Over the last few weeks as I do my early morning work at home, I've been reminded of a fond memory. Sitting at the dining room table typing out early morning analysis I've listened to the rain storms moving in, announced and preceded by the far off roll of thunder.
The sound takes me back to growing up on a small farm outside of Lewis, Kansas where it didn't rain all that often and when it did it usually occurred overnight. I was curious why we were seldom able to see it rain, so I remember asking Dad once why the storms tended to move in at night. Of course he had an answer - Dad's always have an answer - but unfortunately I don't recall what it was.
Then early one summer morning I heard Dad hit that squeaky bottom stair as he made his way up to my room. When he got there he said, "I want you to hear this. Listen closely and you can hear the thunder way off in the distance". We waited, and sure enough in a short time the low rumble of thunder reverberated over the old farmhouse.
We went downstairs and watched the rain come in. While farmers have always looked forward to rain, I was happy for a different reason. I wasn't wired to sit on a tractor and rain usually meant a break from having to spend all day driving back and forth in the field. You see when I drove the tractor my mind began to wander and then inevitably, the tractor would begin to wander. Sooner rather than later, the swaths through the field always had that same rainbow pattern, a particular point of humor with Dad whose reputation was that you could fire a rifle down his rows they were that straight.
As I listen to the summer thunder, I think of other things Dad used to say. Yes, I know he didn't create these little sayings, he didn't patent them or put a trademark on them, but he did use them and I and my brothers remember them to this day.
"It won't rain until the wind stops blowing, and the wind won't stop blowing until it rains". This one seemed to be borne of spending his entire life watching summer after summer of lots of wind and very little rain. Yes, there is a bit of despondency in this saying but also a somewhat cynical sense of hope. I guess at some point the wind could possibly stop blowing in Kansas, stop blowing the ground around in large clouds of dust that were as common as tumbleweeds in that area each summer. It's no wonder that one of the few "rock" songs Dad would ever sing along with on the radio was Kansas' "Dust in the Wind".
"If you can cut the mud holes you won't need to cut the rest of the field." This one seems a logical extension of the first saying. Dad had one field in particular that didn't seem to fit the area for it was a mucky quagmire. A rain on this particular piece of ground could keep you out of the field for a week. However, when it came time for wheat harvest Dad knew that if the mud holes were dry there hadn't been enough rain to make much of a crop on the rest of the field.
"Plant in the dust and the bins will bust." Are you picking up on a theme here? Most of Dad's sayings had something to do with dry, dusty conditions though this one was bursting with optimism. Honestly, there were many years when farmers had no choice but to drill the wheat into ground that hadn't seen rain in weeks/months and hope for the best.
I've carried the lessons of these sayings with me at every stop I've made in my career as the underlying logic can be applied to situations regardless of profession. I hope that I can pass them along to my own kids.
Dad can't listen for the distant thunder anymore, nor can he watch the effects of the incessant Kansas wind on the ground he used to scratch a living off of. But I know I will never forget one particular morning as he and I watched a summer rainstorm move in and the lessons about life that it brought with it.
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