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Close the Gate

Old Farm Truck Volume 2

A photo of Nancy KraayenhofAs you may recall, last time I began the tale of how we were moving an old truck to get at some things in storage …

When Doug cleared most of the spider webs away so I could get in the old beast of a truck without getting totally creeped out, he had rolled down the driver’s side window so I could hear him if he hollered, which he has been known to do since I flunked Farm Hand Signals 101 miserably. As I settled onto the yucky seat, I took a quick inventory of my immediate dusty surroundings.

I turned my attention to the driver’s door. The cranking knob to roll down the driver’s side window is missing but the handle is there so Doug managed to roll it down anyways with just a little extra effort, The chrome lever that both opens the door when pushed one way and locks it when pushed another is at an angle that is probably not quite right but is as shiny as if it were new yesterday.

It was then that I noticed the inside door panel itself; the same baby blue as the outside of the truck but the paint completely worn off down to bare metal along the bottom of the window ledge. I ran my hand along its sleek, smooth length. It was as soft as the expensive clothes made from micro-fiber silk fabric I can’t resist touching in some of the spendy-er stores.  I wondered just how many sleeves of exactly how many denim jackets had leaned an elbow out that cranked down window to wear the paint off in such a manner.

I recall my grandfather wore long sleeved blue chambray shirts all the time when he farmed. A fair skinned man of German decent, I cannot ever remember seeing him in anything but long sleeves except for a glimpse or two of him in his stark white t-shirt before donning his shirt to head out in the mornings.

How many chambray cloaked arms had hung out this very window to chat at the elevator, waiting to unload in a bumper-to-bumper line? How many heads rested on a bent elbow arm here while waiting to be summoned by the combine driver that he was full and ready to unload? How many times had the window been left down allowing a passing shower to wet the seat and help time and the sun rot away the fabric? How many a gloved hand had reached up and grabbed onto this very spot where the paint is missing to help hoist them up into this very truck?

How many loads of corn or wheat or beans had been loaded and unloaded in this very truck? How many mouths, human or livestock, were fed because of it? This truck had seen dry land farmed local corn yields go from 70 bushels per acre in 1965 to 190 plus in 2009.

To some it is a sort of junky looking 45-year-old grain truck and to others it is memories in the making. I would be willing to bet my husband can tell you when, where and how much he bought this truck for at whose auction and, most likely, the names of anyone who has ever driven it since he has owned it. There is value in that alone. It is priceless.

When you see something worn just so like the door of this farm truck I want you to think of how it got that way and the history involved. Touch it. Absorb it. Some things outlive their usefulness and some day this truck will, too. It is my wish that some day, at some sale on some farm somewhere, someone is able to run their hand along the top of this door where hundreds of arms have rested and say a little prayer for all who helped it get that way.

Safe in the shed this farm truck waits as the time to harvest draws ever near,
Rest your arm on the place with the worn away paint, I’ll close the gate, you steer.

Old Farm Truck Volume 1

A photo of Nancy KraayenhofStrange things fascinate me. I find myself looking at things from statistical and probability points of view and I want to know how things got to be the way they are.

For instance … in order to get the barrel train out of storage for our church picnic and the combine out to get it ready for harvest we had to rearrange the storage shed we were using. It was my job to crawl into the seat of the old 1965 grain truck we fondly call the “Ton-er” and steer it while husband, Doug, pulled it out of the way with the tractor.

In case you didn’t know it, I am a girl and getting into the seat of a truck that has been sitting in a farm building for a good nine months or so without moving is no easy task. First of all, there are spider webs stringing from the outside mirrors to the box going past and weaving through the door handles, and though no arachnids are apparent, I know they are there somewhere just laying in wait to attack whatever is planning to disturb their spun homes. Secondly, this is not what you might call a sealed vehicle and the creatures that have surely made their homes in and under the seat and around what’s left of the floorboards are also waiting to assault the unsuspecting female instructed to disturb their abodes.

I am not disputing the value of this truck. It starts right up, runs and drives well when equipped with a charged battery. The hydraulics dump the box with the best of them, the sides are sound and it certainly has worth. The baby blue exterior would shine right up with some wax, I’m sure. However, the seat and interior have seen better days. The sun, time and just outright use have taken their toll on the inside of this vehicle ... I’m just saying.

I try not to be a wimp, and I really do attempt to do as instructed. "Get in the truck and steer it while I pull it" should have been much easier than it was turning out to be. I quickly scanned the area for a stick, a rag, anything that I could use besides my hand to clear away the webs blocking my entry. I thought of kicking them out of the way but considering they were about or over chest high, that option was quickly dismissed as my high-kicking days have diminished to rare occasions and I had planned to walk the next day. There was nothing.

Suddenly, my knight in shining armor (jeans and a t-shirt) noticed my obvious hesitance, dismounted his steed (tractor) and calmly cleared away the webs and opened the door so we could get on with the task at hand. I glanced at his retreating back instantly wishing he had offered to remove his shirt to cover up the seat with the rotting foam rubber exposed and full of Lord only knows what kind of creatures, but no such luck.

I tried not to look at the mouse-poo laden floor; “Buck up, little soldier,” I told myself, held my breath, climbed in, pushed in the clutch, moved the shifter to neutral and the pulling commenced. I flashed back to a time several years ago when the same scenario was taking place and Doug said that the brakes in the truck didn’t work. He was pulling me down a back street in Steen and I decided to test his statement. The first time I hit the brakes they went to the floor with no results but the second time! They grabbed like a child’s hand in a candy jar and about yanked the man off the seat of that tractor. Suffice to say he was not amused. I vowed this time I was going to use all my will power to keep my foot off the brake and, trust me when I say; it took about all I possess.

I noticed several things on this little trek and I really can’t wait to tell you about them, however….

They limit the number of words I can use; I’ve taken up the space that is mine,

I guess I’m just forced to leave this gate open and finish my story next time, hands dirty!

Shedded: Urban Versus Rural Meaning

A photo of Nancy KraayenhofWe went to watch our son, Blake, perform in a Fraternity/Sorority dance competition awhile ago at the university he attends. His group was amazing and, deservedly, took first place. We are so proud of all our children and we make no bones about telling them so … don’t get me started.

While on campus, I went to use the restroom and was amused to listen to some alumni reminisce about their days in these halls. It was the kind of conversation that is privileged for the ladies room, and you can bet your bottom dollar that their children were nowhere around. Their laughter packed memories thickly filled the air but were quickly pushed aside when some giggling students flittered in.

I overheard one of the co-eds tell another that she had gotten totally “shedded” the night before and was still feeling the effects.

The gears in my mind instantly started to turn. Hmmm. Shedded? From the context that she used the word I assumed (and hoped) that it meant drunk, but I would have to do some research.

Back home I consulted some younger friends, and they were not familiar with the term either so I went to the seldom failing Internet. After doing a quick search, I determined that I was right with the drunk guess.

Shedded means intoxicated in “Modern Urban,” which is now considered its own language. Don’t ask me why because I haven’t a clue and who decides these things anyway? Beats me.

Now, shedded is a word that I have heard frequently in the past few years though I really don’t ever remember hearing it before I met my husband, Doug. He speaks a form of “Antique Rural,” which I have decided is also a dialect of its own. I am learning it slowly but still slip back into my City tongue in the blink of an eye. You can take a girl out of the city ... you know the rest.

Nevertheless, I have learned that shedded is a term used to describe a piece of farm machinery, usually for sale, to illustrate that it has been kept mostly out of the elements.

In want ads and auction posts the word is used almost as a term of endearment. It means that whatever is for sale was important enough to take up sought-after and limited shed space. And if it was significant enough to shed, it is a good bet that it was maintained well, too. I guess shedded is to farm machinery as garaged is to cars.

I have also been educated that there is no mistaking true “shedded” and an experienced eye can tell a counterfeit. The weather has a way of taking its toll on everything and I have yet to see an SPF 60 sunscreen that works on an antique farm machine or tractors. Of course it will probably be the next thing that comes down the pipes. I can see it now: Shedded In A Bottle; One-Minute-Shedded; Shedded on the Spot. You’ll soon be able to spray on shedded like an instant suntan, and I’m sure my husband’s language will come up with an expressive word for it, and it aint-a-goin-ta be pretty.

I wonder if shedded would be a word I would use to describe myself? Sometimes, like us all, I don’t exactly feel well cared for. I experience the elements bearing down on me, and it makes me feel weathered. At times like this that I pray for a boost, and you know what? It always comes. Sometimes it’s not instant, but it arrives like needed rain when I expect it the least. I share what I gain and my experiences of grace with you, and it raises me up even higher. I thank you for the opportunity.

“Modern Urban” twists an “Antique Rural” word into something less than great.

May you always feel valued and shedded, and I will, in grace, close the gate.

Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult – I’m Nancy Kraayenhof.

For the Farmers

When my father-in-law, Ed, passed on to heaven in September of 2007 I woke up in the wee hours of the day of the funeral and sat down and wrote a poem for him. It was read by the pastor at his funeral and printed in our local paper.

Recently I was privileged to receive a phone call asking for permission to use it on an obituary for a local farmer. I was honored and touched by them wanting to use it and thought the readers of GRIT might like to see it. Let it remind you of the farmer in your life who has passed on to glory. 

Close the Gate (For Dad)

For this one farmer the worries are over, lie down and rest your head,
Your time has been and struggles enough, put the tractor in the shed.

Years were not easy, many downright hard, but your faith in God transcended,
Put away your tools and sleep in peace. The fences have all been mended.

You raised a fine family, worked the land well and always followed the Son,
Hang up your shovel inside of the barn; your work here on earth is done.

A faith few possess led your journey through life, often a jagged and stony way,
The sun is setting, the cattle are all bedded, and here now is the end of your day.

Your love of God’s soil has passed on to your kin; the stories flow like fine wine,
Wash off your work boots in the puddle left by blessed rain one final time.

You always believed that the good Lord would provide and He always had somehow,
Take off your gloves and put them down, no more sweat and worry for you now.

Your labor is done, your home now is heaven; no more must you wait,
Your legacy lives on, your love of the land, and we will close the gate.

Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, I’m Nancy Kraayenhof. Share your comments, questions or ideas with me at Nancy861@msn.com 

Sqat

A photo of Nancy KraayenhofLiving and growing up in the city for more than three decades, moving to the country took some adjusting. One of the things that I had to get used to was the variety of smells.

We have a few head of cattle in a yard about a hundred yards from the back door of the house and when the wind is just right (or wrong) ... Well, you know what I mean.

My spouse, Doug, forever the farmer, has been known to step out the back door, inhale deeply and comment, “Smells like money!” I am sitting here telling you that money does not smell like that where I come from. It seems, however, that my senses have adjusted, and lately I hardly notice an ill breeze.

Manure. That is the word used in the agricultural community. I do not dispute its existence (who could?) or its usefulness as fertilizer. God, in His infinite wisdom, certainly thought of everything. What I object to is the word itself.

Manure. Been there, dung that. We have used the stuffing out of that word, and I propose a change. I am starting my campaign here but plan to take it on the road.

I predict that one day my idea will catch on and the utterance of “manure” will be a thing of the past. It will join words and phrases like horse haimes, singletree, shocking grain, wire check planting and milking stool. Obsolete.

Once I decided that a new term was needed, my task then became the search for the perfect word. I searched high and low (considering the topic, it was mostly low) and finally found what I was looking for on the Public Broadcasting Station.

One day my little daycare chickadees and I were watching the travels of “Buster Bunny” on PBS. Buster wanted to see a wild moose on his trip to Canada. Some local children were helping him track when they came upon some moose droppings. They referred it as “scat.”

Scat is a term long used to describe animal droppings by trackers and I would like to suggest the agriculture society adopt the term, with a twist. Let's replace the C with a Q to make it agriculturally uniQue, if you get my drift.

Sqat! What a perfect word! Short and eloquent, yet distinct and unusual. It rolls off the tongue like water off a duck’s back.

Sqat. A word that could only be confused with trackers’ scat or telling a cat to go away unless you see it in writing.

My husband, Doug, besides doing a little farming on the side for the sheer joy of it, used to be a territory manager for a company that sells ag equipment. One of the products he represented for his dealers was a brand of spreaders. Doug was a serious agent of his goods, and he certainly knew his sqat. When it comes to sqat throwers, my husband is a natural.

Sqat spreaders come with different brand names: Slinger, Scavenger, Pro Push, Hydro Push, Hydro Spread, Honey Wagon, etc. During my research I discovered there are also many slang names that are not suitable for print.

I predict, once the word “sqat” catches on, it won’t be long before one sees the name “Sqatter” or, even better “Sqatterer” on the side of a massive distribution machine.

I close the gate on the word “manure.”
“Sqat” is much better; you’ll agree I’m sure.
I’ll need your help and now that you’ve heard,
Get off your computer and go spread the word!

Brownies for a New Year

A photo of Nancy KraayenhofI cannot believe the year 2010 will begin in a few short days. I accept as truth that I have some resolutions to make; some changes that could definitely make me a better person if I take them to heart and make them a reality.

Seems everyone promises to spend their hard earned dollars more wisely in the future. I would like you to consider the following scene:

Imagine it is Wednesday. A day I have come to know and love as “homemade brownie day.” I want brownies; I love brownies and, doggone it, I work hard and I deserve to eat brownies one day a week.

Brownies ready to eat.I stop at the store and pick up the ingredients necessary to bake my brownies from scratch. But before I get home, I begin eating because I am so hungry for brownies and simply cannot help myself. I knock back a couple of eggs; chew up some butter and sugar and wolf down a load of flour and cocoa.

Yuck!

I pull into the driveway completely disgusted with myself. I try to hide the evidence, but it’s all over my face and the front of my coat. And the worst part: Eating the brownies was not nearly as satisfying as I had dreamed. It was, in fact, anything but enjoyable. The ingredients for my scratch brownies are gone, and now I feel ashamed and embarrassed.

It’s an absurd analogy, but it illustrates the foolishness of eating food that has not yet been prepared. The very same components that made me sick could have, with timing and work, become a culinary masterpiece. They were not for eating; they were for preparing first and then for consuming.

It is equally foolish and unsatisfying to spend money that has not first been managed. To manage money simply means to take full possession of it, to subject it to a specific plan and then direct it accordingly. It is a matter of creating a season of ownership between receiving and dispersing. Managing money is a learned discipline, a personally gratifying process.

When money flows into your life, you are responsible for what it does, where it goes and how it performs. You are the boss, and you have power over it. You can watch your cash drift away and out of your control, or you can administer it according to a recipe that you have developed.

There are a lot of things that can be beyond your control in this life, but your money does not have to be one of them.

With the New Year soon upon us, a lot of people will target you with schemes to help you keep those resolutions that you should or should not have made. Soon we will be bombarded with advertisements for fitness equipment, gym memberships, weight loss associated groups and many others. These companies will all be vying for, not our health and well being as they would like us to think, but our almighty dollars. They are in business, you know, and their purpose for being in business is to make money. Approach with caution. Do your homework and follow your plan.

Close the gate, reign in your spending, be patient and brownies you’ll bake,

And always remember to gift away a slice of all the cash you make.

Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, I’m Nancy Kraayenhof.

Just Fred

A photo of Nancy KraayenhofFred Eickhoff was a farmer; first, foremost and to the end. He loved the land and watching things grow. There are no other words in the English language that better describe what I remember of my Grandpa Fred. He was quiet, unhurried, hardworking and good to his word. A fair skinned German; he wore long sleeved light blue chambray shirts, blue denim jeans, carried a handkerchief and donned a brimmed hat when he worked outside. He spent his entire life near Wood River, Nebraska, where he worked the land for more than sixty years with his wife, Dorothy, by his side. Laboring with his hands and his heart, they raised four fine children in a loving, Christian home.

Together they made a good living growing crops in the sandy Nebraska soil back when flood irrigation was done with ditches and tubes. It was hard, muddy work before the days of pipes with gates you open and close like battery compartments on toys. I am told when times were good, they were very good, and when times were bad they were worse.

My mom’s siblings all stayed near the farm, while we lived five hours away and visited about six weekends a year. When we came for holidays there were always plenty of cousins, big family dinners, barn kittens, three wheelers, barking dogs and gravel roads. I knew this side of my family from a distance as an occasional visitor in their world; an entirely dissimilar world to mine. Distance was measured in sections and eighties versus the city measurement of blocks that I knew. Cousins rode busses together to small town schools, drove vehicles and farm equipment at an insanely early age and had farm chores in addition to the house chores and homework I was used to. Their lives were as different as night and day from mine. Not better, not worse, just different.

My brother, sister and I were three of fifteen grandchildren and the only ones that did not live nearby. It was a big family, the times were happy, and I loved all my relatives. Not because I particularly knew them, but because we were family and that’s what you did.

I reminisce about my grandfather now as it nears Christmas because I recall one year when my grandmother had ordered a leather belt with grandpa’s name stamped in the back as a gift for him. When she placed the order with the local western and tack shop and the salesperson asked what she wanted stamped on it, she said, “Just ‘Fred.’”

“Just Fred?” the salesperson asked.

“Just ‘Fred,’” my grandmother replied.

The order was placed; the belt picked up, wrapped and placed beneath the tree. On Christmas morning when he opened the present, there was the handsome tooled leather belt proclaiming “Just Fred” on the back. Although it was a mistake, he was delighted with it and wore it for as long as I can remember.

“Just Fred” was enough for him. It was a humble statement that fit him to a tee. It was a conversation piece that performed double duty by holding up his pants. You would be amazed how many people commented on it, and, true to his gentleman and farmer life, there was always time for a cup of coffee and the story of how it came to be.

Seems every idea I try to relate and every opinion I have gets edited into a 600-word space. I wonder if “Just Nancy” would be enough for a belt for me to state, and, if it was, would I slow down enough to answer the question from a stranger on how it came to state that.

At Christmas time I try to recall that I come from a farmer’s bloodline,

It slows my pace and eases my journey and closes the gate just fine.

Add comments below or e-mail to Nancy at Nancy861@msn.com.