Doing What’s Right – Even if it Costs

28 Jul


By: Tom Heck

Doing What’s Right – Even if it Costs

                We bought our farm in 1991, and I learned very quickly that it was impossible to get my crops planted early in the spring. It was usually late May before I could work the land and plant my seed. The problem was I had so many wet spots in my fields that wouldn’t dry out till then. By planting that late, it really cut into my crop yields. Back then, I was way in debt and couldn’t do anything about it though.

Then, 1993 came along, the year of rain, rain and more rain that caused so much flooding throughout the Midwest. I did get our crops planted, which was remarkable, but there were plenty of ruts left in my fields to show for it!

I figured my haying would go better, after all, I wasn’t pulling heavy tillage equipment through the ground. I was just cutting and harvesting the hay off of the land. Think again! I had a small, light Farmall 560 tractor pulling a nine-foot-wide haybine. And it sunk in nearly up to its rear axles. Then I did the only thing I knew to do: I called up my neighbor, Howard Sr., and asked him to come down and pull me out. He was more than happy to give me a helping hand, and brought down his International 1466 with dual tires on it and pulled me out.

Well, with all the rain, we had a tremendous crop of hay. Somehow, between all the rain and mud, we got our hay made that summer. We were so blessed to have such a large crop of hay put up to feed our dairy cattle over the winter.

Our corn crop was a totally different story though. I had planted our corn mostly on our low ground and it looked terrible. It was way short with real small ears on it. By leaving a lot of ruts in my fields, I managed to get it chopped off and into the silo. It filled my silo only a good half full. In a normal year, I could have filled it full and had a fair bit to combine. So now I was forced to buy all the grain that I needed to feed my cows for the next twelve months.

During all this time, I kept looking over at my neighbor’s crops. They were doing real well, and he wasn’t getting stuck in his fields either. I did a lot of thinking that winter and said to Joanne, “I think we should look into putting drain tile into the upper corner of our farm here. If we would have had it in this last growing season, it would’ve made a huge difference in our corn crop, and would have helped our hay out a lot too.” She was open to it, but questioned whether we could afford it.

I called up a man that installs drain tile for a living and had him come and look it over. He readily agreed with me that drain tiling that part of the farm would make a large difference in our cropping operation. He then gave me a price quote on it, and it nearly floored me. It would cost over $5,000. We were making so many payments on so many loans at that time, that there was no way that we could afford it, and I told him so.

I could see he was deep in thought as he went to his truck and drove up the road to my neighbor’s place. Little did I know what he was up to! He went to my neighbors to ask them one question: “Was I good for my word and my money?” They said, “Yes.” Then he came back down to my place and told me what he had just done. To say I was surprised, would be an understatement! He then told me he would install the tile early in the spring, and that I could make monthly payments to him till I had him paid in full. The Bible is most certainly correct when it says, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” Proverbs 22:1.

Joanne and I talked it over and agreed to it. Early in the spring he showed up with his equipment and went to work. As soon as he had the tile installed, the water started to pour out of it. We got our crops planted the earliest ever that spring, and got the most beautiful crops off of that part of the farm that we ever had by far.

The next spring I was out there in the field working ground when an older man in a pickup stopped by the edge of my field and walked out to me. He introduced himself as Richard, and explained that he farmed the land way over on the other side of the freeway from me. He commented how nice my fields were looking, and I told him what a difference the drain tile had made. He agreed and said it had made a mess for him in one of his fields. It turned out that the water coming out of my tile line was going through a long culvert under the freeway and coming out into one of his fields. That field of his had been wet to farm already, but now it was much worse.

I told him I was sorry and that I had no intentions of causing him any harm. Richard replied, “Well we have a problem now.” I said, “What do you suggest we do about it?” His response was to run a tile line from the edge of the field were the water was coming in at, over to the creek. He went on to say that since it would really benefit and improve his field he would pay for half of it and he wanted me to pay for the other half. Richard figured my half would come to $1,000.

I swallowed hard, a thousand dollars was a lot of money for us. But, I said yes to it because I could see that what I had done was hurting him. The Bible clearly teaches us that we are to bless our fellow man, not hurt him. And if we do accidently hurt him, we are to make it right the best we can. So to say, “Yes” was not a hard decision to make.

Richard called up the drain tile man and told him that I was going to pay for half of it. Then a very upset drain tile man called me up. He told me that I had no business paying for half of it. State law says that once the water leaves my property, I have no responsibility over it anymore. He said in a court of law the judge would favor me. In other similar cases the judge always had favored the landowner upstream. I told him that I didn’t care about that. What mattered was that I had hurt Richard and that it was only right for me to make amends for it. That would be pleasing to God, and to Richard, and to myself. Well, he didn’t see it that way and hung up very upset.

Richard got the tile line put in and sent me a bill for over $1,200 which was a fair bit more than he had estimated. I paid it and was thankful to have the mess I created straightened out. Even though the law may have been on my side, and I wouldn’t have had to pay a penny, it wouldn’t have been right. It is always best to do what is right in God’s eyes. When we do, we are always blessed and there are no regrets with it.