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Friday, Jan. 20, 2006
One thing I can affirm about getting older, at least as a male, your sleep patterns are awful.

Iíve been learning to get along with less sleep, for one, and at really weird hours too. Used to be Iíd hit the rack at 9 and snore straight through to 4 am. Ask Ally. Sheíll at least verify the snoring part.

Now Iím lucky if I donít fall asleep in ye olde recliner and wake up somewhere around 1 am. Wide awake, too. When youíre awake at 1 am and find out, yet again, that 1 am TV really does suck as much as it did the last time you pulled this stunt, you surf the net and curse your middle age. It helps pass the time.

Did I mention dreams? You dream a lot about old times, or imaginary times. I awoke this morning after dreaming about being a farmer, a tomato farmer as I recall, hustling baskets of tomatoes into the clutching paws of many Mexican sorters who looked at me askance, and flung invective my way in no uncertain terms.

I have no idea how to interpret something like that, but after reading This Post I have some idea why. (by the way, the link goes to a VERY conservative sort of fellow. Not that itís a bad thing, just to preface. He makes some very valid points)

Both of my grandparents had farms. Not agribusinesses, but farms. 100 acres or less. Both grandfathers farmed all of their natural lives. My momís father was strictly a crop guy, corn and beans most often. Dadís family was more livestock and dairy, chickens and eggs. Until his dying day Dad couldnít eat chicken, and he wasnít all that fond of eggs either.

But it makes me wonder and think, in conjunction with the above linked post. That way of life is so close to being rubbed out. All the community of life on a farm in the 40ís or 50ís, even the 60ís is all but gone. The very few I know of who still do this sort of thing on a small basis are those who will hold the land, rent out the dirt to a large guy, maybe have an investment herd of dairy cows or a handful of goats. Not quite like farming as I knew it. I donít have any doubt that between my two grandparents they could make a case for self-subsistence, and pretty much did just that during the Depression. Todayís small farmer seems more like a commodity broker than a worker of the land.

I miss that lifestyle very much. A lot of it is of the sentimental sort of missing, Iím sure. Anyone who has walked into a barn full of cows at first light would know something of the mystery that farming was all about. Itís supremely quiet, youíre aware of large animals and faint rustlings, the smell of bovine beings in a natural state, and the odd comfort of things as they ought to be. Or spending long hours on a tractor in a field, laying rows or spreading, a beautiful monotony of setting the land to seed.

I miss people who have stared first born life in the face at 3 am, when the horse began to foal or the cow to calve. Thereís nothing quite like it, while youíre cleaning the stall and watching the mothers' cleaning of an infant being who will never speak or write, but will stay with you in spirit for long years. Puts a completely different look on having children of your own, that start of life, and how important it is, how necessary.

There was a practicality among my grandparents. I happened to be able to view the diaries kept by both grandmothers, daily logs and recordings and notes. Short, crisp entryís they are. ďSold calf to Mosher, rain today, pain in left elbow.Ē Day after day of things like that, for years it went on. No pressing need to express in 500 words the whys of the calf, the reason for the elbow distress. Probably no time to do so at any rate. I never remember a whole lot of sitting around on the part of my farmer families, there was way too much to do and no one to tell them how to do it, and no need.

Iíd like to think thatís where I get my streak of independence from. My motherís dad, who Iím told I am very much like, was a stubborn old cuss. I can imagine very well how he might view life in these times, where everyone is an instant expert on everything and mouths runneth over. I can hear him just as if he were still alive, listening to a lot of empty talk with that small smile, and a ďIs that so?Ē just at the right time. A little farmerís trick, to let you know that indeed it wasnít so, but he was willing to listen to your blather just the same.

I miss people like that. Who actually did know things, knew how to coax life from unfertile fields and balky cows. Who had seen engines introduced and likely could fix them without having to call on some mechanic in town. Who never felt the need to make a splash, were content with quiet lives and the company of family. Folks, self enabled, and competent.

Thereís no romance over the difficulty of their lives. Iíve been on a farm, itís back breaking work and it never ends. Being a carpenter is no picnic but those old salts could work me to a frazzle any day of the week, then walk back to the house a mile away.

I canít help but respect that, and wish that life wasnít so nearly gone from us.

Whether it was better or worse might depend on which horse you have to walk behind. Mine seems to like tomatoes, and sunny days. Or so I dream.

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