Lessons a veteran farmer taught his daughter
One of the most significant lessons my dad taught this farmer’s daughter was to lead by example.
November brings to mind many memories of my father, Adrian, who died two days after Veteran’s Day in 1996.
I am honored to be the daughter of a man who is a World War II veteran from his time in the Army Air Corps. My dad served in the Army Air Corps over a span of seven years from enlistment to honorable discharge. His duties included guarding freight in the China-Burma-India theater.
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My dad didn’t talk much about his years in the service when I was growing up, but he had photo albums with pictures he’d taken when he was stationed in India, so between that and other things he’d saved, such as menus and money, and the letters he wrote home (which his family kept and gave back to him after the war,) I got a pretty good sense of his military career.
Equally important to me is the farming career that my dad started after he returned from World War II, on the farm where I learned lessons that outlived my dad’s time on Earth.
One of the most significant lessons my dad taught this farmer’s daughter was to lead by example. He was one of the hardest working people I know and he didn’t assign his daughters and sons tasks that he wouldn’t do himself. I have memories of fencing with him on mosquitoey, hot summer afternoons, getting up in the predawn hours to start spring fieldwork and checking cows on double-digit-below-zero winter nights.
In turn, my husband, Brian, and I strived to instill in our children a work ethic by working alongside them when they did chores such as baling hay, cleaning the barn and weeding the garden.
Another memory I have of my dad that I have applied in my own life is that he demonstrated responsibility to creatures under his care. We fed the livestock early in the morning, made sure they had fresh water available during the day and that they were bedded down in clean straw at night. We monitored them to make sure they were healthy, and if they weren’t, and needed care beyond what we were capable of giving, we called our veterinarian for treatment of the injury or illness. In turn, Brian and I have taught our children the importance of being responsible, compassionate and kind to the dogs, cats, horses and chickens under our charge.
My dad’s sense of responsibility wasn’t confined to animal care. He also firmly believed in stewardship of the land and believed that it should be left in better shape when he had finished farming than when he started.
He annually rotated at least half a dozen grain and row crops, didn’t allow weeds to spread — hand pulling or tilling up ones in field corners that escaped spraying — and planted a shelterbelt around our farmstead to protect it from the fierce prairie winds.
I’ve sought to model my dad’s philosophy by planting another shelterbelt around our farm, picking up cans and bottles along our roadsides and having no mercy on the weeds that grow in our farmstead. My kids laugh at me because I even have to restrain myself from stopping to pull a weed when I’m walking along a city street and see a stray one in a garden patch on a berm.
The last, but far from final, memory of my dad that I will share is that while he loved and took pride in farming, his family took precedence. He was a loyal supporter of his five children and attended our concerts, sporting events and parent-teacher conferences no matter where they landed in the farming season. My dad loved my mom and made that clear to us by demonstrating his affection for her with a hug, going out to dinner with her and insisting that getting a new piece of furniture or rug for the house was just as important as buying a new piece of farming equipment.
Love of, and pride in, family and the importance of them being the No. 1 priority is the greatest lesson my dad taught me and I think is one of the most important ones that my husband, Brian, and I modeled to our children.
I hope that lesson, in the form of memories of times we spent together, is one that our sons and daughter will remember long after we’re gone, just as I do those that my veteran farmer father taught me.
Ann Bailey lives on a farmstead near Larimore, North Dakota, that has been in her family since 1911. You can reach her at 218-779-8093 or firstname.lastname@example.org.