When I moved in 2000 onto the farm of my husband, Richard, I was green to say the least.
Technically I had lived on a farm before. In the 1970s my parents farmed 98 acres of sandy soil in the Rio area. We learned that farming was hard work; the farm was unequipped with modern conveniences. There was no bathroom for starters; there was no shower or tub either. Most of the implements needed to be converted from horse-drawn to hitch, and I was often tapped to help my father. Dad had few tools so there wasn’t much chance I would give him the wrong one. He had one toolbox.
I asked a lot of questions – mostly none of which related to the job at hand.
“You talk too much,” my father told me. “Pay attention.”
I quickly learned that the names of my husband’s tools were not always the names I had learned from Dad. A crescent wrench is actually an adjustable jaw wrench. A big hammer is called “persuasion.” The bigger hammer is “more persuasion.” A claw hammer is “useless” unless we’re nailing boards.
I knew about common and Phillips screwdrivers but had never considered blade sizes. And I swear there are 20 different kinds of pliers. To increase the challenge, Richard has tools in every corner of every shed. And we have many sheds. Things became complicated. I should pay attention, I told myself.
It seemed to me every piece of equipment we tinkered on required its own set of tools. I as a gopher was always searching for an ever-elusive tool. Being a chatty person worked against me. Evidently filling the air with unrelated subjects didn’t help my husband to think. I learned silence is better when fixing machinery.
So I began entertaining myself with careful examinations of clouds and clover. Richard would occasionally ask my thoughts on the project.
“I was looking at the clouds,” I said.
Curiously he would look to Heaven for patience.
Entering into the next phase of apprenticeship meant I was expected to put forth ideas while troubleshooting problems. No more cloud-gazing. Pay attention, I told myself.
It took some doing, that paying attention. In silence I would observe Richard’s silence. I would try to discern his thoughts as though I were divining water with a stick. After several minutes of that I might venture forth an idea.
Would a long pry bar take enough tension off it? Do we need the “come-along” winch for that? It that how it should look?!
In all seriousness I was being taught everything my husband had learned in his lifetime. I learned that physics is always in play. That the simple machines of wheel, lever and incline are my best friends. Work smarter, not harder. Move the tractor; don’t carry the wood to it. Use the two-wheeled wheelbarrow; it’s steadier. Use gravity to advantage. Remove fingers before they’re pinched.
I now know most of the tools and equipment we have. But there is always more to learn. Under Richard’s tutelage I have graduated from gopher to novice, to apprentice to full partner. I may have legally been a full partner from the start of our marriage, but I didn’t feel totally vested until I understood more.
But I too have brought something to the partnership. I have an uncanny knack for remembering phone numbers – a handy trick because I broke my smartphone while under the combine this past fall. I learned young that a genuine smile will cripple the sourest of sales folks. I learned a thoughtful comment about an elderly lady’s sweater will show her she’s been seen.
I brought grandchildren to my husband, and with them came the joy of sharing my silly side. I laugh easily. I love deeply. I love this man, this farm, this life and the closeness to God that I feel every day.