"On the Tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to meeeeeee…."
TEN LORDS A-LEAPING
A year ago at this time, my Dad had surgery on his foot which left him unable to put any weight on his foot for 6 weeks or so. So during our Christmas visit last year, he was not a "Lord a-Leaping" to say the least. As an active farmer who works 18 hour days and has never sat down for more than 20 minutes in one shot (and usually that's to shovel some grub in before heading out to the next task), being on crutches kind of slowed the ol' fella down. Like when last year's White Christmas dumped 18" of snow on us, he sat impatiently watching out the kitchen window as my husband and brother tried to remove the snow with his loader tractor to get us dug out. He cringed and flung his arms in the air and grumbled words that made even me blush. He may have even muttered "they aren't doing it right", and we may have retorted "stubborn!"... but we all know it was his way of showing that he needed to be out there himself, pushing the snow in the yard into neat piles and making sure his cattle were fat & comfy as always.
But the situation got us all to thinking: what would happen to them if he could no longer take care of the farm? We had a neighbor and close family friend who lived and worked on his farm until almost the very day he died, at the young age of 93. He was clearly an exceptional man, in great health, but he was the exception, not the rule. Certainly my dad is an incredibly healthy guy, but what if?
That farm is Dad's life, his passion, and my parents' livelihood. It has been in our family for over 50 years, a family business started by my Grandpa John and painstakingly maintained by my father for over 35 years. The land where I grew up will always hold a very special place in my heart. See, around here, land isn't just land: it is a passion. It is a part of history. It is a way of life. We only know work.
|Asha on "Turtle Rock Mountain", which overlooks the Christman family farm.|
My father is the hardest working man I have ever known. His pride in the land and integrity in his business and love for what he does humbles me. He has instilled in his children a work ethic that cannot be taught in schools anywhere. He comes honestly by this kind of dedication, and is in the company of generations of people who chose this profession. My great-grandparents, grandparents, uncles, cousins, and even the little bro who has put so much into his FFA career -- all of these people loved the land we live on. They were the first environmentalists. They were "green" before Green was cool. They were tough, hard-working, conservationists who never gave up despite hard winters, dry summers and equipment breakdowns.
The work ethic that folks in our part of the world possess is something that often leaves me astounded and awestruck. But no matter how hard they work, no matter how stubbornly they protest that they don't need help, things happen. This land we live on and tend to is unforgiving and temperamental. Drought, raging winds, hail, prairie fires, floods, and unseasonal heat or cold can wipe out a family's income for an entire year. Considering that farmers are self-employed, and their spouses are often part of the family operation, many families do not even have health insurance. So when disaster hits it is more than devastating to families who depend on their crops to provide food, clothing, shelter, and other basic necessities. As if the economy and big business "competition" weren't bad enough, sadly, many farmers are forced to hang up their feed store caps and give up their farms when catastrophes like this occur. And no matter how hard they fight, as a result, many of these 3rd- and 4th- generation farms are disappearing right before our eyes.
A North Dakota farm boy who grew up to become an airline pilot saw a need for help and started an amazing program called Farm Rescue, based right here in our backyard, Jamestown, ND. Farm Rescue is an organization which lends a helping hand to farmers in need in North Dakota, South Dakota, western Minnesota and eastern Montana. It provides labor and farm equipment to provide planting or harvesting assistance to farm families who have experiences major illness, injury, or natural disaster. Volunteers work long, exhausting days, in the heat or the cold driving rain just to lend a hand to a family in need. It is a simple concept based on neighborly generosity and pulling someone up when they're at their lowest. It takes care of those farmers in a "what if" circumstance.
So on the 10th day of Christmas, as a tribute to my Dad and all the hardworking family farmers of yesterday and today, my contribution goes to: