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Give It Enough Snort

15 Feb

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Give It Enough Snort

                It was one of those falls up here that was wetter than normal. We had gotten our corn silage chopped off and now we were going at our high-moisture corn. I always hired my neighbor, Howie, to come with his combine and two trucks to harvest my corn. While he combined, I would unload the corn into the roller mill that rolled the corn and then blew it up into the silo. Usually things would work pretty well and we could get it done in one to two days.

But, this fall was different, the fields were very wet. Howie parked his trucks on my field road and started to open the field up with the combine. That went fine. As he started to get more of the field off, he had me park the trucks in my field close to where he was combining so that it would be faster for him to unload the combine. I was hesitant to do it, but followed his instructions. He filled the truck way full of corn and the truck started to go down a little.

When I got back to the field with the other empty truck and saw the loaded truck sunk down about six inches already, I felt we were in for trouble. Howie said to me, “Give it plenty of gas, Tom.” Now a grain truck loaded full doesn’t go very fast in first gear even with the gas pedal to the floor. I went ahead about four feet and the truck died. The back end had sunk in a good two foot deep! It was not a nice looking sight.

We looked the situation over and Howie said, “If we try to pull that truck out loaded, we’ll just pull it apart. To which I readily agreed. We went and got Howie’s big four wheel drive Case tractor and two scoop shovels. Back in the field, we drove the other truck alongside the stuck one and then started shoveling corn from the one to the other. By the time we had it almost empty, we were about wore out too. Then we drove the good truck out of the field, and hooked on to the other one and pulled it out with the tractor, all in one piece.

After that, Howie had me park the trucks on higher, drier ground, even though it meant he had to drive a little further to unload his combine. It was late afternoon by the time we got that field done. Since we still had some daylight left, we decided to start my marsh cornfield.

We were being very careful where we parked the trucks for him to fill them; we had learned our lesson very well earlier in the day. Howie got the outside rows all off without any problem whatsoever. So I assumed this field would go just fine. But, there’s always the unexpected. On the other end of this cornfield, I had about two acres that was way too wet to plant in the spring. I had to leave it lay idle all summer long and it grew up in weeds.

When Howie got to the other end, instead of just turning the combine around on the headland, he made a big turnaround out in the weedy hunk, or I should say that he tried to. He got half turned around, and the one side of the combine went down to its axle. When I got up there, I was astonished at what I saw. It was not a pretty sight after a long day of hard work. Howie wasn’t too happy over it either. I asked him, “Why did you go out in that wet area?” To which he replied, “It didn’t look wet to me.”

Howie and I talked it over and we agreed that we would never pull the combine out with its hopper nearly full of grain. We also agreed that we didn’t dare drive an empty truck in there either, neither one of us wanted another stuck truck. So we went and got a tractor with an empty grain wagon and backed it in to the wet area just far enough so that we could unload the combine. After that, we were able to drive the tractor and wagon out of there.

Then we went and got Howie’s big tractor from the other side of my farm where we had left it after pulling the truck out earlier that day. We hooked it up to the combine, and I could tell Howie was real uneasy about it. He said, “If that other tire goes down, I don’t know how we’re going to get it out.” I had to agree with him; I was uneasy about it too.

As I headed to the tractor, Howie’s last words to me were, “Give it enough snort.” We both knew that we only had one chance to get it out with that tractor. I said a quick prayer. When Howie was in the combine and ready, I tightened up the chain and pushed the throttle almost wide open. I wasn’t going to fail by not giving it enough snort. The Lord blessed and the combine came out, for which we were both very thankful and relieved. With the sun almost down, we decided to call it a day.

Every year when we combine corn here, I always think back to that and to what Howie said, “Give it enough snort.” That’s how we need to live our lives, to the fullest, to the glory of God. So many people today live such empty, selfish, meaningless lives. But with God they don’t have to.

Howie passed on a short time ago, but he lived a full life. He was a loving husband, father and an excellent, hard working farmer. He was also a wonderful neighbor and friend to us. I could never have asked for a better one. I’m sure someday I’ll see Howie on the other side, and we’ll smile as we think back to that night down in my marsh when he told me to, “Give it enough snort.” I’m sure too, that there will be no stuck trucks or combines for us in heaven.

A Pearl Harbor Christmas

18 Jan

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

A Pearl Harbor Christmas

                Even though it happened many years ago, lots of Americans remember Dec. 7, 1941 as Pearl Harbor Day. It was the day that Japan attacked the United States, without a declaration of war, and killed thousands of Americans and destroyed so much of our naval force and air force at Pearl Harbor. In the days following the attack, both Japan and Germany, declared war on the U.S. It was a very bleak time for Americans as they were now entering a huge world war. What would the outcome be? Victory or defeat? Would we even have our own nation anymore, or would somebody else take away our blessed liberties and rule over us? In early Dec. 1941, with all the death and destruction, nobody knew the answers to these questions. Many though, prayed and trusted God, and two and a half weeks later celebrated the birth of our Lord and Saviour. It may have been in a more subdued way, but they still celebrated His birth which was most certainly the right thing to do.

Now I wasn’t alive back in 1941, but on Dec 7th I usually think back to that terrible day in American history, and thank God that He brought us through victoriously as a nation. And it was on Dec. 7th, just a few years after we bought our farm here, that we had our own “Pearl Harbor Day”. On that day, I headed out to the barn to milk and feed the cows. It was windy, and bitter cold out, -20 F. Little did I know what waited for me on the other side of the barn door. As I opened the door and stepped in, I was horrified at what I saw. There were so many of our beautiful cows laying dead in their stalls and gutter and other cows had busted out of their stalls and were standing in the center aisle.

I was floored, what had happened in here in the night? When I had left the barn the night before the cows were all healthy and resting comfortably, what happened? I looked at the first few dead cows and realized that they had been standing up and instantly dropped dead because their feet and legs were right underneath them. The only thing I could think of that would kill them instantly like that would be electrocution.

I immediately opened up my main circuit breaker panel and looked at all the breakers and to my amazement, I found one that was thrown. So I was pretty sure my hunch was right. Joanne came out and was as shocked as I was. I explained to her what I thought had happened. We went to work and got the loose cows into stalls and tied up. Then we fed and milked them. They were very touchy and uneasy. When 7 a.m. came, I called up a master electrician, my vet, my insurance agent and my good neighbor, Howie.

The electrician showed up and verified what I thought. Electrocution. What happened in our barn should never have happened. Many years ago, a previous owner, had plumbed the barn. He ran the water lines over the two main beams in the barn to water the cows on each side of the barn. Later on, a different owner ran an electrical wire next to the water line on top of the beam to run a small fan he’d installed in one of the pens. After many years, with the water pipe vibrating from the cows drinking water, it wore through the insulation on the electrical wire and on that fateful night killed a lot of our cows. A cow would take a drink of water and get killed instantly as the current would flow right down the water line. Fortunately, after a while, the circuit breaker threw. The electrician said to me, “Your’re lucky all your cows aren’t dead in here. Normally in a case like this, they’re all dead.” I myself don’t call it luck; I call it the mercy of God.

The vet showed up and verified how many cows were dead, their body weights and their condition. Surprisingly, my insurance agent wouldn’t even come. My neighbor, Howie, came with his skid loader to help me get all the dead cows out of the barn, which was no easy job. The problem was, I was so busy dealing with these other men and making phone calls to my insurance agent, that I could hardly help him. But, he understood and went to work on it.

And then I was in for one amazing good surprise in this horrible mess. Howie’s dad, Howard, drove into our yard in his car. He came right into the barn and got down in the gutter and started to put the chain around a dead cow’s leg so Howie could get her out of the barn. He did this over and over again. I was shocked, here he was in his early 80’s and here he was helping us young farmers out in our day of trouble. I of course thanked them very much when they had them all out. They were just glad they could help us out. A fair bit later on, I said to Howie, “I’m amazed your dad at his age came down and helped get those dead cows out of our barn, it was no easy job.” Howie’s response, “Of course he would, he wouldn’t just sit in the house when a neighbor needs help.” Good neighbors are priceless and a real gift from God I believe.

During all of this, another thought kept going through the back of my mind, “Would we be able to keep our farm?” We had a young family and were way in debt, and now with the loss of all these cows, would we be able to make it? I knew we had to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep praying and believing God.

We ripped out the bad wiring that same day. The vet highly recommended that we not buy any cows to replace the dead ones because of the trauma the other ones had been through. He said bringing in new ones would just add to their stress. I did not plan on buying replacements; I didn’t have the money to do it, period. We were committed to taking as good of care as we possibly could of the cows we had left. So we did, unfortunately, in the next couple of days, some of the remaining cows got terrible mastitis or sick and we ended up selling them.

The rest of the cows we were able to bring through. Lots of prayer and TLC. But then we had another big problem come up. The insurance company did not want to pay us for the dead cows. My insurance agent said he couldn’t confirm that I even had any dead cows. I told him that if he would’ve come out he could have seen the dead cows. But, I had a written report from the master electrician, another written report from my vet, and my neighbors as eyewitnesses. I sent him the written, signed reports. To which they responded, that maybe it was disease or something else that killed my cows.

So things got better in our barn in the following weeks, but not with the insurance company. We knew that we desperately needed that money to keep going and making debt payments since our milk checks were much smaller. Things were looking pretty bleak and Christmas was just around the corner. What were we to do?

We decided that no matter how many dead cows we had or the problems with the insurance company, we were going to celebrate Christmas, the birth of our wonderful Lord and Saviour. Instead of looking back at dead cows, we looked even further back at a stable in Bethlehem. Even though we didn’t have much money to buy gifts with, it was such a blessed Christmas as we looked beyond our problems and once again saw the love of God in the birth of our Saviour. Oh, how we needed that Christmas to renew our love and joy for what we had just been through and for the challenging days ahead.

We all in our lives will have a “Pearl Harbor Day”. It may not happen on Dec. 7th like it did for us, but I can tell you they do come.   But, the good news is that God is there waiting for you to call out to Him. He will see you through. Don’t give up on God; He doesn’t give up on us! He proved that many years ago on that first Christmas.

So what happened after that? God saw us through. We kept praying for a fair insurance settlement. After Christmas the electrician and vet both asked me how the insurance settlement came through. I told them it hadn’t and what the insurance people were saying. The electrician got very upset about it and told me he would testify for me in court if it came to that. The vet, well he got angry, and said that he would also go to court on our behalf. I also asked him about a couple of big medical words in the autopsy a different vet did on one of the cows. He readily explained them to me and told me the insurance company had absolutely no grounds to stand on in denying our claim. Shortly after that the insurance company called me up and told me they couldn’t settle the claim because of those big medical words. I asked him if he knew what those words meant, to which he replied he didn’t have a clue. I explained them to him and then he said he would settle the claim since he had no grounds to deny it on. A week later we had our check. Shortly after that, my insurance agent informed me that he thought it would be a good idea if I got a different insurance company. I readily agreed and did so. Later on that spring and summer we had a bunch of heifers calve in to rebuild our herd with.

So God saw us through our “Pearl Harbor Day” and the days following, just as He saw our nation through years ago. I’ve learned years ago, that no matter how bad the situation is, we need to keep our eyes on God. And don’t let the problems steal our joy.

From our farm to you, have a wonderful, blessed, joyful Christmas.

Billy Graham – A Man Who Changed My Life

17 Aug

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Billy Graham – A Man Who Changed My Life

                A short while ago, the news came out that evangelist Billy Graham had died. Although he was 99 years old, when I heard of his passing, I had to stop and do a lot of remembering. I, along with a lot of other Americans, and people from around the world owe a lot to this man. It certainly can be said that Billy Graham impacted the world for God.

Billy had a big impact on my life; I know I wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for him. That is saying a lot, but it’s the truth. You see, in the home I was raised in, I was beaten and abused something terrible. I grew up with a very twisted, wicked mind set. As I grew up, I was a very sinful person. I hated the sinful life I was living, but I was powerless to change. I was becoming more and more like the people who abused me so.

Yes, we as a family were real religious; we went to church every week.   But going to a dead, religious church every week doesn’t change a person at all. The preacher would stand up in the pulpit and say to all present, “We are all so blessed, we’re all going to Heaven when we die because we’ve all been infant water baptized. All the people out there in the world are all going to Hell when they die though.” I sat there quietly with my head held down thinking, “They may all be going to Heaven in this church when they die, but I know beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I’m going to Hell when I die.” Today, I so thank the Lord for the Holy Spirit who speaks the truth to sinners, such as I was, who are on the road to Hell.

Because of the terrible abuse in my home, as a teenager, I started looking for a way out. It was so bad, and I was so desperate, that I started to think about suicide every day. And I most certainly would have committed suicide if it wouldn’t have been for one person – Billy Graham.

Billy was always faithful to preach the true Word of God. He held many crusades across the nation and around the world. After the crusades, he would broadcast some of them on national TV late in the evenings. We would normally get done with our evening chores about the time he would come on TV. My mom would always turn the TV on for them.

One of his sermons radically affected my life. His sermon text was from Rev. 20:11-15, “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” He preached on this and it absolutely terrified me. From that day on, and for years to come, every day when I would think of suicide, I would remember that text and sermon. I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that if I ended my life, I would end up in the lake of fire for eternity. I knew what I was going through at home wasn’t as bad as the lake of fire.

Things at home were so bad however, and I was becoming more wicked and life seemed absolutely hopeless that one day shortly after my 18th birthday I nearly committed suicide. If it wasn’t for God’s mercy and good medical doctors, I most certainly would have died. How I so thank God for His great mercy and grace.

Life went on, totally hopeless and without meaning or purpose. And then, two years later, I got a letter in the mail from the Billy Graham ministry advertising a book they were selling called Meeting God At Every Turn written by Catherine Marshall. In the book Catherine told of a personal loving God who was alive and real, who would forgive a person of all of their sins, and guide them through their lives and use them for His glory. I had never heard of a God like this before in my life. And I most certainly had never seen this in my home or church. I had to check this out, it sounded way too good to be true, but for a person on the verge of suicide, what did I have to lose?

So I ordered the book and after several weeks it arrived in the mail. Through that book, I came to see and know the true and living God! After reading that book, I got down on my knees with tears running down my face and confessed my sins to God and repented of them. Then I asked Jesus to come into my heart and be my total Lord and Saviour. I told Him my life was worthless, but I was giving it totally to Him and if He could use it at all for His glory, He could. Back then I couldn’t see or dream how He could possibly use my life at all, but I gave it totally to Him. When I got off my knees that day, for the first time in my life I knew love, I knew forgiveness of all of my terrible sins and I had a reason for living. Life was finally worth living, and I never ever thought about suicide again. I have followed my precious Lord and Saviour all these years now, and the longer I follow Him, the more I love Him, and the sweeter it is. And someday I will not step over into the lake of fire, but I will cross that final shore and step over into Heaven and see Jesus face to face and spend eternity with Him!

Billy Graham, my friend, is now gone, but how I thank God for him, and I know I most certainly will see him too on the other side.

The Cat-Killed Apple Tree

23 Jun

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

The Cat-Killed Apple Tree

                Sometimes in life we take on a project and no matter what we do, it seems to go wrong, wrong. And no matter how hard we try to correct it, it still keeps going wrong, but if we stick with it a long time, it will turn out well, although it may be entirely different than what we planned on in the first place. Such is what happened here over many years with one of my supposedly simple projects.

My family really likes to eat fresh apples, and since our part of the country here is great for growing apples, we’ve planted several apple trees on our farm here over the years. After a while, I decided it would be nice to have an early maturing apple, so that we could start enjoying them earlier in the fall. I also decided the perfect place to plant it would be on our small grass island between the house and barn. It would look nice there and a person could easily pick an apple off of it on the way to the barn. Since our power pole with all the electrical lines going off of it to the different buildings is also located there, I bought a semi-dwarf apple tree and planted it a little ways away from the pole. Since it was a semi-dwarf tree, it shouldn’t interfere with the pole or power lines. I thought I had a really good plan. I couldn’t imagine how anything could go wrong with such a simple plan. But, things don’t always work out like they’re supposed to.

I ordered my tree and planted it in the spring of the year. It took off and started to grow real well. I was pleased with it. After a few years the totally unexpected happened, our barn cats decided that they really liked that tree too, and started going to it constantly clawing into its bark. Now I’ve never before or since ever had them do it, but that tree they loved doing it to. They did it so much that over time they killed our beautiful apple tree. They literally clawed it to death.

Now, the apple tree I had planted was grafted onto wild rootstock. The wild rootstock sent up a shoot that really took off and grew. So after awhile, I cut off the old, dead tree and let the new one grow. For some reason the cats didn’t bother this one. And boy, did it grow! It was a beautiful tree and it hardly looked like an apple tree. After several years it started to get apples on that were mostly a good medium size, bright red, very firm and super delicious and that ripened later in the fall. We were very disappointed that the cats killed our early maturing apple tree, but very thankful for this one. We have no idea what kind of an apple tree it is, since it grew from wild rootstock, so we just call it our Cat-killed apple tree.

As I said earlier, that tree took off and really grew. It wasn’t a semi-dwarf anymore at all. It wasn’t long and it was up to the power lines. And it showed no signs of stopping any time soon. I realized too late that I had planted that tree in the wrong place, considering our cats and the power lines. So, what was I to do with one of my favorite apple trees? I decided I better prune it way back to about 12 foot, which I did. I figured I would have to keep pruning it way back the rest of its life.

There was one other problem with the tree that I didn’t like, that I really couldn’t fix. When it grew up off the side of the old, dead tree, it grew at quite an angle, thus making it more of a hazard to go down on our driveway someday. Well, a couple years after pruning it way back, we got a powerful storm through here out of the south and it tipped it way over, so that it was leaning just above the driveway. Why it didn’t take it down on the driveway, I don’t really know. But, there it was, leaning way over.

What to do now? I hated to cut it off since it was such a beautiful tree and we really liked the apples; they were some of our favorites. Yet, I couldn’t leave it like it was, and if I straightened it back out; it would soon grow too tall for the power lines again. I was in a predicament with it.

I finally decided there was only one possible solution: transplant it. I had never transplanted that big of a tree before in my life, but since we all liked it so well; we decided to give it a try. The first thing I had to do was to cut it way back, if it was going to have a chance of making it. And did I ever cut it back, down to five foot tall. Then I put the tine bucket on our skid loader and stuck it in under the trunk of the tree. Since the storm had broken a number of roots off already, my skid loader was able to lift it out without too much trouble bringing a bunch of roots with it. Then I hauled it up the hill, up by our old shale pit area and planted it there, where it’s out of the way of everything and it can grow as tall as it likes. And yes, produce a lot of super delicious apples for us.

Joshua and I dug a large hole to get all the roots in and then as we planted it, I took a level and made sure we had it perfectly straight. That’s the first time in its life that its even been close to straight. Well, the tree lived, and now this last fall I picked a five-gallon pail full of Cat-killed apples off of it.

I had to overcome many difficulties with that tree to get an excellent apple tree out of it. Sometimes it looked hopeless, it was very challenging to say the least, but I’m glad I didn’t give up on it. There have been many things in my life over the years that looked almost totally hopeless, but this one thing I know, with God there is always hope. We just need to look to Him. And if we do, God will work on us and for us, for our good and His glory.

 

 

 

 

Our Cat-killed Apple Tree Today.

The Big Bang

4 Apr

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

The Big Bang

                It was a beautiful, warm, late summer afternoon and I was enjoying every minute of it. I was busy baling a heavy third crop of alfalfa hay off of my upper-marsh hayfield. I was baling hay with my old 276 New Holland hay baler that I had bought used 24 years before from John, who was the implement dealer in my hometown. It had served us very well over the years, baling many thousands of small square bales for our cattle to eat.

This was to be our last day of hay baling for the summer, and we were looking forward to having it done for another year. We had been blessed with an excellent hay crop and the haymow in our barn was filled to the roof. I had already baled a few loads off that day, and I only had a load and a half to go. I was baling along at a good speed in heavy hay, and the baler was really putting the bales out fast. And then it happened, a tremendously loud bang. It was iron smashing against iron. I grimaced when I heard it, I knew it wasn’t good.

I immediately stopped the tractor and went back and looked at my baler. It was a terrible sight. The heavy input drive shaft that runs the gear box, that runs the feeder fork assembly, that feeds the hay into the bale chamber had broken. It broke when the feeder fork assembly was in the bale chamber, so when the bale plunger went back, it was iron meeting iron. The result was a big bang and a terribly busted up hay baler. Needless to say, I was done baling hay for the day. I had a neighbor come the following day and finish baling it for me.

In the following weeks I called around to salvage yards and machine shops trying to come up with parts to fix my old baler. It was nearly impossible to come up with all the parts on that old of a machine. I did eventually find all the parts I needed, but they were very expensive. A number of the men I talked to told me it would cost far more in parts and labor than what the machine was worth. I didn’t like what they said, but I came to see over time that they were 100% correct on that. So I ended up retiring my old hay baler.

Every once in a while, I hear or read of a so called “expert” who’s promoting the “Big Bang Theory”. They claim that all the planets and that life itself came about from a big explosion or “big bang”. I just have to shake my head, “No.” I am amazed that anybody can actually believe that. I remember the day that my hay baler did its big bang. Did it run better afterwards? Did it make better hay bales after that? Did it evolve and run all by itself after that? The answer to all these questions is absolutely, “No.” After its big bang, it was junk! So how do people think that this universe and life itself could come about as a result of a big bang? I must admit to believe that takes a whole lot more faith than what I have.

                I do know though, that a loving, eternal God created all this. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”   And what is even more amazing is that man sinned and made a terrible mess, but God sent His Son to redeem us back to Himself. I know this to be true, for years ago, I knelt down on my knees one day and repented of the terrible, sinful life I had lived, and asked Jesus to forgive me, and to come into my heart and be my Lord and Saviour. And life for me has never been the same since. Did a big bang save me? No. But a loving God certainly did!

The Most Fun Thing We Did

5 Dec

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

The Most Fun Thing We Did

It never ceases to amaze me how sometimes my kids will say something out of the clear blue that totally surprises me. Such is what happened here a while back. I was working in the barn with Catherine one day when she asked me a question that caught me totally off guard. She said, “Dad, you know what the most fun thing was that we did here last summer?” I was busy working, not thinking about that at all. I had to stop and think a minute about her question. I could think up a number of possible answers: when we went fishing at the lake, or when we went to the park and saw all the wild animals in the zoo and played a game. I really didn’t know how to answer her question so after a minute I replied, “No, what was the most fun thing we did here last summer?” By turning the question back to her, I couldn’t possibly come up with the wrong answer! And it’s a good thing that I did because I would have never come up with the right answer. Age does bring some wisdom.

Her answer really surprised and blessed me. “You know those three weeks we spent fixing up that old chopper we bought? That was the most fun thing we did all summer long.” I was amazed at her answer. More fun than fishing or going to the park or playing some fun games? Absolutely Yes.

We had decided to buy a good used chopper to use for chopping corn silage in the fall. I wanted to buy one that was an older model so that it wouldn’t cost me a lot of money. I asked around and found a farmer that had one sitting in the back corner of his shed. Joshua and I went to look at it one day and made the mistake of not taking a flashlight with us. It was dark in the corner of the shed and hard to see it good. The farmer assured me it was in excellent working order. The price he was asking was a little on the high side I thought, but if it was as good as he said I thought it was maybe worth it, so I bought it.

He delivered it to my place on a Sunday afternoon and left. As the kids and I started to look it over, we were a little disappointed at its actual condition. I said to the kids, “Well, we bought it; we’ll have to do a little fixing on it.” In the middle of the summer we went to fixing on it. We started out replacing the roller chains on it and then we saw sprockets and gears that needed replacing. And yes, bearings too, along with other stuff that needed fixing or adjusting.

We started visiting our local implement dealership at least two or three times a week buying parts. Catherine and Joshua were by my side all the time helping me fix the chopper and buy parts. It was a little disappointing that we found so much wrong with the chopper, but we kept a good attitude and kept working on it as a team. The kids were eager to help me fix on it every day. It’s amazing how fast the barn chores got done on those days so that we could get at the chopper!

After three weeks, we had gone through the whole chopper and had it in good running condition. Except for one minor breakdown, it worked excellently for chopping corn that fall. We were all very pleased and smiling, especially after all the work and money that we had put in it.

Looking back on it, I’m glad that I bought the chopper, even though I spent more for it than I should have and it took more work and money than I had planned on to get it in good working order. But, when a dad can get his daughter and son saying, “That was the most fun thing we did all summer long.”, what for a price tag can you put on that? When they have big smiles on their faces afterwards over a job well done, what for a price can you put on that? When they comment on all the good corn silage that the chopper put up for our cows to eat, what for a price can you put on that?

The kids won’t remember how much I paid for the chopper or how much I spent in parts. They will remember how we worked together in love as a family fixing that old chopper up and doing an excellent job on it. Those are things that are priceless.

So parents, work with your kids, have them help you, they will learn a lot and you will too. You will all be blessed if you work together in love and harmony. Someday down the road when they say to you, “Dad, you know what the most fun thing was that we did last summer?” You may be shocked and very pleased at their answer, I know that I was.

Noodles – Our Talking Cow

28 Oct

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Noodles – Our Talking Cow

Animals are much more intelligent than most people realize. While many people know that cats and dogs know their names, and many dogs will obey certain commands, what about a cow that will carry on a conversation with a person? Sounds kind of far-fetched, but I have a cow that will talk with me. Now, many of us are familiar with Mr. ED, the talking horse on the TV show from many years ago. He would talk only to Wilbur Post, but as we all know he really didn’t talk, that was Hollywood.   Our cow Noodles though will talk to any one of us.

When a person is born into this world, they are given a name, so likewise, when we have a calf born here, we give them a name also. And we call them by their names the rest of their lives. When we go out to the cow pasture to bring them to the barn, they will usually be scattered all around, lying down enjoying the day and the lush green grass, with the barn swallows and red-winged blackbirds flying about singing to them. We start calling them by name, and one by one, when they hear their name called out, they will rise to their feet and head towards the barn.

Now you ask, “A real talking cow?” My answer is, “Yes, but not quite like you think.” Let me introduce you to Noodles. She is a cross-bred cow that is a Montbeliarde- Ayrshire- Holstein. She is black and white in color and very friendly. She is an excellent cow and a joy to have in our barn. And normally we talk to her everyday and she likes it.

But how does she talk you ask? I’ll explain. We ask her questions and she always answers by shaking her head yes or no. Sometimes this comes in very handy when we want to find out information that we don’t know. But, we always test her first to make sure she understands us and is telling the truth. We ask her questions first that we know the answer to, such as, “Do you like good corn silage?” She will respond by shaking her head up and down. Then we will ask, “Do you like moldy hay?” She will respond by shaking her head sideways saying, “No.” Then we will ask if a cat ran in front of her in the last couple of minutes and she will tell us that correctly. When we are sure that she is clearly understanding us and answering our questions correctly, and she always does, then we ask her a question that we don’t know the answer to. A question I asked her just recently was, “Did a coyote go through the pasture last night when you were out there?” She responded by vigorously shaking her head, “No.” I was relieved with her answer since I have a cow calve out there at night sometimes and I don’t want a coyote killing a new born calf.

Noodles is a very special cow to us, but then all our cows are. It amazes us how God has made all the animals so unique and special.   One thing really unique about dairy farming is interacting with all the different animals. It’s wonderful when we can take good care of them and they let us know by a soft moo or a gentle lick of their tongue or a light bump with their nose. It blesses us. How much more isn’t it with God when we His children love Him and say, “Thank you” to Him for all His wonderful care for us. And how much more shouldn’t we do that considering He gave His only Son Jesus to redeem us back to Himself. If Noodles talks to me, her owner, and she most certainly does, how much more shouldn’t we talk to our Heavenly Father who loves us so?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Noodles in the cow pasture.

Aside

Christmas Brings Hope Even In Difficult Days

11 Mar

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Christmas Brings Hope Even In Difficult Days

                Christmas is the most wonderful season of the year, a season full of love, hope, and giving. A season that blesses us all. Or at least it should be that way, but unfortunately it isn’t always. Sometimes it can be a very difficult season.

I had a very challenging Christmas back in 1992. Joanne was expecting, and this pregnancy was not going well for her. As a result, I was doing almost all the farm work here. On Dec. 13, early in the morning, Joanne went into labor and had to be flown by helicopter to Minneapolis Children’s Hospital where she delivered our son Joshua. He was born weighing only one pound ten ounces. The doctors gave him little chance of living, and they said if he did, he would probably have serious problems the rest of his life.

It didn’t look good at all, actually it looked very hopeless in the natural, but with God there is always hope. Joanne and I had been praying for months for Joshua already, so when this happened we just kept on praying. Don’t limit God: God can do anything. God loves to do the impossible for praying people.

With Joanne in the hospital with our new-born son, I was alone here on the farm. I talked to Joanne late every night on the phone. The question came up, “What do we do for Christmas this year?” After talking it over, we decided we would celebrate it as much as was possible like normal. We decided though that this year, I would have to get the Christmas tree from our big woods by myself.

Since I was going from early morning till way late at night just doing all the chores on the farm here, I came up with an idea to save me a lot of time in getting our Christmas tree. I was spreading manure from the barn every day on my cornfield down by the big woods. Earlier that fall, I had noticed a beautiful nine foot tall pine tree right on the edge of the woods there. So a couple days later, I took my hand saw with me, and once I had the manure spread I stopped and cut the tree down. I had my 560 Farmall tractor that does not have a cab on it, on the spreader. I got back onto the tractor and decided to drive with my left hand and hold my Christmas tree by the butt upright with my right hand. I guess I was quite a sight driving my tractor through the fields and then up the township road with my Christmas tree towering over me and the tractor! It was extremely difficult hanging onto that tree when I was going up the township road in road-gear. By the time I got home with my tree, I had decided that I would never bring another Christmas tree home that way ever again.

Next, I got the tree into the house and trimmed down to the right size, then I set it up in our living room. Then, I got to do something I had never done before in all my life: I got to decorate it. And I enjoyed it. By the time I got it done, it looked pretty nice.

There was something special about that Christmas tree all decorated and lit up in our living room. It was like it was full of hope and life because by it we were once again going to celebrate the birth of a baby boy born many years ago. That baby boy was Jesus, and His parents were going through some very difficult days too. Joseph couldn’t even get a room for his wife, Mary, to have her baby in. The best he could do for her was a stable with some livestock in it. Then a short while later, they had to leave in the middle of the night and flee to Egypt because King Herod was committed to killing their son. They had very difficult days, but I believe what the angel said to Mary really helped to see them through. “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Luke 1:37. Joanne and I fully believed that the same God who saw them through would see us through also.

So that Christmas, Joanne, Catherine and I celebrated the birth of our Lord and Saviour around our special Christmas tree. And what a joy it was as we trusted Him to see us through our difficult days. Little did we know what lay just ahead in the next couple weeks.

In early January, Catherine started to cock her head side-ways a lot. So we took her in to see the doctor, and to make a long story short, we ended up taking her over to Minneapolis Children’s Hospital to have open-heart surgery. Without it they said she wouldn’t live much longer. So now Joshua and Catherine were both patients at that hospital, and Joanne was staying there with both of them. I was once again on the farm here by myself. But I really wasn’t by myself, I had Jesus, the one whose birthday we had just celebrated a couple weeks before.

And yes, Joanne and I kept walking in faith, hope and love believing God to see us through. He saw Mary and Joseph through, so why shouldn’t He see us through our difficult days too? And He did. Catherine came through her open-heart surgery well and has grown into a beautiful, young woman. And Joshua is a very strong, hard-working young man today. What can I say, “For with God nothing is impossible.”

God is still in the business of seeing people through difficult days and situations. He gives hope when in the natural things look bleak. I’ve found out that sometimes in the darkest days, His light shines the brightest. Because of Christmas we have an eternal hope no matter what dark days we go through here.

Your Kids Will Remember

8 Feb

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Your Kids Will Remember

This past summer I went out early one morning to crimp the hay in my upper hay field next to my cow pasture. It was a beautiful morning with the sun rising in the east and a gorgeous blue sky. I always like to pray and fellowship with my Lord at this time. The birds were active, chirping and singing out praises to their Creator. The barn swallows were swooping down close to my hay field to catch bugs and insects, then climbing back up in altitude before making another dive. They are very entertaining to watch – better than TV most of the time!

I will go out and cut hay one day; and then early on the morning of the second day, I will go out and crimp it. What is “crimping,” you ask? The hay when I cut it on the first day is green, full of moisture and heavy. I usually cut it so that I leave about four inches of stubble. The fresh-cut hay lies on top of the stubble, which is good, so that the air can move through it and help to dry it, along with the sunshine. After cutting it on the first day, as it starts to dry, that force called “gravity” starts to pull it down into the stubble. By the second day, it’s really down in the stubble so that the air hardly moves through it any more to dry it. This is where the hay crimper comes in. This machine, which I hook behind my tractor, has two rolls in it about six feet long. As I drive down the swath of hay, the crimper picks the hay up out of the stubble, gently crushing the stems of hay between the rolls, which helps it dry even more, and then gently lays it back on top of the stubble to finish drying. It makes a world of difference.

Then the next day I can go out, rake it up, and bale it for our cattle. We get extremely high quality hay for our cattle this way. If we don’t crimp our hay, it won’t dry near as well. We would end up with moldy hay, which the cattle don’t like, and which is somewhat toxic to them. On rare occasions I have seen farmers put up really tough hay that in time started on fire and ended up burning their barns down. Needless to say, I’m a firm believer in crimping hay.

On this particular morning, I had the whole field crimped, except the one last swath of hay, when it happened. I heard a bang and looked back to see that the drive shaft on the crimper had busted. It not only busted, but it got ripped up really bad. I picked up some parts and headed for home. I was thankful that I basically had the whole field crimped, but very disappointed over my machine. When I got home I told my family I thought it was probably the end of the line for the crimper. My hay crimper is really old – about 50 years old. They quit making them about 45 years ago. I do have a hay tedder, which is much newer, and it basically does the same job, but it just doesn’t do as good of a job. Sometimes the old stuff is the best.

My son, Joshua, was greatly disappointed that it might be “curtains” for our old hay crimper. He kept on me over the next couple of weeks asking me if there wasn’t some way we could fix it up. I told him I didn’t know – we would have to see. So we made it a matter of prayer. Well, we finished haying, and I started to check into getting it fixed. As I said before, the drive line had gotten busted up really bad and needed a number of parts to fix it. I went to the implement dealership and they were able to pull the machine up on their computer. The computer told us there were no longer any parts available for it and that the company had listed the machine as “obsolete.” It wasn’t looking good for our crimper, but my kids kept saying, “Isn’t there some way we can fix it, Dad?”

Well, we found a couple old crimpers that had been retired, but they were different brands and the parts just would not interchange. My kids still didn’t want to give up on it, so after quite a number of phone calls, we came up with a possible solution. We special-ordered some parts in through a machinery parts house and then had to take them to a blacksmith shop and get them machined just right. Also I was able to get one old part off of a junked-out crimper that my brother, Paul, had. Then it came time to put it together.

It didn’t go too good, with old shields, bolts, bearings, and different parts from many different sources. But after many days and hours of work on it with my kids, we got it all together and working excellently, as good as new. Our kids, along with their parents, were greatly elated over it.

Afterwards when I was talking to my friend, Jeff, telling him the whole story, he made a comment which really surprised me. He said, “The biggest thing is, your kids will remember how you worked with them and had all the fun of fixing that machine up every time they see that machine in the years to come.” I replied, “I never thought about that, but I guess you’re probably right.” And right he is! My kids, along with myself, will remember it for years to come and take great satisfaction in it. We also will remember that God answers our prayers.

There’s real satisfaction in a difficult, challenging job well done. So, parents, do challenging things with your kids. It will be good for all of you. You will all learn from it and your kids will remember it for years to come. We are very glad we got our old hay crimper fixed, and so are our cattle. They like high-quality delicious hay to eat.

 

My Shop Foreman

1 Jan

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

My Shop Foreman

                My wife, Joanne, is like a lot of women: she likes to go to thrift sales. As she tells me, “Sometimes you can get some really good deals there.” Sometimes some of the things she brings home make me raise my eyebrows, wondering if she got a really good deal or if the seller got the best end of the deal in selling them to my wife!

Many years ago, when Joanne went into town on some errands, she happened to go by a place that was having a thrift sale. Since she had the time, she just had to stop and check it out. She got a few things there that day really cheap. At the time, I had no idea that one of those things would so change our lives!

What was that thing you ask? A stuffed polar bear, teddy bear, that stood about 15 inches tall that was real white except for the ends of his four paws and the insides of his ears. They were all bright red. When our young son, Joshua, saw him, he fell for him right away. So we gave it to him and he named him Beddy Bear. I’m not sure where he came up with that name, but that’s what he named him, and he’s been his favorite stuffed animal all these years.

So how did Beddy Bear so change our lives you ask? Well, it’s kind of my fault. Shortly after we got him, I got working on a project in my shop one day with Joshua, but then I had to go and do some other farm work. I thought Joshua could maybe finish up that part of the project without me, but I wasn’t sure. So to really motivate him, I told him if he and Beddy Bear could finish it up, I would make Beddy Bear Shop Foreman. Joshua’s eyes got really big and he said, “Really?” To which I replied, “Yes.”

Well, he went at it with all his heart and got it done, doing a good job. So now all of a sudden, I had a shop foreman named Beddy Bear. Every day when I would open the shop up, Beddy Bear would get right out there, he certainly didn’t want to get fired. And every day, we would all have big smiles on our faces having Beddy Bear out there. Normally, when I would pull up to the shop with a tractor, Beddy Bear would get into the tractor’s seat to supervise us.

Many times we will get to working in the shop in the afternoon on a piece of equipment or something else, and won’t get it done until we’re a half-hour to hour late for supper. It’s so nice to get a job done though, and not put it off for another day. So when we come in late for supper, which is quite often, I just tell Joanne, “That highly-productive shop foreman that we have wouldn’t let us quit until we had the job done.” With that we all smile and she replies that she knows.

After a little while, Beddy Bear’s super white coat started to get a little dirty from being in the shop so much. So it was Joanne to the rescue: at another thrift sale (wouldn’t you know it), she found a child’s small red t-shirt and a small pair of bib overalls for him. With a little work, she got them to fit him just fine. So now, every once in a while, she does his laundry with ours!

It didn’t take us long to realize that the bright red on his paws and ears was a bad case of, ‘Red Tractor Fever’. Since we run the red International tractors here, what else could it be? I would tease Joshua that I should take Beddy Bear into town to the vet so he could give him a shot to help him get over his Red Tractor Fever. But Joshua would protest loudly, “NO, he likes his Red Tractor Fever.” And we would all smile and laugh.

Beddy Bear didn’t always want to sit in the shop though, especially when there was field work to be done. Joshua would always try to get me to take Beddy Bear to the field with me. I would protest saying, “What will the neighbors think if they see me out there with a polar bear? Or what will an animal rights group do if they see a polar bear on my tractor?” With that he would reply, “What difference does it make? Beddy Bear wants to go.” With that we would all smile and laugh. It was easy to take him: all I had to do was tie him with a twine string to the slow moving vehicle sign that was on the tractor’s fender. Then he could ride along all day long with a big smile on his face, keeping me company.

He did have a couple close calls on the tractors over the years though. One time I went out cutting hay and after a while I noticed he wasn’t on the fender. I looked all around and saw him hanging by his britches from the tractor’s three point arm just above the PTO. I quickly retrieved him and was thankful he was all in one piece yet. Another time, he got a hot spark from the tractor’s muffler that burned a small black spot into his white coat. I was sure relieved, that it didn’t burn him all up. I tell Joshua that it probably isn’t the best thing for Beddy Bear to go on the tractors with me, but he just smiles and says, “Beddy Bear wants to go.” And with that we laugh and he goes for another tractor ride, helping me drive the tractor.

Since Beddy Bear is my shop foreman, he has a lot of say in my shop. Joshua tells me that he doesn’t like poor quality tools made in China. In my early years of farming here, I bought some of them because I couldn’t afford the American made ones. I’ve come to regret it too. They just don’t stand up. So, when I get these tool salesmen calling me on the phone trying to sell me their cheap China made tools, I just tell them, “No.” They usually won’t quit there though, so then I tell them that my shop foreman won’t like it at all if I get those tools, because he wants quality tools. I go on to tell them that I have an excellent shop foreman and I can’t afford to lose him. With that we say, “Good-bye” and hang up the phone. My family is all grinning and laughing as they hear our conversation. Needless to say, I’m glad that the salesmen have never asked to talk to my shop foreman!

As you can see by now, we have a lot of fun in our work here. The Bible is so correct when it says, “A merry heart does good like a medicine.” We as parents have the choice as to what kind of life we will have in our homes. The choice truly is ours. I can’t urge you strongly enough to choose a godly, Bible-based life for yourself and your family, if you do, you will be blessed beyond measure. I know, I am, I even have a polar bear for a shop foreman. Furthermore, I have the most wonderful family in the world.

 

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Tom with Beddy Bear.