Stay In The Row
If a TV show was created for “Canada’s Worst Farmer” I think I might have a shot. We don’t choose where we are born, and I was born into a farming family.
I can very vividly remember my “greatest moment” as a young farmer. I think both of us will never forget it. I was 15 if I recall correctly. The field was close to our house in Barnwell, and my job was to cultivate the sugar beets. Easy enough. I’m a smart kid. Get good grades. I should be able to handle that right?
Well I was perfectly capable of handling it, I knew how to run the tractor. Really all I had to do was pay attention, keep my focus on the left wheel to make sure that it aligned with the row, because if I didn’t I’d have a problem. I was pulling spikes covering twelve rows. If that wheel went over a row then twelve rows of growing beets would get dug up.
You see I never wanted to be a farmer. I hated farming. It was the last place in the world that I wanted to be. Truthfully I didn’t know where I wanted to be when I was 15. I just didn’t want to be there, in that field, in that tractor, with those beets.
Since my body had to stay, my mind decided to resist. I flipped through the very limited selection of radio programs, found a CBC documentary and let my mind escape. As I successfully slipped away, my tire went out of the groove, three rows to the left. Before I had time to correct I had ran those spikes over the irrigation valve and dug it right up. Oh boy…..
It is one thing to dig up a couple dozen beets, it is entirely another (and much more expensive) thing to dig up the valve. I was terrified.
I remember stopping the tractor and actually crying. I was really scared. I felt terrible. I already knew I was a crappy farmer. Compared to the guys that you would hire I was pretty much useless.
Thanks for not making me feel that way. When you saw the valve you were quiet (as you often are). You told me firmly that I need to stay in the row. That was about all you said. I’ll never forget the lesson.
It is with me every day. Stay in the row. Be where you are when you are there. I’m in the row right now while I’m writing this post. Nothing else in the world matters.
Find Joy In The Late Hours
Another reason that I hated farming was that it seemed so boring to me. You’d sit on that tractor for hours and hours, up and down those rows. It was completely mind-numbing. Remember that stupid dog Sheba that we had? That dog used to follow you up and down those rows. I used to think that was the dumbest dog ever.
I’ve since realized that perhaps you and that silly dog knew something about life and success that I didn’t at the time. but I’ve figured it out since then:
In anything you do there will be long hours, and boring work – building a business, writing, farming, it is all the same. There isn’t a thrill in all aspects of it. Most days are a grind. Most days have long hours. If you can’t find joy in those late hours you’ll never be happy.
You and Sheba knew that. You knew how to find joy in the long hours. You knew how to accept it, embrace it, and enjoy it. It took me a long time to figure that one out – but now I know it, and now I live it.
Don’t Ask Permission
You realize that you shouldn’t be where you are right? You realize that you shouldn’t have the amount of money that you do. You aren’t supposed to have the “toys” that you possess, and the life that you live. You didn’t have permission from the people, where you grew up, that were “supposed” to have those things.
You don’t have a professional education. You were a poor kid. Grandpa was a dirt farmer. You were immigrants. You had no help, no shortcut, no “start”. You didn’t inherit a single penny. You started with nothing, and now you have as much, if not more, than the many kids in your town that were given everything.
Thanks for not asking for their permission to have what they have
Growing up where you grew up, and being poor, is a challenge, that because of you, I didn’t have to experience. But I have had to experience the challenge of creating a life that is personally meaningful to me. I have had to experience the challenge of having people doubt me. When I left law I had many people doubt me (I suspect that you and Mom had a little anxiety too haha!). Many people still doubt me.
But you didn’t need anyone’s permission to build exactly the life that you wanted for yourself. I saw that.
So I haven’t asked for permission either. I haven’t asked for permission to build a business, to write books, and carve out a totally authentic life. I have gone ahead and done it without permission. Just like you Dad.
Thanks Dad. I love you. I know that we are very different, and as a result we don’t always have the easiest conversations. I’m not into what you are into. I hate farming. I don’t really care about airplanes. I couldn’t fix my car if my life depended on it. I’m stubborn. I want to do things my own way.
But in many, many ways, I’m exactly the same as you, and I hope that I can make you proud by being my own man. Thanks for the lessons that you taught me without even opening your mouth.