A cousin sent an email saying she had been out mowing for two hours in the hot Nebraska sun, and the smell of new mown hay was in her nostrils. She said it reminded her of her dad “alone in a hayloft, waiting for the next hayrack full to be ‘dropped’ on him to scatter.”
“Not a breath of air in there, work shirt buttoned at the neck and cuffs, unbearable for all the crew but Dad. At lunch break, Dad would have a couple of sandwiches and skip the iced tea. He’d have creamed coffee right out of a glass jar wrapped in a tea towel. That was my hero, my life example. my Daddy — loyal, very, very hard-working, so wonderful. Funny what a whiff of new mown hay does.”
Her dad and my dad were brothers. There were five boys and four girls in the family. The boys were cut from the same cloth. Every one of them enjoyed hard work. I have an idea they took after their dad. He died shortly after I was born, but the stories still live.
It wasn’t easy raising a large family during the Depression, yet their farm was the first one for miles around to have electricity. Their dad cobbled a small power station together using batteries. Resourcefulness was second nature.
When my parents married, they had a card table and two orange crates for furniture. When they got a dog, he built a doghouse from scrap lumber using the only tool they owned, an ax. Nobody claimed it was pretty, but it did the job, and the dog never complained.
I think of my dad when I see a charcoal grill flame. He loved to grill. Burgers, dogs, steak, ribs. For years, he and Mom hosted a huge Fourth of July brunch, and he’d grill pancakes and sausage before the neighborhood parade.
He loved grilling out most of all when the temperatures soared — 90 was good, even 100 wasn’t daunting. That was also his favorite time to mow. He and all of his brothers were most comfortable outside. It came from the farm imprint, spring planting, summers in the fields and fall harvest.
At my dad’s retirement party (they used to have such things), at a large university where he had worked his way up to purchasing director, he was standing by himself, looking at the crowd, having a good time when he chuckled and said, “I never did want a desk job.”
I don’t think I realized until that moment how much our dad had loved us. Oh, he had enjoyed his career and the people he worked with, but ‘til the day he died there was nothing as beautiful as a stand of wheat or a field of corn.
Here’s to dads everywhere who work hard and do what needs to be done for the love of family.
Now somebody light the grill.
Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.