Great-Great-Grandma Elbert Had The Answer For Today’s Problems

3 Jul

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Great-Great-Grandma Elbert Had The Answer For Today’s Problems

                There are people who lived years ago, that the world considered just ordinary people. But, the lives they lived, and the influence they had, goes on long after they’re dead and gone. Such was the life of my great-great-grandma, Mary (Marie) Elbert.

Mary Ziehlsdorf was born in Germany on June 24, 1834, and as a child gave her life to God. Later on her family immigrated to the United States settling in Wisconsin. There she met and married Philip Elbert. Together they farmed, working very hard to provide for themselves and their family. And what a family they had, eleven children!

Life wasn’t easy for them; they had lots of trials and challenges, obviously. And there were no government programs to help them out. Moreover, they didn’t expect any help from the government. They worked hard with their hands and looked to God to provide for them, and He always did.

It didn’t matter what the weather was like outside, or what problems they were facing that day, Mary would always start her day with a song and prayer. I wonder, if all Americans would do that today, what kind of a nation would we have? I can tell you one thing for sure, it would be vastly different.

It was said of Mary that she was a ray of sunshine to her family and friends, a loving teacher and advisor. It was said that she always went to the Lord in times of trouble and she always encouraged others to do the same.

People today would be shocked and amazed if they knew what Mary’s greatest enjoyment in life was. Her family all testified to what it was: it was having her family gather about her so she could read them the Word of God.

It was said that her husband and children loved and adored her with all their hearts. The world would consider her just an ordinary woman, but I consider her a great woman, but what’s more important is that I believe God considers her a great woman. And in the end, it’s what God thinks that really matters.

In today’s world, we have many, many problems. Many people don’t know what to do or where to turn. People turn to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sports, tv, or many other things that don’t help them out at all. Mary knew where to turn and did it every day. To God: in the Bible, in prayer and in worship. And her testimony was that God never failed her. God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He will not fail you, if you come to Him like Mary did. I know, I’m Mary’s great-great-grandson, and He’s never failed me either.

No, This Is Good For Me

31 May

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

No, This Is Good For Me

                In our culture today, so many people complain about hard work. By the way they talk about it, you would think it’s something that should be avoided if at all possible. But wise people know better. It always makes me think back to an incident that happened years ago on our farm here.

The only way we had to heat our house here years ago was with firewood. So in the wintertime I would cut a lot of it. I was very blessed to have an older man who was retired who would come and help us quite regularly. He always enjoyed coming out to the farm and helping us. Lots of times he would come out once a week; so in the winter time when he was here we would usually head to the woods to make firewood. He was a great blessing to us and he greatly enjoyed helping us.

He was here one day in early March and before he left, he asked me a question. “Would it be alright if I brought my nephew, Dave, along next time I come? He’s a foreman on a bridge building crew and he’s been laid off all winter. He would like to come help us.” I replied, “Sure, I’m not one to turn down good help.”

The next week came, and they showed up at our farm. We hit it off well right away. Dave was a big strong guy that looked like he had chosen the right career. Since I had two strong men to help me that day, I had decided to harvest a great big, old, twisted-up oak tree that leaned out over one of our fields.

They were ready and eager to go at it. We got the tree cut down and brushed it out and then started cutting it up into hunks of firewood. We loaded the smaller hunks onto our trailer, and the bigger ones we started to split with a mall and wedges. I didn’t own a wood splitter back then so that was the way we had to do it. Bob did most of the chainsaw work, while Dave and I did the splitting and loading of it.

The sun was getting low in the sky by the time we were down to the last two big hunks of wood to split and load. Dave was all done in; he hadn’t worked this hard in a long time. He was so worn-out, that he got down on his knees to split the last two hunks. I was really worn-out too, but I felt bad seeing Dave down on his knees swinging the mall for all that he had. I said to Dave, “I can finish that.” His response?   “No, this is good for me.” I was shocked to hear him say that. I replied, “Dave, you’re all worn-out, I can finish it.” His response back, “No, this is good for me. The bridge building plant I work for got sold and the new owners are coming in next week. I’ve got to be there and I want to make a good impression on them. I use a mall and wedges often when I’m building bridges.” So I stood back and let him finish splitting those two hard hunks of oak.

Well, we got the wood home and they were about ready to leave and Dave came up to me and thanked me for letting him come and help us that day. I was surprised and thanked him for all his help. I told him that I should give him something for all his help that afternoon, but he wouldn’t hear of it. His response, “No, this was good for me.” With that they left and I never did see Dave ever again; although, I know he did go on to build many more bridges. And I’m sure he was a fine bridge builder with the work ethic that he had.

God created all things, and that includes work. Work should be enjoyable, profitable and fulfilling. I find it very fulfilling at the end of a long day when I can look back on it and see what we’ve accomplished. There’s a real satisfaction in it. I know Dave would agree with me on that, even when he was down on his knees swinging my mall!

 

The Flying Cat

9 Apr

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

The Flying Cat

                Years ago, when my wife and I bought our farm, some friends had a farmwarming party for us. Among the guests who came that day were Ed and Ruth from the local feed mill. The gift they brought us sure surprised us – a pair of Siamese cats. They obviously knew we could use a couple of good cats to keep the mice and rats in check. They were a beautiful cream color with dark ears and tails. And Ruth had to decorate them up with a pink ribbon around each of their necks. They were a very good gift.

Our barn became their new home and they adjusted very well. They became our pets along with being our rodent controllers. Our young daughter, Catherine just loved them. The male cat, Tom, grew to be a large cat and an outstanding hunter. One day I found him playing in the middle of the yard. He had caught two large mice and was playing catch and release with both of them at the same time! He would put both mice down and they would take off in different directions, then he would catch one and then quickly turn around and catch the other one.

I watched him in amazement for a couple of minutes and decided I better end his game before one of the mice got away. So I came up to him and started to pet him, and he let both mice go again. While he was catching the first one, I stepped on the second one and took it away without him seeing it. I took it to the barn and gave it to a little kitty that the other cat had had that spring. The little kitty ate it down quickly. I figured one mouse was enough for Tom with the way he was playing with them. I did notice as I went about my work that Tom stayed in that area for awhile looking for the one that “got away”. He seemed very bewildered by it. Needless to say, I didn’t feel sorry for him.

Well, winter came, and our cats hunted around the barn and silos for mice and rats. They were doing an excellent job keeping them under control. Tom was the real character though. You just never knew where he would be or what he would be up to. We could be milking cows and he could be on top of the main beam above the cows. The next thing, he would be flying over the cows, landing in front of them on a mouse. The cows would be so startled, they would jump back and the milker would drop off. We would just have to smile and say that Tom was doing his job.

Being that kind of a cat though was fairly dangerous. It almost cost him his life once. It was January, and I headed out to the barn in the dark to start my early morning chores. I pushed the feed up to the cows and went to the silo room to get the corn cart so that I could feed the cows their corn before milking them.

I opened up the door and stepped in a few steps to get the cart. All of a sudden a varmint came down on my head with its claws digging into my neck. I didn’t know if it was a raccoon or what, I just knew I had to get it. I reached around to the back side of my neck and got a handful of fur. I grabbed it and started to throw it down to the cement with all my might, intent on killing it. At the last split second a thought went through my mind, “That could be Tom.” So I stopped throwing him with all my might and just dropped him to the floor. Sure enough, it was Tom. He looked at me bewildered and ran into the barn. He was surprised at my rough treatment of him. What happened was he was sitting up in the rafters of the silo room hunting, and I came in, and I think a mouse must have run next to the silo chute, and he made one of his long jumps to get it and ended up landing on my head and neck.

Later on, even though I had scratch marks on my neck from him, I petted him and made up with him. They say that cats have nine lives, if that is true; I know he lost one of his that morning.

In life, in dealing with family and others, there will be accidents and misunderstandings. We need to be very careful in our responses, because wrong words and actions can cause a lot of hurt. There needs to be plenty of grace, mercy and forgiveness. I’m sure glad that I didn’t kill Tom that morning and that I was able to make up with him afterwards. In the Bible we are instructed to: Do onto others as you would have them do onto you. That is a good thing to always remember.

So Much To Be Thankful For

13 Feb

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

So Much To Be Thankful For

                With Thanksgiving here, it’s a good time to look back on the year and see how the Lord has safely brought us through another year and blessed us. This year certainly wasn’t an easy one. We had a hard winter with lots of snow and ice. When spring came, we found out that most of our hayfields had winterkilled. And spring into summer was very cold and very wet. It was a real challenge getting the crops planted, and there were some spots we didn’t get planted at all. I did manage to get my big tractor planted twice, which wasn’t hard to do. It was hard to get out though! My neighbor, Dean, pulled me out with his big, four-wheel drive tractor. I’m thankful for good neighbors.

First crop hay came, and we knew it wouldn’t be near as much as normal because of the winterkill, but we were disappointed at how little there was. Right after we had it off, we sat down as a family and talked the situation over, and decided we had better sell off a portion of our dairy herd to stretch our feed supply further. It was a tough thing for us to do, but it was the right thing. Unfortunately, it also made for smaller milk checks this summer. We do have a good group of springing heifers coming in over the next three months so we’re hoping to get our barn back full. That will be wonderful. We hate seeing so many empty stalls in our barn.

Second and third crop hay did fair and we got two cuttings off of our new seeding.

And then in the middle of all that, July 19th came. It was late afternoon and the skies turned very dark and the yard light came on. The skies then turned a pale green, and we knew we were in for a terrible storm. We headed to the basement and for the next hour prayed and watched out the window as the storm raged. When it was all over we went out to do evening chores and to survey all the damage.

We thanked the Lord, that we, along with all of our animals were all safe. Our sheds sustained a fair bit of damage and our electrical system was almost knocked out. We had lots of big trees down; one even went down across our township road totally blocking it. It was dark that night by the time we, along with our neighbors, got the road opened back up. I must say that there were other people who had a lot more storm damage than what we had. Our hearts and prayers go out to them.

We spent most of our summer fixing up our buildings, upgrading our electrical system, and cutting up trees. We have a lot more trees in our woods that will need cutting up. It’ll take at least a couple years to do all of them, but they will make good firewood to heat our home with.

With the cold, wet, late spring, our corn crop really struggled. We wondered if it would make it to maturity, so once again we turned to the Lord in prayer asking His blessing on it. It is so wonderful walking under an open heaven with our Lord, so that we can take all our cares to Him. He answered, and sent us some nice warm, sunny weather late in the season that really brought our corn crop along. We were amazed at how much corn silage we harvested per acre and at how well the corn yielded for grain.

So what can I say? It’s been a very challenging year, and yet a very blessed one. God is so good. He’s kept us all safe in His care this year, and our animals are doing well. I believe we have enough crops to see our animals through the winter ahead. We’ve gotten our buildings all fixed up, and God has provided all that we have need of. And in the middle of all that, what did we do? Our neighbor, Harley, took us fishing, and we caught a bunch of big, beautiful bluegills. That was a lot of fun – thanks, Harley.

There’s a song that says, Count your blessings, name them one by one, and you’ll be amazed at what God has done. The longer I live, the more I find this to be true. Every year on Thanksgiving Day we sit down at our table, with so much good food on it that Joanne has lovingly prepared, we go round and round giving thanks to the Lord for so many blessings that He has bestowed upon us. It would be good if everybody did that. It’s easy to look at the negative, but we here in America have so much to be thankful for. If you will be thankful for all that God has given you, it will change you and your outlook for the better.

A Very Challenging Spring

12 Oct

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

A Very Challenging Spring

                In farming, as well as in life, things sometimes go totally different than what a person expects or plans. This last winter proved to be a very hard one with all the ice, snow and bitter cold. Spring finally came and with it the realization that most of our hayfields had terrible winter kill. It’s the worst winter kill that I’ve seen in my entire life. And it’s not just my hayfields; it’s true of hayfields all across the Midwest.

Since our cattle eat a lot of hay, we decided to seed down a lot of new hay. That was a challenge though, since it started to rain and rain and then rain some more. In between all the rain we did manage to get a few days in which we were able to get the hay in. I did have to stay out of the lower corner of one of my fields though, since the ducks and geese were swimming around in it! Sometimes you have to plant what you can and leave the rest lie. I’m sure it will be a couple months at least before those acres dry out. We put in some long days to get it in, but I’m sure glad that we did, because right after we had it planted, it started to rain a lot again.

In between all the rain showers, we did manage to get our corn planted too. In the process of working that land, I did manage to plant my big tractor twice, and real good at that. And right after we got the corn planted, it rained a lot more again.

I must say that it’s been a very challenging spring, but God’s grace and provisions are sufficient. We are so thankful to the Lord that we were able to get our crops planted. Our hearts and prayers go out to the many farmers that haven’t been able to get their crops planted this spring and have had to leave many acres unplanted. As a farmer, I know it is very difficult to look at an empty field all summer long knowing there should be a beautiful crop there and there isn’t. No matter how bleak things look, God is always so good and faithful. When things look dark, that’s when we really need to look to Him and trust Him.

With our crops planted, we look to the Lord to bless the seed we sowed, that it will bring forth an abundant harvest. We desperately need it so that we can feed our cattle for another year, and so that we have food to eat too. We pray to the Lord to provide for us our daily bread every day, and rightly so. Sadly, many people in our country today don’t even realize where their food comes from, or whom they should be thanking for it. It would be so wise for them to thank the farmers who work so hard to produce it, and to thank the Lord who blesses and gives the increase. For without God’s blessings, we would all starve.

An Overwhelming Success

10 Aug

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

An Overwhelming Success

                Springtime on the farm is always a wonderful season, as the earth comes alive again, and the old winter is finally behind us. It’s exciting getting out in the fields and working the land and putting the tiny seeds into the ground, anticipating a bountiful harvest later in the season. Sometimes we don’t always get the harvest we hope for, but once in awhile we get far more than our wildest dreams.

Such is what happened many years ago on my parents’ dairy farm. Their farm had a lot of very steep, hilly land on it that we had to keep in hay almost constantly. It also had some nice rolling land and some flat land. Since we didn’t have much level land, that always got planted to corn.

We had one, twelve acre field that was flat except for one small sandy knoll in it. The rest of it was a sandy loam soil that grew beautiful crops of corn always. Well, the 1980’s came along and one year the government came out with the PIK program that paid farmers to leave half of their corn ground lie idle in order to raise the price of corn. My dad signed up for the program along with most other farmers.

One of the requirements of the program was that you had to put a cover crop on the land and clip it once or twice during the growing season. My brother and I suggested to my dad that we put that twelve acre field in the program since we had never had it out of corn for all the years we had owned it. My dad thought it was a good idea, so we did it.

For a cover crop, most farmers seeded the land down with a small amount of oats; it was cheap and met the program’s requirement. But, we got talking, and said, “Why not put a little alfalfa seed in with it and then that will put nitrogen in the soil, which will be beneficial since we plan on putting it back into corn the following year.” Pa didn’t really want to stick extra money in it, so we told him to go into town and buy one, fifty pound bag of the cheapest alfalfa seed he could get. And so he did.

Well, it came time to seed the field down, and so we set the grain drill down to just four pounds per acre. We got the whole field seeded down with one bag of the cheapest alfalfa seed we could get. If I remember right, I think it was Vernal. And then we clipped it during the summer.

The next year came and we hooked the plow up to the tractor to plow it under. We got out there and we couldn’t do it. That field had the most beautiful stand of alfalfa on it. We didn’t have another field on the whole farm that matched it. We ended up putting some other ground into corn instead.

We ended up leaving that field in hay for a number of years after that and took tremendous crops of hay off of it. What an overwhelming success, we could hardly believe it!

Over the years, I have bought a fair bit of alfalfa seed; normally the seed salesman will recommend seeding it at fifteen to twenty-five pounds per acre. When I tell them about my dad’s field years ago they always respond, “Well, if you had a real good seedbed, you could do it.”

Well, I always try to have a real good seedbed, and I always go for ten to twelve pounds per acre to be on the safe side. And I’ve always had excellent stands of hay. I was blessed to read an article by Dan Undersander of U W Madison in 2017 telling that 10 pounds of live seed per acre was plenty adequate with good seedbed preparation.

It’s nice in farming and in life when something turns out far better than we would ever dream possible. Like my dad’s hayfield. But, I know one thing that has far exceeded that in my own life, that’s in following my Lord and Saviour all these years. It’s far above and beyond what I could have ever expected. That doesn’t mean that life is always easy, or a bed of roses, but walking with Jesus everyday through it all, is the greatest life possible. I wouldn’t trade it for all the riches and pleasures in the world.

Special

27 Jun

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Special

                Some things that happen on our farm are difficult to write about, especially what happened here recently. But in farming, like in life, things don’t always go nice. There are hard times and disappointments.

In December and January of this winter, we have seen very little snow and a fair bit of rain, which is extremely unusual for northern Wisconsin. With the snow melting with the rain we received in January, and then getting very cold out, it turned large areas of our pastures and fields into glare ice. This makes it extremely slippery and dangerous for us and our cattle. We went about and put down lots of wood ashes, along with salt and sand to make things safer. It definitely helps, but it still is slippery and dangerous.

Our oldest group of youngstock have shelter in a shed, but they have to come out of the shed everyday to come up on the barnyard to get feed to eat and water to drink. This setup has always worked excellently for us.

Well, a couple days after we got all this ice, our heifer, Special, came up to the barnyard one morning and went down, hurting her back end. Catherine, Joshua and I went out to help her. We prayed for her and put a halter on her. Then we worked and worked to get her off the ice and onto the barnyard where she could get real good footing. She then was barely able to get up and she walked around with great difficulty. We thanked the Lord for this, and prayed asking Him for full restoration for her.

Now, our cattle come onto our barnyard from the north side, but that was all covered with ice, and I knew Special would never make it back off safely. I surveyed the situation over and decided that we would have to open the fence up on the east side of my barnyard. That was a little hard to do, since we had built a beautiful barnyard fence there just two years earlier. But for the sake of our cattle it had to be done, so that afternoon we went to work and did it.

Well, that evening, Special, along with her herdmates, went off the yard through the new opening in the fence all by themselves, without any problems. We were so thankful to the Lord. The next morning, our heifers all came up on the yard to eat except Special. We went to the shed and checked on her; she was standing up, but was afraid to come up to the barnyard because of what happened to her the day before. I certainly couldn’t blame her. We gently guided her out of the shed and up to the barnyard   through the new opening in the fence. She walked very tenderly, but made it alright. After that she made it fine everyday all on her own. And with every passing day, we could see her improving.

A week passed, and she acted totally normal again. Then we had a beautiful, sunny day and the heifers had to have something to do, so they went exploring out in their pasture. The older heifers led the way, with the younger heifers, Special included, following. They found a large area of glare ice that they thought they had to walk over. Two heifers went down on the ice, one was Special. The other one managed to get up and off the ice on her own, but not Special.

I was shocked that Special would follow the other older heifers out onto the ice after what had happened to her the week before. Well, we went to work again, and got a halter and got her off the ice, which was no easy thing to do. This time though, she didn’t get up. We prayed for her once again, and then left her lying comfortably. We hoped that in time she would get up again.

Unfortunately, this time it didn’t work this way. This second time made her injury much worse, and in the night she tried desperately to get up and broke her one rear leg. So then I had the terrible job of putting her to sleep.

I said to my family, “If she only wouldn’t have gone out onto the ice the second time, she would have been just fine. I thought she would have learned from what happened to her the first time on the ice. But she followed the older, supposedly wiser heifers, and it cost her her life. The other ones made it just fine, but she didn’t.”

So it is with people in life, we have to be extremely careful who we follow and what we do. Some people will lead us astray, and insist that what they’re doing is alright. That’s why it’s so important for each one of us to read our Bibles and pray daily.

Others will do sinful things that hurt themselves and others.  After they’ve done them, they may even be sorry for a while, but then they go back to the same old sinful things and it only gets worse. It can be alcohol, drugs, gambling or a long list of other sinful things. Some say that they just can’t get free from it, and on their own they can’t. And unless they get free from it, it will end up costing them their lives, and then a horrible eternity awaits them. But I know Someone who can set them free and keep them free. His name is Jesus. I know because He has done it for me. One day I got down on my knees and repented of my sins and asked Him to come into my heart and be the Lord of my life. He forgave me of my sins, and gave me power to overcome them all. He lives within me, and has given me a wonderful life; I wouldn’t go back to the old life for anything in this world. He can do the same for you; He loves you greatly and is just a prayer away.

A Land Flowing With Milk And Honey

7 Apr

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

A Land Flowing With Milk and Honey

                Growing up as a child, my mom told me a number of times of how difficult it was during the Great Depression. Her family had a dairy farm, but were deeply in debt, and thus had no money. But, since they farmed, they grew almost all the food they ate, so in that they were greatly blessed. And they had one treat back then that most Americans didn’t have: honeycomb. Yes, they had a lot of that in the wintertime, and they greatly enjoyed it.

My grandparents had a lot of woods on their farm and so they pastured their cattle in the woods. It was the children’s responsibility to go out to the woods every afternoon and bring in the cows for milking. And in their woods they always had wild honeybees. The children would always keep their eyes open to locate hollow trees with bees in them. Sometimes it wasn’t hard to locate them, sometimes they would have thousands of bees swarming around them.

My grandfather always told his children to mark the bee tree or remember where it was, which they always did. Then early in the winter, on a real cold day, he would go out to the woods with a bunch of Grandma’s big bowls, and cut the tree down, and with a butcher knife cut the honeycomb out of the hollow tree. Thus they had honey to eat all winter long.

I would always ask my mother, “Didn’t he get stung by all those bees when he cut their tree down and cut out all the honeycomb?” Her answer was, “No, by waiting till it got really cold out, the bees didn’t really bother him much.” I was amazed. Mom always said what a treat it was having that honeycomb to eat all winter long. They maybe were very poor, but they had a loving home with lots of honeycomb to eat!

Growing up, I never had wild honeycomb to eat, my parents said that with all the chemicals used in agricultural today, that the wild honeybees were a thing of the past.

In 1991, the Lord opened the door for us to buy the farm that we’re on today, which was a real miracle. Before buying this farm, we prayed much, and the Lord told us that He had a farm for us flowing with milk and honey. Well, we’ve produced a lot of milk on this farm over the years. Honey? Well, I always looked at that as all the goodness and blessings of the Lord. And He has surely blessed us greatly here.

We have a big woods here on our farm, and we heat our home with firewood from the woods. Late this fall, Joshua and I were cutting firewood, and I cut down an eighty-foot-tall pine tree that was hollow in its center. I’ve cut a lot of hollow trees down over the years, so I didn’t think much of it. I started blocking it up for firewood when all of a sudden I cut through a bunch of honeycomb, and hundreds of very angry honeybees came swarming out sending Joshua and me running! We were shocked, this had never happened to us in the past. Fortunately, the bees were as confused as we were and we were able to get out of there without getting stung.

So I waited for a real cold morning, then Catherine and I went back to the bee tree. I took a clean 5 gallon pail, along with an axe, a mall, a wedge, and a big butcher knife to cut the honeycomb out of the tree. I split the hunks of wood open to get at the honeycomb. Needless to say, the bees were not happy with me. Even in the bitter cold, a few of the bees would swarm up around me. I had to run away a few times to get away from them, and Catherine brushed a number of them off my clothing. Fortunately, I didn’t get stung.

I cut a lot of wild honeycomb out of that tree with my butcher knife that morning. We brought it home and we all had to have a taste of it. As we tasted it, we all got big smiles on our faces, it was super delicious. Every morning at breakfast we’re having wild honeycomb on our toast and greatly enjoying it. Just like my ancestors did.

A land flowing with milk and honey? Absolutely yes.   God is so good. The Bible says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psm. 34:8. I can testify from personal experience that the Lord is good, far better than the wild honey even!

Aside

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.