Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bob's land

Bob grinned and gave me the “thumbs up” from the seat of the big old Minneapolis Moline—the field was half mowed. Transformed, really. This little 82-year-old grey-bearded man, wearing an oil-stained jacket, green pants with a rip in the knee, & knit cap, in 5th gear cruising across the sea of grass on top of the huge rusty yellow tractor… it was a sight to see. He hadn’t worked the land since his wife died, over 5 years ago. Before that, he grew corn, cut hay, and had organic cows grazing that field. I wondered what it felt like for him, as he turned the huge beast around on its 3 wheel pivots and dragged the bush hog along for another pass. How many times had he driven across this piece of ground? Hoppers of corn seed behind him or metal tines sweeping bare soil. Or the plow.
This week he’s been working with his lawyer on his will. He says he hates doing all the paperwork, but he’s 82, missing a kidney, and has had surgery on his heart. You never know when… he shrugs.
And yet here he is on this sunny mid-November day, climbing up a machine with wheels taller than he is, to pour a 5 gallon can of diesel into the tank.
Bob doesn’t want the newspaper reporter coming out to the land to do a story on us yet because his insurance man scared him. He told him that he was absolutely liable for anyone coming out to the property… scared him enough that he isn’t sure that we’ll be able to go through with this at all. “Sorry, hon, I don’t know what to say.”
I hoped that there weren’t other things holding him back from committing—like maybe his children’s concerns about the future of the land. It does feel a bit rushed. I just moved back to the area 10 days ago. Now we’re talking about plowing tomorrow, and not just a story in the paper, but a whole series, following me through the season. The marketing dream of a lifetime.
But farming moves at it’s own pace, that of the unpredictable weather, ancient rusty machines, generations, and relationships.

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