I’m not sure if this pic should represent the second generation on our farm or the first.
I’ve often felt so far behind, especially when I read about or hear about the success of other farmers. that I need to console myself generationally. “They’ve been doing this a lot longer than me,” I think. “They had parents and grandparents to teach them.”
And then I really panic – “Am I teaching my kids enough?”
This past weekend we had the opportunity to find out what they thought.
Most of you may remember that we’ve switched cattle breeds over the past year, selling off our Highland cattle and restocking with a cross of a breed called Southpolls. And what do farmers do when they start with a new breed? They go to the breed association shindig, of course.
Paternal Forbearer, Elijah (my oldest), Bedford (my sister’s #2), Andrew (my #2) and I donned our best wannabe farmer outfits and headed for the wilds of East, Central Alabama last Friday for just such an event. Upon arriving at the registration table, one of the ladies helping out asked the boys if they’d be interested in the junior member speaking competition. They fit into the age groups and there were serious cash prizes ($150 for the winner!).
The boys momentarily shed their apathetic teen coolness when the promise of a cash prize tickled their ears. But only momentarily.
“I dunno, maybe.” They mumbled.
Dad and I tried to encourage them, but the idea was very new and not their own. We silently agreed to wait and see what would happen. There was plenty of time, afterall. The contest wasn’t until the next day.
The breed gathering moved forward, Friday turned to Saturday morning and, upon inquiring, I could tell Bedford was steeling himself for a shot at the cash prize. Elijah was waffling a bit, but I saw the hook in him. Andrew, well…I was pretty sure he wouldn’t speak.
Before you knew it, speech time rolled around and first went the younger age group. Just before zero hour Andrew confirmed that he wouldn’t speak. “No problem,” I said, remembering how scary it really is.
Bedford and Elijah were resolved, though. Elijah had flitted past several times already, jabbing me questions, and throwing back ideas. Where he was talkative, Bedford was pensive but I could see him preparing.
The premise was all pretty simple. They had to speak for just a couple of minutes and try to answer the question – How can we get more young people involved in the beef industry?
I threw out suggestions like lacing beef products with chemicals to make people want to eat more. “They already do that, dad!”
I stepped back and shut up, clearly I was taking this too lightly.
And then it happened. These little boys, suddenly most of the way to men, stood up and spoke. I won’t claim their speeches were the best. What I heard and saw, though, did make my eyes water in a strange, stinging fashion. Maybe that was the dust in the barn, but in front of me were two incredibly self-possessed, poised young men, unafraid, talking about growing up on their family’s farm, being made to work, learning to love what was at first onerous, and explaining that such had given them character, understanding, and the ability to express their genuine love for what God had placed in front of them.
When they finished speaking, I was certain.
It was all the dust in that dang barn.
But it didn’t end there. After all contestants had spoken, they were called up front for judging and prizes (I won’t go into the Y-deficient, chromosomally-biased judge panel) and the MC announced that a generous member had just made a donation to the prize pool. This meant that all participants received $100 for just speaking. First Place in each class received an extra $150 on top of that. Neither boy won, but they didn’t care. They’d just pocketed $100 each!
Then they disappeared. Really. Gone.
There was a speech next, so I was distracted for a bit, but about 30 minutes later I started craning my neck around, trying to spot the farm’s newest orators. At the greatest limit of neck rotation, I spotted Elijah 50 yards behind me casually chatting up a very attractive young girl. “Hmmm,” but before I could even think “Isn’t that interesting,” I spotted Bedford, not 20 yards away, calmly walking away from me while he chatted up a pretty red-head.
I had to stifle a bellowing laugh! Those two had faced the number one greatest human fear – public speaking – head on. From what I could tell, they had just boldly conquered number one on their list of “Most Terrifying” and prospered. Now they were simply checking off number two – talking to the prettiest girls around.
Maybe this farm isn’t raising animals.
Maybe we’re just raising good men.