and we will return. Pastor Jerry that the Chapel at Crosspoint reminded all of us that we are physically made of up of dust: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Google added that 0.85% is composed of another five elements: potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. We are of the earth and the earth is what keeps all of us alive. Farmers keep us alive. Respect the earth; smell it, nourish it, and clean it up when you find it a mess – all things he taught me.
My Dad and I would walk the mile between the house and what we called ‘The 40’ many nights in the spring and summer looking for wild asparagus in the ditches. We often pulled a small wagon because he never let garbage sit in the ditch…it had a place, and that place was not in the ditch! We would pick wild flowers for Mom, asparagus for dinner, and garbage so that the wildlife didn’t have to deal with it.
Wind on your Face is Good for you: My parents bought John Deere snowmobiles when I was very young. I recall winter days being bundled in a snow suit and American flag helmet – it sparkled – and I would hold on tight behind Dad as we navigated the trails from our farm to dance hall after dance hall via random farms and vast woods. We would get there and polka until it was time to head home for milking. He encouraged me to drive by 10! After school I would grab my skates, keys to the snowmobile, and head to the lowland where Dad plowed a natural ice rink for me (it was only 5 inches deep.) I would make circle eights in the hay fields and ‘feel’ the lean. I loved it without question.
In high school Dad traded the snowmobiles for a Yamaha Razz scooter and a red moped (electric bike). They both had baskets and our adventures to pick asparagus and garbage expanded to whole country blocks.
He gave me my first rush of the wind in my face, the freedom to ride, and the responsibility of taking care of the earth.
Go a Different Direction: As a little girl there were limited routes between the farm and the grandparents houses, or the mill, or church…but Dad always made the drive a bit more of an adventure by not retracing our tracks. The afternoon mentioned above found me crossing over a highway I knew well so that I could ride into the back hills I’ve only seen from the safety of the main roads below.
This may sound strange since I’m not afraid to ride my way to meetings in different states and yet here in my own back yard…I’ve hardly explored the roads to the windmills or the hills that surround the valley I call home.
As I crested the hill to see steel towering above me and hear blades whooshing – then continuing to catch a glimpse the fields changing from vineyards to hay to corn to cabbage to tomatoes to potatoes and I thought – ‘thanks Dad.’
There are things I know he wasn’t proud of me for, but I think he would be excited that I got my motorcycle license and would think this 400cc Suzuki Bergman rocks! I’ve been interviewing people for a number of articles and I consistently ask the question of “what did your parents do?” Most apples don’t fall too far from the tree. He taught me from a young age that there is always something different to see if you just go a different direction. I love working with farmers, I love writing, I love meeting new people and going a different direction than the average.