Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Getting In Focus

I was born and raised on a small family farm in western Nebraska. I lived there from birth until I went off to college. My father and mother raised cattle (and pigs and chickens for awhile, too) and grew corn, sugar beets, and dry edible beans (Great Northern beans - think of bean and ham soup). This farm is now owned and operated by my older brother. He is the fourth generation of our family to live and work on this farm.
The farm was my place to play and explore, to learn the value of hard work and the importance of family. Granted, my two brothers usually went out to the fields with my dad while I helped my mom with the housework, but I had my fair share of working on the farm. I hoed beans (read: chop out the weeds in the bean field with a hoe or sometimes a machete); I went irrigating and scooped ditches; I failed miserably at starting irrigation tubes, but at least I tried; and there were the occasional times I went and tried to move cows. Let me tell you - you will learn the true meaning of frustration when you try and move a bunch of cows somewhere they simply do not want to go.

Since we were ten miles from town, my family had each other for company. My two brothers were also my playmates. We built forts (mine was Fort Whopper and my little brother's was Fort Johnson); we made mud pies; we drove our three-wheeler (before they were outlawed) around and around our land; we played in an old tractor cab (my first "office", albeit a "detective agency" office); we would make sail boats and float them in the huge mud puddles in the yard after a hard rainstorm; we would go sledding on country roads after a blizzard; we became wayward travelers stopping by a welcoming inn (my brother and I used to put the kitties in a baby carriage and walk around the farm, pretending to be traveling in a distant land and stopping by the "inn" (house) for a bite to eat. Mom would always treat us like special guests).

I have so, so many memories of the farm. Some of those memories aren't good - we got hit by the Farm Crisis in the '80s and had to have a farm sale where we sold a lot of our equipment; we also got hit by hail and drought and bad livestock prices. But a lot of the memories are wonderful - family get-togethers, the time my graduating senior class all ended up at my house because the traditional senior party was a dud, the Sunday dinners, the visitors. Oh, I could go on and on.

Strange how I always wanted to leave that farm. My head was always in my books - I wanted to visit England and France; I wanted to live in a city where there was noise and people; I wanted to have grand adventures and meet handsome, exciting men! Most of those dreams have happened. I've visited England (not France, though) and I now live in a city (though a small one) and I've had a few adventures and met some handsome, exciting men (and learned to steer clear of them!).

Yet whenever my life has become clouded and murky, going home to the family farm centers me. It is here that I remember the important things in life - family; faith; forgiveness; hard-work; trust; love. It is here that I became a writer - and here that I first had the dream of becoming a published novelist.

Sometimes, that dream takes a hit. Life gets in the way. And I feel like that dream is just like my windshield after driving through a swarm of gnats. Lots of splatters. Job. Finances. Personal relationships. Health. Family.
But when I go to the farm, or really, whenever I go home and am surrounded by my wonderful family, the windshield is wiped clean and I get my focus back. I tune in to what I want out of life—and I have a renewed sense to achieve it.


  1. Awww! I love this! What wonderful memories! And what a fun picture you paint! LOL! I love the dectective agency, and the mud puddle and the pushing the kittens in the stroller! LOL! So cool! Also, I LOVE LOVE LOVE ATC's! How cool that you guys owned them!

  2. I know exactly what you mean. Life has changed so much for me over the years, but whenever I go home I find myself back in a world where everything is centered and I know I can keep going no matter what life throws at me. Thank you so much for this post!!

  3. What a sense of place your home gave you, all the details and characteristics of the farm, some I'm sure engrained into your own being. It sounds so nurturing to body and soul. Do you use this place, and the ideas of it, in your writing?

  4. Melissa, what a beautiful, beautiful post this is. It's clear you had such a special childhood, and how blessed you are to revisit - and to know how much it shapes you and your work.

  5. Giddy - Yeah, the kittens wouldn't always stay in the baby carriage, but we tried our best. ;-)

    My Writer's Attic - Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoyed the post - I always feel so much better after I go home for awhile. :-)

    Joanne - Good question. I think, more than anything else, I carry away the sense of family from the farm. We had to work together to make it. And while our family wasn't and still isn't perfect, we love each other a lot. I think that is reflected in my writing a lot.

    Janna - Yeah, it was pretty special - though not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Lots of tears and hard times, too. But it all made us stronger. :-)

  6. What a lovely post. I know exactly what you mean.

  7. This is such a great post written with wonderful feeling and honesty. I love how even though you obviously had some hard times, you mostly remember the good. I loved reading this.

  8. What a glimpse into another world this is for me. I don't think I've ever known anyone who was raised on a farm and every time I've ever been on the interstate, going across the country I've looked at the houses and fields and farm animals and equipment as I've gone by and wondered who lives there and what they're like. That may sound crazy, but it's true! Thanks for giving me a peek into the mystery :)

  9. Debs - Glad you liked it. :-)

    Debbie - I loved growing up on the farm. I think at the time, I didn't appreciate it nearly as much as I do now.

    Lisa - I think I would be a much different person if I had grown up in the city. It's amazing how much I draw on my roots now.

  10. Great post, writing and photos!

  11. I love this story and hearing about your farm and memories! Love getting to know more about all my blogger friends:)

  12. Beautiful post. And yeah, life and writing...sometimes it seems as though we can't catch our breath and be still, which we need to write. But OTOH, these crazy times give us the material we write about. It all balances out...eventually. Hope you're feeling better, anyway!

  13. Angie - Thanks!

    Terri - Glad you liked the memories. :-)

    Christine - You're right about it balancing out - thank goodness it does!

  14. No wonder you feel better after going home for a while. Yes, I know there were bad times, but how wonderful that you can remember the good times so clearly.

    Every time you post pictures of the farm, I long to get on a plane and foist myself on your folks. You'll have to warn them that a strange woman from England could turn up any day. :o)


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