The Farm Chronicles: Cash on the barrel

Dad was a hard worker. He usually had three or four jobs going on that took up the bulk of his time. The farm was enough for any one man, but making a living off of 100 acres—30 acres of it wooded—was just not feasible. Hence, the transition to cattle and horses. He also had the gas and oil delivery business supplying fuel to the local residents and farmers. Even then, there was not a lot of profit in 18-cent-a gallon diesel fuel or 23-cent-a gallon “ethel” (regular) gasoline. Dad also would pick up seasonal jobs like using our old 1940’s John Deere combine, held together by coat hangers and bailing wire, to harvest the neighboring farmers’ wheat and oats. He spent more time fixing the combine than using it.

I don’t remember Dad “sleeping in” very much. Maybe after a New Year’s Eve party once in a while he would sleep in until 7 o’clock or so. But there was livestock to feed. Watering to do. When there are so many creatures dependent on your care, sleeping in is not really an option. My work ethic is tied directly to Dad’s habits and example. We were always up by 6 in the morning and we rarely were awake after 10 at night. No matter how deep the snow, how long the water pump was frozen, how muddy the barnyard was, or how hard the rain was coming down, the chores needed to be done. When I was a teenager in high school, Dad would have mercy and let me sleep in till about 7 or 7:30. He didn’t say anything, but my “guilt” alarm would wake me up and I would look at the clock and jump out of bed, feet hitting that cold linoleum floor.

Dad was a stickler about practicing for horse shows. He was constantly on me for not working out the horse I was showing “enough.” His philosophy was the more time you put in, the better your chances were for success. I had a different view. I wanted to work the horse just enough that he understood whatever I was trying to emphasize and do it well about three times in a row. Then with that positive reinforcement, we would stop. This could take 20 minutes or two hours. Dad had a hard time with that. Except he didn’t have room to talk because he was so busy that he couldn’t practice with his horse Hollywood. One time, I turned the tables on Dad and got on him for not “practicing” what he preached. He agreed to practice with me Friday after work before going to town (deposit day at the bank).

So Dad agreed that we would practice together after work. He got home late and I was really on him, so we saddled up and headed for the pasture where the cloverleaf barrels were set up. We took turns running the barrels. Dad went one last time. As he was turning the second barrel, his business wallet (chained to his belt) worked out of his pocket and opened up, leaving what looked like a vapor trail of cash blowing across the field, probably about a thousand dollars from the week’s fuel sales. We spent hours trying to find all the bills, the last one on top of the second barrel. The American Standard Version of Proverbs 13:11 says, “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” That was one time we were hastily gathering as the wealth was blowing in the wind. A new meaning to cash on the barrel.

Posted in

Bill Wilson