A Winters Express opinion column
Farmers have the reputation of guarding their nickels and dimes. Perhaps the constant threat of disasters such as sleet and hail, drought or pestilence makes them wary. Ironically, they may balk at the most trivial expenditure while not batting an eye to spend $80,000 for a new tractor.
This paradox brings to mind a short story that I read many years ago. It is titled, ‘The Revolt of Mother” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman.
Sarah, the wife of Adoniran noticed through her kitchen window that workmen were excavating in a nearby field. This happened to be the location where Adoniran had promised her 40 years ago that he would one day build them a new house. Upon persistent inquiries, Adoniran finally admitted he is building a new barn.
Sarah points out the poor condition of the house they live in and that it would not be fitting to have the upcoming wedding ceremony for their daughter held in the old house. She asks, “I want to know if you’re doin’ right accordin’ to what you profess?” Adoniran turns a deaf ear.
The barn is finished by the third week of July and is admired by all the fellow farmers. At this time, Adoniron learns that a horse owned by Sarah’s brother is for sale and so he plans a hasty trip to Vermont to take a look. He leaves instructions for Sarah and their son to have the cows and hay put in the new barn.
After he leaves, Sarah instructs the workmen to put the hay in the old barn and leave three cows in the old barn and put one cow in the house shed which serves as the kitchen in the old house. She then announces that they are moving all the household goods into the new barn.
The following Saturday, in anticipation of his return, Sara prepares a supper of brown bread, baked beans and pie — food that she knows her husband loves. When he arrives Adoniran is drawn to the smell of food wafting from the barn. He asks, “What on airth does this mean, mother?” After reassuring him that she is still sane, she requests that now he must put in windows and partitions and buy furniture.
After dinner, Sarah finds Adoniran sitting on the steps of their new front door. His shoulders are heaved and she tells him not to weep. He promises to do whatever she wants around the new house. He says, “I had no idee you was so set on’t all this comes to.”
My observation of farmers in this region is they are tough negotiators and smart businessmen. They have handsome fields and grow the finest crops found anywhere in the world. After all, the fathers of most of this generation of farmers sent their sons to UC Davis or comparable schooling.
We haven’t mentioned philanthropy as of yet.
A few years back my granddaughter Madison was showing a hog at the Yolo County Fair. She was dressed in white shirt, pants and hat and had spent hours grooming the animal. When her turn came to show, the hog stepped forward and promptly fell dead. A local farmer placed a bid and paid for the dead hog.
On another occasion, grandson Cameron was showing a goat. His grandmother from the other side of the family was determined to win the bid. Each time she went higher, some invisible bidder in the stands went higher. Eventually she whispered to me,” This is my highest and final bid.”
The unknown bidder must have been watching closely, he didn’t bid again. I just know it was one of those philanthropic farmers having some fun and testing to see just how high grandmother was willing to go for her grandson.
Both grandchildren put their FFA earnings to good use and finished their university studies. One now works for the Golden State Warriors organization and the other is employed in a pharmaceutical laboratory in L.A.
I like stories with happy endings.
Of course it wasn’t the hog’s best day, but his prospects for the future weren’t too bright anyway.