Larry Banman – Reliance on nature fosters a unique maturity
August 6, 2009
The whole process of picking a profession fascinates me.
Some people follow the footsteps of their father or mother and stay in the family business. As societies transform from family-owned businesses and farms to more industrialized and service-oriented occupations, that progression isn’t quite as natural.
Sometimes, there isn’t enough room in the family business to provide employment for all of the children and the kids have to branch out on their own. Mobilization and increased educational opportunities help to increase those opportunities.
Like most baby boomers, I grew up believing that just about anything was possible, if a person was willing to work hard. My first choice was to go into the field of forestry. I can remember vividly when and where I was when I made that choice. I was filling a bucket of water for a few of the many pigs we had on the farm and I knew that I would have to make a choice about college in the near future. I realized that I liked to work outside but, at the time, I didn’t want it to be as a farmer. Forestry was the first thing that popped into my head so that is the direction I pursued.
I also remember a Sunday-afternoon conversation with relatives when I was asked why I had not stuck with farming. My father thought I would say it was the weight of the bales (I always took that as a reference to an aversion that I had toward working hard). My answer, however, was that I had difficulty being utterly dependent on the weather for my survival.
I grew up in tornado alley and there was always the threat of the total destruction of home and property. However, even at an early age, I understood the concept of insurance and I had seen people recover from disaster. Growing up in a Mennonite community, I also saw how our community always rallied around those who had been in the path of a twister. But tornadoes weren’t the threat that troubled me the most.
We didn’t irrigate our crops on our farm, so we were completely dependent upon nature to provide the moisture needed to grow the wheat that was our primary source of income. And, when the rains came, we had to hope the storm clouds didn’t contain hail, which caused far more damage than the tornadoes which gather all of the headlines.
I was reminded of my decision this week as I talked to a couple of ranchers about getting their haying done. All of the moisture that has provided the rest of us with the beautiful green vistas is playing havoc with the efforts of local ranchers to harvest perhaps their most precious commodity. Raising cattle is a tough enough proposition without the threat of having to purchase hay to feed stock throughout the winter. The profit margin likely isn’t high enough to absorb an expense of that magnitude. As an aside, this really isn’t a good time to drag out the “we can always use the moisture” comment.
It made me think again about why a person would willingly choose to be a farmer or a rancher. Ranchers wear cooler clothes and they get to ride horses, but the fundamentals of both are not that much different. The work is hard, the hours are long and the financial rewards are far from secure.
There is something to be said about being your own boss, about never having to punch a time clock and about seeing the actual fruits of your labor. But, I wonder, if there isn’t also something to be said about being reliant on the weather. There are some ways in which life doesn’t get any more clearly defined. Nature is something that man hasn’t yet figured out how to control. We have devised ways to store water and use it when needed. Obviously, we haven’t figured out a way to shut it down to conveniently follow our schedules.
For my father, it was a matter of faith. He believed that God would take care of our family. Regardless of what came our way, he steadfastly believed that his plan needed to be a part of His plan. Part of that meant we never (ever) worked on Sunday. Another part of that meant that when hail ruined a crop he didn’t shake his fist and the sky and demand to know “Why me?”
Relying on something bigger than yourself has its frustrations but it also has its rewards. Learning to accept the things you can’t control is part of a process that produces a maturity that often only comes with time and experience. It is what comes to define part of who we are and how we relate to who and what happens in life.
In looking back, I would like to think that my answer today might be different.
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