"What if they all quit? It’s hard work. It’s repetitious and it’s boring, and it’s in the hot sun and the cold rain."
— author 2019
The earth received the old farmer on a good farming day. It’s July. In the heat, all of life seems drowsing. High in the blue cloudless sky a hawk slowly circles. A nervous robin scolds from a tree branch. On a distant hillside a tractor and baler are birthing bales of fragrant winnows of cured hay.
It’s a small rural cemetery surrounded by an old rusting cast iron picket fence. Shafts of sunlight filter through the overhead canopy of foliage from ancient maple trees planted in the cemetery a century ago. Weather beaten grave stones are scattered among these tree trunks – seemingly keeping each other company.
The burial ceremony is simple and brief. A small group of mostly old friends and family move in closer as the perspiring pastor wipes his glasses and takes a small well used Bible from his pocket. Hands find hands. Tears are dabbed. The service ends. A wooden casket is lowered into the ground. The family pastor finishes with a prayer. Cemetery workers will shortly finish replacing the earth. The mourners leave. The cemetery is empty and still. The warm earth rightfully claims one of its own. The lifelong old farmer’s powerful hands are still for the first time in his long life.
Tall, rugged, and powerfully muscled, his hands — through work — are vise-like strong. With them he could hold, lift, and do all the daily work necessary in those years. His hands are far more than strength. His hand shake is his bond — his truthful reputation — his mark of honor. His bank account is meager but his wealth is in the golden vault of character.
The young very eligible farmer is widely considered a "good catch" by the young ladies in the community. One did.
In time two boys come into the family and grow up to be farmers, too.
The years speed by with the inevitable changes. Streaks of gray come. Wrinkles become deeper and more numerous now. Passing time plays no favorites. His hands change, too – fingers are bent, knobby, and scarred. They aren’t as flexible as they once were but the strength remains. He moves slower now. His once tall straight frame gradually bends into the increasingly strong winds of aging. But he still rose early to do his share of daily chores. He is a good farmer till the end. As a farmer, he knows the inevitability of life and death.
As the fiery red July sun slowly fades in the west, a tiny speckled young robin falls from its nest. It squeaks and its tiny wings beat frantically as the unfamiliar ground near the fresh grave approaches. Awkwardly it hops onto the fresh dirt. An adult quickly flies to its side, an insect in its beak for the fledgling. The circle of life continues.
His powerful hands help grow America into greatness. Never forget.
Hobie Morris is a retired teacher of American history and political science at Central Methodist College in Missouri. He and his wife Lois live in Brookfield.