I had the occasion to meet with a fellow generation-er last week. Pardon the addition to the dictionary with that gen... word!
This fellow stopped by the place of my current employment and, after using the restroom, he sauntered into the information area of this place and signed our guest register. He was from Decorah, Iowa, over on the northeastern border of the corn belt state.
I found out through our discussion that he had grown up in the early 1950s and 1960s on a 160-acre farm. We had similar backgrounds, even though on opposite ends of the state. We were both orphans of the small, family farm.
As we visited, we related to many of the same life happenings in each of our lives. It always has seemed to me odd that two people who had never met had actually shared these experiences. So it was here.
We visited about our early years when each of us remembered threshing season. Somehow, 60-plus years had not dimmed the pictures we each carried in our brains. The hot, sticky, itchy task of harvesting oats from a stubble field where the heat index was unmeasured was not unknown to either of us.
We remembered the oat shocks, the bundle wagons earlier pulled by horses and then later by tractors, the hum of the giant threshing machine that devoured every bundle that was pitched into its gaping mouth. We remembered all of that without even a wink.
Work horses were on the way out when both my visitor and I were in our earliest years. Work horses still remained on many farms in those days, just in case the tractor broke down. Our grandfathers never totally trusted the industrial revolution and held on to the last glimmer of hope for their beloved work horses. They hoped secretly that tractors would fail.
One of my favorite memories of our family's horses, Max and King, was the day when as I was crossing our farmyard when my grandfather, then in his mid-70s, came riding up from the pasture, over the road and into our farmyard with one foot placed in the middle of Max's back and one foot planted in the middle of King's back.
Grandpa was holding the reins in his hands as he approached me. He reared back on the reins and said, "Whoa! Johnny, this is the way we used to bring 'em back from the field at noon!" He looked like a circus rider to my 5- or 6-year-old brain. That picture remains embedded to the day I leave this earth.
My visitor friend had like experiences of helping his dad open cornfields with horses. Horses pulling hay mowers. Horses helping pull hay up into barn hay mows. Horses being and treated as part of the family.
He told me that he and his brothers and sisters cried when the horses were sold. Reality provided a rather harsh growing up on a small farm.
Through our visit, tears welled up in each of our eyes as those old remnants of a day gone by were talked about. I could tell that my friend had experienced the life that I had and it was a time lost. We talked about how much oral history has been and is being lost by families that have dispersed across the countryside.
I doubt that the current or future generations will have the opportunity to be as close to their older relatives as we were.
So, history was relived on the front desk of my place of employment that afternoon. We each left with things to think about. Things to be thankful for. Things that we wished could be passed on to our kids and grandkids.
That will be a challenge in this day when we seem to have been seeking ways to distance ourselves from that very thing.
It was a good visit. Unexpected. Valuable. Wish you had been there.
See you next time. Okay?