salt of the earth

When a farmer is shipping out his crop simultaneously with the harvest, coordinating and timing the trucks is a tricky business.  If the farmer estimates low and the harvest is going well, the farmer may have to end the day earlier than necessary, dragging out the harvest and risking adverse conditions later. If the farmer estimates high and the weather turns bad, or a tractor breaks down, or any of the dozens of calamities that can occur without a moments notice, the driver(s) has to sit there until the farmer can load the load for him or her to haul away. The driver doesn’t get paid for sitting there.

Farmers know this, my dad knew this, and was therefore always as careful as he could be about how many trucks he would request, would work through rainstorms and high winds and into the wee hours if necessary to get them on their way as soon as possible, and would loan the driver a pickup to drive into town for a meal, or even to be able to go home for the night if they were unable to fill the truck that night.

There was a young driver many years ago who often came and went with loads of potatoes for my dad. During this stretch of time, he was divorced from his wife and she and their three young sons moved a ways away, creating even more hardship for the young driver in his efforts to spend time with his sons.  My dad was at one of his favorite restaurants one day at lunch (kind of a greasy spoon diner out in the middle of nowhere), and the young man and his three sons came in. They exchanged light conversation across adjacent tables, and when my dad finished his meal he said good-bye and left.

When the young man and his sons finished eating, and he went to pay his bill, he found that dad had already paid it, and left three candy bars on the counter for the boys.*

I can imagine this whole exchange. My dad, all gruff exterior, with a twinkle in his eye; probably teasing the boys a little or stealing their ketchup bottle. And paying the person at the counter with a point and a grunt, and leaving so as not to be thanked.

This is just like my dad. A lot of good, not a lot of fuss. I imagine there are dozens more stories like this. I miss him terribly.


*My oldest brother just ran into this “young driver,” who had heard about my dad’s passing and shared this story with him; this happened many years ago.

6 Responses to “salt of the earth”

  1. 1 sam
    June 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    He really was a ? man.

    I can’t find the right word to describe him, but it’s something close to synonymous with awesome.

  2. June 4, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    I reckon there’s not too many people who can say this about their father. He must have been a really special person. Could you see through his “gruff exterior” when you were young, or did that insight only come with your maturity?

    • June 4, 2013 at 6:21 pm

      Definitely later, although we kind of knew it then, too, I guess. And he kind of evolved, too. Was a man of his generation in terms of child-care, but always had a grandchild in his arms or on his lap when he got older.

  3. June 8, 2013 at 1:33 am

    I wish I could remember to be this thoughtful. Nice story.

    • June 8, 2013 at 10:28 am

      Yeah. Me, too. It just seemed to come so naturally to him, and he was always so quiet about it. He did it to be kind, not to be thanked, or even noticed.

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