Grateful for Second Chances

Life: It only comes around once.  Life leaves us with memories.  Sometimes good, some bad…but memories that shape us into the people we are today, and are, still yet to come. Although life only comes around once, sometimes, it gives us the opportunity for second chances at something. 

I found an article that I wrote exactly 10 years ago, and it brought me to tears.  Not tears of sorrow, but tears of complete thankfulness.  Thankful that I am able to have a second chance at something that means so much to me…something that I have taken for granted over the last 10 years…but sometimes, it takes a second look to realize how much something truly does mean. Memories that now, my children and my family get to live firsthand.  Here it is:

There have been so many nights where I have laid in bed at night, wishing that my childhood was not over.  This is not because I miss my toys or my childhood friends, or even that I miss being young.  It is because I miss living out on the farm.

The sounds you hear, the things you see, and even the smells that you intake, are incredible.

Living on the farm, I felt secluded from many things in town.  However, now as I get older, I am so glad that I was so isolated because all of these magnificent things were mine and mine alone.  As much as I’ve tried to get away from the farm, in reality it was, and always will be, my favorite place to be.

I stand at the top of the gas well right down the road from my house, taking in the beautiful landscape below me.  The green and brown lines that the windrower has formed in the hayfield look like a piece of lined paper just waiting to be scribbled upon.  Along comes the crop-duster with its’ ink in hand, to write in the sky and doodle on the blank page.

I look to the west and see the glorious Rocky Mountains. In the north and east there is an enormous field of 7 foot tall corn growing patiently for its’ turn to be harvested.  Then I glance to the south and see the long stretch of highway; a snake with no head or tail, never ending.  The train comes barreling by the highway, with a horn so powerful it sounds like it’s going to blow me over.  By now, I should be used to this sound since I’ve heard the rumble several times a day growing up.

Before leaving, I look again to the east and see my home.  The green house that is surrounded by a sea of grass and gravel looks very peaceful.  The circular driveway encompasses the house and makes the home look like a small lily pad in the center of this vast sea of greenery.  How beautiful it is.

From the gas well, I walk back over to the front yard and sit in the grass that surrounds me.  Automatically, the smell of fresh cut grass comes my way.  I notice there is a slight breeze that allows me to also smell the small, but fragrant, lilac bushes that are planted by the mailbox in the front yard.  Along with the lilac bushes, there is a faint, yet distinct, smell coming from one of the two feedlots that our house lies between.  I’m not sure if it is the direct feedlot or maybe I missed the paunch truck driving by.

Taking in the smell, I look to the east at the immense field of corn.  I remember as a child, walking through the hot, damp rows of the corn; trying to find the perfect ears to sell.  Peeling back the sharp husks as they cut through my skin like a paper cut, I see a worm slowly crawling out of the ear carrying a few pieces of silk along with it.  The ear-worm inches its way out as though I have woke him from his summer slumber.  I shake the worm out and continue searching for corn, as the mud creeps between my toes.

What an amazing place the corn field is.  It is almost a maze in itself because when you are in the middle of the field, you begin to feel a little curious.  You can’t help but wonder how much farther you should travel into the labyrinth. It’s difficult to remember where you came in and where you can get out.

After a couple minutes of wandering aimlessly, the irrigation rows with small rivers of water running through them lead you home.

Looking at the cornfield, I can’t help but glance over to my left and see a row of tractors sitting next to the old, white shed.  The shed that is only bound together with memories, stands surrounded by these machines.  I can see the smiles and the laughter peeling off the sides of this weathered structure.  The tin roof lies on top; bent, rusted and eroding…just like most of the tractors that surround it.

All together, there are 8 of them. The three next to the shed have seen their seasons and harvested their harvests.  They have seen better days, while the three John Deere’s and the Massey Harris are resting inside of the big shed from their hard work and long days.  Last but not least, the Ferguson (which is the smallest tractor of them all) stays under the overhang of the shed.

As I recall all of these tractors going in and out of the yard, the smell of exhaust comes to mind.  It’s hard to believe that most of these tractors are still in commission after working for two generations.  These tractors worked hard for my grandfather then, and they still work hard for my father now.  With this thought in mind, the sun begins to set.

The suns’ bright orange and red arms stretch across the enormous sky, overlooking the fascinating mountains.  I go inside.

It is the end of the day and darkness begins to fall over the tractors in the shed, the corn and a hard days’ work.  Our family retires within our home for a quiet dinner.

As I walk inside the house, there is a mat for our shoes and a rack for our coats that radiates with a warm welcome.   Walking directly into the kitchen, the incredible smells of fresh sweet corn, baked potatoes, hamburgers and Dad’s famous rhubarb pie grasp my senses.  I am back in the surroundings that I remember so frequently.

My brothers and I are sitting around the kitchen table, waiting for our mom to serve us a warm helping and a kind heart.  She shucks the corn and gets it ready to put in the large, blue pot.  She paces back and forth, ensuring that we have everything that we need for supper…just as she always did.

We patiently wait for our dad to walk through the door with a smile on his face and dirt in his nails.  Finally, we hear the screen door squeak open and he walks through.  He places his boots on the mat, and goes in the bathroom to wash his face and his hands.  It’s is now time to eat as we always did growing up; together as a family.

This was our time.

No matter how busy our parents were, they would always take time to listen to each one of us kids.  Usually it was just complaints about school or our latest crush, but it was our time.

With dinner now over, we all help to get the dishes cleaned and the table cleared.  As soon as we are finished, I watch my dad retire to the living room where he reclines in his comfortable, blue chair.  He still has long days managing the huge farm all by himself, and we have always understood why he goes to lay down.  He deserves, and has definitely earned, his rest.

In fact, it is now time for all of us to retreat to our own lives.

No more crop-dusters buzzing by my window each morning, substituting my own personal alarm clock.  No more train whistles whaling as I walk around outside on the hot gravel.  No more waving at other familiar faces as they drive by on their own tractors.  No more walking along the ditch bank watching carefully as my dad quickly starts each irrigation tube along the way.

The farm has changed in many ways, yet for some reason it remains the same.

The corn still grows.  The tractors still harvest.  The feedlot still smells the same, and moms’ cooking is still the best.

It’s not the things that have changed, but it’s the people.

We have all grown older and started our own lives.  The conversations we have at the dinner table have now changed from first loves, to first born.  The cars that pull in and out of the driveway have changed.  We ourselves have changed, but the farm is still the farm.

My parents are now grandparents and the farm has seen a fourth generation walk through its muddy ditches and play in the fresh cut grass.  It is now their turn to see what a magnificent place the farm can be.  To absorb all of the surroundings and them then along wherever they end up when they get older.

But, the greatest satisfaction is to look back at the breathtaking setting, and remind them that the farm is home.

Although our family may change throughout the years, the farm will always be there as a retreat from our everyday lives.  It is a calming place of refuge that allows us to remember how simple life was when we were young.  It is where I call home.

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