A Lifetime Guarantee

23 Jul

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

A Lifetime Guarantee

                Years ago, when we first started farming here, I didn’t have many tools. Since I was very short on money I ended up buying some tools through a mail-order catalog. They were the cheapest tools I could find, and yes, they were made in China. The saying, “You get what you pay for,” was most certainly true in this case.

I bought a good-sized electric drill that worked fine until I got to a difficult job with it. A few minutes into the job it started to put out blue smoke! I also had bought a large ¾ inch socket set. I used it a number of times on some really tough jobs. It wasn’t long before the ratchet wasn’t working like it should. So after these instances, I quit buying tools through these catalog companies. I started buying tools that were either American made or had lifetime guarantees on them.

Well, my kids learned from my mistakes, and they only buy tools like I do today. Joshua, a couple years ago, wanted to buy a nice ¾ inch socket set to use on the farm since my China set wasn’t working very good to say the least. I told him right out, “You can buy a set, but be sure and buy one that has a lifetime guarantee on and not a poor-quality set like I did.” His response, “I know Dad, I don’t want a set like you have.” Well, what can I say, at least my kids learn from my mistakes!

Joshua knew exactly what brand he wanted, and of course it had a lifetime guarantee on it. I told him to wait to buy it until it came on sale. That can be hard for a young man who really likes tools and likes to use them to fix things. Finally after a few months it came on sale for fifty dollars off. Joshua couldn’t buy that bright shiny socket set fast enough!

Well, since that day, my large socket set has never gotten used. We’ve used his set a number of times on some really tough jobs in the last couple of years. It’s a very nice set, but from day one his ratchet wasn’t quite perfect. It didn’t always want to reverse direction real easy like it should. But it wasn’t hard to do, so I told him I didn’t think the manufacturer would replace it since it did work. So Joshua was fine with it. But there was definitely something not quite right in it.

This spring we needed to set the wheels out on two of our tractors. The wheels had not been moved in many years so the big bolts did not loosen up easily. That’s were Joshua’s large socket set came into play. We really worked hard with his ratchet to get them, and halfway through the job his ratchet broke inside and locked up solid! I turned to him and said, “This is why you bought one with a lifetime guarantee.” As he looked it over he replied, “I’m sure glad I did.”

We took it back to the store that very same day and they looked it over and immediately gave us a replacement one that actually is a couple inches longer than the old one. We put it to work right away finishing up the job on our tractors. It works perfectly and Joshua clearly sees that it pays to pay a little more money and get quality tools with a lifetime guarantee.

I’m so glad that God in His Word gives us so many “Lifetime Guarantees.” For those of us that know Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. He also promises us eternal life which is far better than what we have now. It’s forever; how is that for a lifetime guarantee? Tools may break and the companies behind them may go out of business, but God stands forever and His Word will never be broken. That’s an absolute guarantee that I base my whole life on. And this I know: God will never let me down.

It Really Pays To Pray

17 Jun

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

It Really Pays to Pray

                Some people think praying is a waste of time, but we here know that to be totally untrue.  As a matter-of-fact sometimes it literally means the difference between life and death!  Such was the case here awhile back.

For the last several years, we were having a lot of trouble with the silo unloader in our big silo bringing out the haylage that we feed to our cows.  The unloader’s augers and blower were continually getting plugged up with haylage.  When that would happen Joshua or I would have to climb up into the silo with a large wrecking bar and unplug it.  Sometimes we would have to do it a number of times in one day which really took a lot of time and work.  On a number of occasions, we would end up getting our hands cut on the sharp augers.  We had the dealer out a number of times to work on it, and we spent a fair bit of money doing that, but it never helped very much.

Well, it got so bad that we finally made the decision to buy a new silo unloader.  All four of us were in full agreement on this.  Joshua and I did a bunch of research on the different unloaders out there, and we also talked to some farmers.  We finally chose the one we thought would be best.  I contacted the dealer for that particular brand of unloaders and bought one from him.  This was late summer so I knew they would have plenty of time to get it in before winter set in.  Or so I thought.

The man told me there was so much demand for these silo unloaders that they were way back-ordered already.  He said it would take about two months to get it.  I didn’t like it, but there was nothing I could do about it except wait.  Well, two months went by and we were still waiting.  November came and with it an early winter.  Freezing rain and snow and bitter cold.  And yes, then our new silo unloader too.

I didn’t like it, but the crew came on a bitter cold day to put our new silo unloader in.  The outside of the silo had a thick coat of glare ice on it from the freezing rain that we had a few days before.  Shortly after they got here, we went into the house for breakfast.  When we were done eating breakfast, we did what we always do: we pray together as a family.  On this particular day, I felt so strongly to pray for the safety of the men putting the new unloader in.  And so we did as a family.  We pray as a family because we know it pays to pray!

To put the new unloader in the silo and to take the old one out, the crew fastened a pulley system to the top of the silo.  Then with a man sixty feet up on the silo, standing in a little cage, he would guide the parts in and out of the small opening in the roof.  With a couple men on the ground and a couple more in the silo this usually worked pretty well.

Things were going fairly well until they came to the largest piece to put in: the frame of the unloader with the long auger and heavy gearbox attached to it.  The piece was about twelve feet long weighing a few hundred pounds.  They had it pulled sixty feet up to the top of the silo and the man had it halfways through the roof opening when his pulley set-up ripped loose of the silo because of the ice.  The silo unloader piece came flying back out of the silo and went crashing to the ground with the pulley set-up, landing just a few feet away from the man standing there.  The man standing in the cage on top of the silo stayed up there and didn’t get hurt when all that stuff went crashing down around him.  The man on the ground didn’t get hurt either.

It did damage my silo roof some and the cage the man was standing in.  When it hit the ground, it bounced and hit the running board of the pickup totally destroying it.  It also sent a small rock flying up like a bullet that hit my silo filler pipe putting a hole in it the size of a man’s fist.  The auger also got bent bad and had to be replaced.  Needless to say, the men were really shaken.

It obviously was an answer to prayer and a miracle that nobody got hurt or killed here that day.  The head man of the crew kept shaking his head saying, “We just got lucky, we just got lucky.  We’ve been doing this for eighteen years and never dropped an unloader.”  But luck had absolutely nothing to do with it.  God did!  And God did because we as a family prayed as we were led to by His Holy Spirit.  God, as a loving heavenly Father, longs to answer our prayers.  And because He did, men’s lives were spared on that bitter cold November day!

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Photo caption:  The silo where the incident occurred.

Elmo Lives Dangerously

13 May

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

Elmo Lives Dangerously

                Years ago, when we would fill out applications for medical insurance, the insurance agent would always ask us a lot of questions.  One of the questions was: did anybody in our household do bull riding  or parachute jumping.  If I would have answered, “Yes” to that, the cost of the insurance would have gone up substantially.   I would always answer, “No” to it, but the four of us here would always be grinning when I did so.  While none of the four of us did those two things, we did have somebody in our household that did do parachute jumping.

Joshua, our son, was born weighing just one pound and ten ounces.  The doctors did not expect him to live.  But we prayed and God answered our prayers.  He lived and is a strong healthy young man today.  Joshua, after he was born, had to spend the first four months of his life in the neonatal ward of the hospital.  While there, one of the nurses gave him a little Elmo to snuggle up to.  Elmo is only seven inches tall, but he was nearly the same size as Joshua was back then.

Well, when Joshua came home from the hospital, Elmo came with him.  As Joshua grew, we gave him and Elmo their own bedroom upstairs in our house.  Kids will be kids, and kids love to play.  Catherine and Joshua, all on their own, took a plastic, grocery shopping bag and rigged it up to Elmo for a parachute.  Then they took and dropped him from the top of the stairs and let him parachute down.  He floated down just beautifully.  Joanne and I were really impressed at what they had done all on their own.

After seeing them do this a number of times, I came up with a brilliant idea.  I said, “You need to drop Elmo from higher up.”  Well, they liked what I said, but didn’t know how to get him any higher up.  Then I suggested, “How about dropping him from the top of our silos.”  Their eyes got way big and the amazement on their faces was indescribable.  “Do you think it will work, and will Elmo be O.K.?” they asked.  I replied, “I don’t see why it won’t work as long as it isn’t too windy out.”  Well, with that answer, they eagerly awaited the next time I had to climb to the top of one of our sixty-foot silos.  It’s wonderful when parents and children can play together and have lots of fun.

When it’s time to fill a silo, I have to climb the ladder on the outside of the silo to raise the unloader, and then once the silo is full I have to climb it again to lower the unloader.  Well, Elmo started going up the silo with me.  Once on top, I would let him go and he would parachute gently down.  It was fun and very interesting.

But, I was hesitant to do it on real windy days.  What if Elmo landed on top of the barn roof or on one of the shed roofs or got tangled up halfway down on another silo or something else?  The kids always insisted that Elmo wanted to take the risk and do it.  I would remind the kids that he didn’t have any health insurance since I couldn’t afford to pay the high premiums on him because of the way he was living!  With that they would get great big smiles on their faces and burst out laughing and insist that Elmo wanted to jump again regardless of the risk!

So I would always consent to take him up with me for another jump.  We all greatly enjoyed it.  When it was really windy out, sometimes Elmo would end up over 100 feet away from the silo.  One time he did end up on the barn roof and stuck there for a minute and then gently slid down.  Another time he flew over the barn roof and landed on the feeder wagon on the barnyard.  The kids quickly rescued him before a cow could start to eat him!

I always tell the kids that Elmo’s parachuting is a high risk business and that’s why insurance agents even inquire about it.  But, the kids always tell me that Elmo wants to keep doing it.  And I must say we have a lot of fun doing it.  Sometimes on a hard work day, it’s the highlight of the day.  It’s always good to mix a little fun in with the hard work.

Now, Elmo is special here, since Joshua got him when he was a way small baby and we do try to take good care of him.  But, Elmo is a stuffed toy.  What are far more precious than stuffed toys are children.  We need to take good care of them and bless them.  We need to be careful not to put them in harms way or to live dangerously ourselves.  How do adults live dangerously you ask?  By using alcohol and drugs.  I can’t tell you the number of marriages and families that these two have destroyed.  Also, by not being responsible, loving and caring.  Without these three things, marriages and homes can come apart too.

If we will love and care for our families as we ought, as God has instructed us to, they will be greatly blessed and we will be also.  I know I am here, especially when I let Elmo go from the top of the silo with a big smile on my face!CIMG0338

Elmo parachuting from the top of the silo.

Grandpa’s Team

9 Apr

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

Grandpa’s Team

                Spring is a real special time of year for farmers.  It’s nice to have the cold snowy winter months behind and to be looking forward to planting seeds in the ground.  As the temperature warms up, farmers start to look to the fields wondering how soon they can start to do their spring planting. I believe a farmer’s blood gets flowing through his veins faster when it’s time to get to the fields with his planting equipment and seed.  I know mine does!

I always look at the seeds that I plant as small miracles.  It always amazes me how I can take a few bags of seed out to a field and plant them in the spring and then in the fall reap such a bountiful crop.  It is truly a miracle of God to have such a multiplication of the seeds that were sown.

I usually work the ground first, getting a nice seed bed, and then I go back and plant it.  Over the years on occasion I have run out of daylight before I have finished planting a particular field.  For me though that generally isn’t a problem, I can turn the lights on on my tractor and keep going until I get the field done.

When that happens to me, I always think back to my Grandpa.  For the first twenty to thirty years of his farming career he used horses.  That was pretty much before the days of tractors.  So what did farmers do back then when it got dark on them when they were planting a field you ask?  They would head their team of horses home and hope it won’t rain in the night.  If it did rain in the night they would have to go back and rework the part of the field that wasn’t planted and then finishing planting it.  A lot of extra work.

But my Grandpa was the exception to the rule.  He told me that darkness didn’t stop him from finishing a field.  My Grandfather had a special helper that always helped him after dark so that he could always finish the field he was working on.  And no his helper did not have a flashlight or lantern either.  And Grandpa never paid him overtime wages.

Who was this exceptional worker you ask?  His faithful loving white farm dog!  When the neighboring farmers would head home at dark, Grandpa would stay out in the field with his horses and dog till he finished the field.

Grandpa had his dog trained to run along the edge of what was already planted and the horses knew to follow just off to the side of the dog.  The horses and the dog got along perfectly and since the dog was white, the horses could see him to follow him even on the darkest nights!  Grandpa said he finished planting many a field that way.

The neighbors always shook their heads in disbelief, but what was planted in the dark looked just as good as what was planted in daylight.  No skips or gaps or overlapping to speak of.  The dog, horses and Grandpa always knew just what to do!  In the middle of the night when it stormed, they all slept well knowing they had the field all planted.  They worked in perfect harmony.

Grandpa and his team worked excellent together and accomplished more than could be expected because they worked in harmony, each doing their part.  On the farm here, I have often been amazed at how much we can get done in a day when we as a family work in love and harmony with a common goal in mind, each of us doing our very best.

I have seen many families over the years, farm and non-farm alike, that live and work in strife and confusion.  How sad this is, since it doesn’t have to be this way.  It is so much better to walk in the love of God and in harmony with one another.  It builds the most wonderful relationships imaginable and makes life really worth living.  Even Grandpa’s horses and dog were living proof of that!

My Valentine

12 Feb

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

My Valentine

                I remember back many years ago to a very special time in my life, Feb. 14, 1989.  It was Valentine’s Day, and it was the third month that I had been dating a very beautiful, Godly lady named Joanne.

Even though neither one of us were rich financially, we felt that we should splurge that day and make it really special.  It was special to me already because this was the first time in my life that I had a girl friend on Valentine’s Day.  I bought Joanne a large heart shaped box of premium chocolates ahead of time to give to her that day.

I did the regular farm work that day and then milked the cows that evening in great anticipation of seeing my sweetheart.  I dressed up super nice and then drove the 30 some miles to pick up my valentine.  When she came to the door, I was stunned.  She was absolutely beautiful.

Even though that was 23 years ago, I remember it as though it were yesterday.  She was wearing a beautiful cream colored dress, with cream colored heels and a sharp red scarf around her neck.  After exchanging some greetings and giving her the box of delicious chocolates, we went out to eat at a fine restaurant.  Since I had milked cows that evening it put us pretty late and thus the place was virtually empty.  We had it all to ourselves except for the cooks and waiters.  It looked like I had bought the place out for my special date!

We ordered our special meal and when it arrived we thanked the Lord for it. We asked Him to bless it and our time together.  The lights were turned down way low as we started to eat and visit.  We then noticed a short ways away that somebody had earlier that evening ordered candles for their table.  Since the people were long gone, and the candles were still burning, I brought them to our table.  We dined like a king and queen that evening.  I still remember as if it were yesterday, looking into Joanne’s radiant face that evening in the flickering candle light.  I’ve come to realize that God is the author of romance.

We visited long that evening and then I took her home.  Then it happened.  Before I left to go home for the night we kissed each other for the first time.  Wow!

I am happy to say that we kept our relationship pure before God and man.  Several months later in August I had the privilege of marrying my valentine, my soul mate.

Every year on Valentine’s Day we think back to our first one and celebrate anew the love God has given us for each other.  We also let our children know that they are special to us.

So this year I will be getting my valentine a big heart shaped box of chocolates and maybe some flowers too or something else special.

                Husbands and wives, love your spouse and treat them special.  Splurge on them a little.  If you have a good spouse they are well worth it.  You will build memories that will last a life time.  In the end you will find as you bless them, that you are the one that is blessed the most.  I know that is most certainly true for me.  I still remember that special candle light dinner and kiss!

~ Rattlesnakes

11 Jan

My grandfather was Paul K. Heck of Mondovi, Wis.  My mind always goes back to him around this time of year.  He was born on July 14, 1898, west of Mondovi in Canton township.  He lived to be about 95 years old.  For many years he dairy farmed northwest of Mondovi in what is known as German Valley.  The early settlers in that valley were all of German ancestry, that’s how the valley got its name.  My grandfather farmed there many years before moving into Mondovi to live.  Oftentimes in my single adult years, after milking my parents’ dairy cows in the evening, I would go to my grandparents’ home and visit with them.  They had excellent memories and such a wealth of information from years gone by.  The following account is one that my grandfather told me one evening, that I’ll probably remember the rest of my life.  I’ll do my best to retell it here now.

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Christmas on Our Farm

4 Jan

One of the most fun and memorable aspects of Christmas for us is getting our Christmas tree. Sometimes something that starts out of necessity becomes a wonderful tradition. Years ago, right after Joanne and I were first married, we spent our first two Christmases in a trailer home. I was working as a hired man. Our finances were extremely tight so that we couldn’t afford to buy a Christmas tree. We got permission from the land owner to go into his small stand of pine trees and cut one, those first two years.

Shortly after our second Christmas, the Lord opened the door for us to buy our own farm. We have a good-sized woods here, with a fair number of long-needled pine trees spread throughout. In the early years of our farming, finances were still tight, so the choice to go to our own woods for a Christmas tree was an easy one to make. Our young children really liked it, too.

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I Just Knew I Could Make It

21 Nov

LIFE ON THE FAMILY UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

I Just Knew I Could Make It

                In our early years farming here, we had several acres of land on the lower end of our farm that had a lot of grass and brush on it along with a few trees.  It was a real wet piece of land with a few springs in it.  I always looked at it, seeing it had the potential to be an excellent field to farm someday.

Well, after being here several years and getting established financially, we decided to proceed and make it into our dream field.  Sometimes dreams take a lot of work and money to bring them to reality.  This one certainly did.

I had Jack come in with his big drain tiling machine and two backhoes to install drain tile in the land and to clear all the brush and trees.   He put the tile in six to seven feet deep.  The tile has small holes in it that allow the excess water in the ground to seep into it and drain out at the lower end of our field into the woods.

As I mentioned earlier, there were a few springs in this piece of land.  One of them towards the upper end was a pretty big one that always flowed year around.  I had never seen it dry up, even in a drought year.  When Jack came to the springs, he would hook his two backhoes with heavy cables to the front of his tiling machine to get through them so he wouldn’t get his tiling machine stuck.  It worked very well.

Jack was hesitant about the big spring though, he wasn’t sure it would dry it out enough for us to farm that particular area.  But, I fully believed it would, so I insisted that he put a drain tile line right through it.

After Jack had the tile all in, he finished clearing the brush and trees, then loaded up his equipment and left.  Then our work really started – picking up a lot of tree roots and rocks.  But we enjoyed it; we could see the great potential this piece of land held.  After disking and plowing it several times and picking up more roots and rocks, we had it looking beautiful.

There was one slight problem though, the big spring hole area.  It had dried out fairly well and looked really nice.  It looked like it shouldn’t be any problem at all working that area.  And as long as I didn’t have the plow or disk in the ground too deep it wasn’t.   But, if I had it in too deep, then I would get the tractor stuck really bad.  That happened a couple of times!  When that happened, I would have to get another tractor to pull it out.

Well, spring came and we were looking forward to planting corn on our new field to feed to our cows.  We had to do one more thing to it yet before planting it, and that was to get lime spread on it to raise the soil pH to the right level.  What is soil pH you ask?  It’s how acidic the soil is.  If the soil is too acidic, the crops will not grow well on it.  Lime will raise the soil’s pH so that crops will grow to their fullest potential.

So, I called up Bill to bring his big, heavy lime truck loaded with lime out to our new field. I caught him before he got to the field and pointed out the spot that had been the big spring area and told him, “Don’t go through that area with your truck until you have it at least half empty.  If you try to go through there with a loaded truck you will never make it.”  He looked at me in disbelief because the area was on the upper side of the field and looked just fine.  So I went on to explain to him how that had been a big spring hole and how on more than one occasion I had gotten my tractor stuck there.  He said, “O.K.” and drove off.  I stood there watching him to make sure that it would go good for him.  He spread it on the lower side of our new field without any problem.

Then he brought out the second load.  To my astonishment, he headed straight for the big spring area spreading lime as he went.  I thought, “Oh no! What’s he doing?”  He got to the spot with his heaping full lime truck and it went down fast!  By the time I got to the truck, Bill was walking around it surveying the situation.  The first thing I said to him was, “What did you do?  I told you not to go here with a full truck.”  He replied, “Yea, I know, but I just knew I could make it through here, it looked so good.  You know something?  This is the worst I ever got a truck stuck in my forty years of spreading lime.”  Seeing the truck sinking how many feet down into the earth, I didn’t have a hard time believing that!

Well, the next thing Bill wanted to know was if I could get my tractor and pull him out.  I knew I couldn’t pull his truck out with my tractor and told him so, but he insisted that I try.  He emptied the lime off of his truck onto the ground and I tried to pull him out.  I moved his truck about two feet forward and that was it.  Bill ended up calling my neighbor, Tom who lived up the road from us.  He brought his big four wheel drive International tractor down and pulled him out.  Bill and I were both very glad to see his big muddy lime truck out again.

                Even though I told Bill not to go into that spot with a full load of lime, he did it anyway.  As he told me a number of times over the years, “I just knew I wouldn’t get stuck there.”  And with that we laugh about it today.  But there’s something a whole lot more that can be said here.  God often times in His Word tells us not to do stuff.  He tells us that for our good because He loves us so and doesn’t want to see us get hurt.  Sometimes we think He’s just trying to keep us from having fun or from getting ahead, but such is not the case.  He tells it to us for our own good and if we will heed His Word we will be blessed.  I know when I heed His Word I’m blessed.  And Bill would have been better off if he would have heeded my word and stayed out of that area with his loaded truck!  He still says, “You know, that’s the worst I’ve ever gotten stuck.”

An Unwanted Family

21 Nov

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

An Unwanted Family

This last summer we had a family move in here unexpectedly.  They never asked us if they could come and live here or not.  They just set up their home out by my silos.  One day Joshua was mowing the grass out there and he spotted four of them.  They were as surprised to see him as he was to see them.  He immediately came running to the house to tell the rest of us about them.  I quickly grabbed my gun and went running out there, but by the time I got there they had disappeared.  Needless to say, I was disappointed.  I had hoped that I could shoot them and get rid of them.

What sort of a family was this that I wanted to shoot them on sight you ask?  A family of skunks!  I started to look around and quickly found a freshly dug hole going down between my silo and the corner of my silo room.  It was obvious that this new family of skunks had set up housekeeping there.  The kids asked me, “What do we do now?”  I replied, “We have to get them out of here, it isn’t safe for us or our cattle to have them around.”

What makes skunks so dangerous on a dairy farm you ask?  Rabies.  Skunks love milk so they will hang around dairy cows that are outside at night and try to nurse on them.  Often times in doing that they will bite the cow lightly and that is all it takes to transmit the rabies virus.  The cow that gets rabies will die a very horrible death after several months.  Since farmers work with cows, it’s easy for farmers to catch the virus.  All it takes is a little saliva from an infected cow getting into a little nick or scratch on a farmer’s hand and he will have it too.

If this happens to a farmer, he has to get a lot of very painful shots from a doctor so that he doesn’t die.  I know personally of a farm couple that had this happen to them years ago.  Cheryl said, “The shots were terrible and you never want to go through that!”  She also told me one other interesting fact that shocked me.  “Skunks will not die from rabies; they’re the only animal that it doesn’t kill.”

So, knowing all this, I had no tolerance for a family of skunks around my barn.  The question the kids asked was, “How do we get rid of them?”  I said, “I don’t want to set a trap now since we are going at putting up a new crop of hay.  Let’s keep our eyes open, hopefully in the coming days we can see them outside here and shoot them.”  It sounded like a good plan, but it never worked that way.  Yes, we did see them outside a number of times, but by the time we got the gun they were gone.

Well, we got our hay put up and I knew we had to try a different approach.  I decided to set a large cage trap for them just a few feet in front of their hole.  So, the kids and I set it using some broken ice cream cones and cookies as bait.  Then we prayed asking the Lord to bless it and help us catch the skunks.

Needless to say, when we went to bed that night we were all excited to see what our trap would have in it the next morning.  And were we ever surprised when we got out there the next morning and saw what we had!  We had our big cat, Mr. Stripey, caught in the trap with his tail straight up and all his hair standing on end.  He was spatting and putting out a ferocious growl.  A large skunk was just a few feet away from him with its tail up in the air aiming right for him.  Mr. Stripey being in the cage trap couldn’t get away from the skunk and he was terrified.  I don’t blame him.  The skunk was scared of the cat that was between him and his hole.  The skunk knew he had to get into his hole for safety which meant he had to pass within eighteen inches of a growling Mr. Stripey!  I felt sorry for our cat, I thought for sure he was going to get sprayed by the skunk at extremely close range.

Once again I got my gun and ran with it.  I wanted to do all I could to spare Mr. Stripey from a terrible experience.  When I got back I was surprised to find out that the skunk had gotten its courage up, walked by our cat and went down in its hole without spraying him.  I was relieved that our cat didn’t get sprayed, but was disappointed that I still hadn’t gotten rid of any of the skunks.  I opened up the trap and Mr. Stripey set a world’s speed record for getting out of there!  I never saw a cat go so fast in my life.

Well, I was back to square one, I had a whole family of skunks living under my silo room floor and I still hadn’t gotten rid of a single one.  I decided to reset my cage trap, only this time I moved it about ten feet away from the skunks’ hole.  I figured if I caught another cat, the skunk wouldn’t be as apt to spray it if it was that far away.  One thing I must say is that Mr. Stripey never set a foot close to that area again.  He had learned his lesson.

We did our daily work around the farm and that night just before bed we took a flashlight out and checked our trap.  Were we in for another big surprise!  No, it wasn’t a cat this time.  Instead we had two skunks caught in the trap and a third one hanging around the outside of it which I quickly shot.  A couple days later we caught the fourth skunk in the trap.  Were we ever thankful and blessed to have the unwanted family of skunks gone.

There are things in our lives sometimes that aren’t good for us, but we put up with them thinking that they won’t hurt us.  And they may not hurt us, but they may hurt somebody else.  We need to get rid of those things.  By doing so, you and those around you will be blessed much more.  We are all glad that the skunks are all gone, that includes our cattle and especially Mr. Stripey!

A Good Example

2 Feb

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

A Good Example

                When we bought our farm here many years ago, we were pleased to see that there was a wood furnace in the basement of the house.  Buying this farm put us deeply in debt, so we were glad that we could heat our house with firewood instead of costly fuel.  So over all these years, I’ve never bought a drop of fuel to heat our home with.  Instead it’s been all firewood – and lots of it.

                Over time, the furnace in the basement came to the end of its useful life.  Since we enjoy a nice cozy house in the wintertime to come into after doing chores out in the cold, the decision to stay with wood heat was an easy one to make.  This time though, we bought an outdoor wood furnace to heat our home with.  In time we named it “Little Smokie.”  I like having the fire and firewood outside, it’s a lot safer and less work to keep going.   I also like the fact that I don’t have to get up at 2 a.m. on bitter cold nights to reload the furnace.  Our outdoor one holds enough wood to keep it going all night long.  Another plus with this is that we heat all of our house and milkhouse hot water with it which really helps save money.  At times we even take hot water from the milkhouse to melt the ice in our cattle’s water tanks.

                So doing all this with Little Smokie requires a lot of firewood.  But that’s no problem, we have a big woods on our farm and we enjoy making firewood.  Every year late in the fall, Catherine, Joshua and I head down to the woods to cut trees for firewood.  First we try to cut the trees that have died recently and those that have went down due to storms.  After that, we tend to cut trees along the edges of our fields.

                It’s very peaceful working in the woods in the fall of the year.  Often times we see deer, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons and other wildlife out there.  Also, we see many birds out there, including large flocks of geese flying overhead telling us that winter is on the way.

                But, working out there with large trees and chainsaws can be dangerous too.  Sometimes a tree doesn’t fall the way a person thinks it will.  So when falling a tree a person needs to be extremely careful.

                A while back, I decided to cut a large maple tree down that was on the edge of my corn field.  I looked it over carefully and decided that it would want to fall to the north.  So I cut a small wedge out of the north side of it and then started cutting through from the south side.  Well, I got almost through and then the tree instead of falling to the north came back and pinched my chainsaw tight.

                I knew I was in a dangerous situation.  I looked it over carefully and prayed for wisdom.  I decided the best thing to do would be to get the five log chains that I had on the tractor that I drove to the woods that day, hook them to the tree and pull it to the north.

                I’ve always told my helpers to always keep their eyes on a tree that’s been partially cut when working around it because there is always the chance it could go down unexpectedly.  People have gotten hurt and sometimes killed in such situations.

                So when my chainsaw got stuck I asked Joshua to bring a log chain and put it on the north side of the tree reminding him to keep an eye on the tree at all times.  He got the first chain and put it there while I went after a second one.  I was putting my chain on the north side of the tree and following my own advice – keeping my eyes on the tree at all times.  It’s a good thing that I was!  As I was about to put my chain down, a small breeze picked up out of the south.  The large maple tree started to come straight north.  Immediately, I dropped my chain, stepped back and to the side of the tree trunk, grabbed my chainsaw, which was now free, and pulled it out.  The tree crashed down right on top of the chain that I had just dropped on the ground seconds earlier!  If I hadn’t followed my own advice and kept my eyes on the tree, I would have been killed!  The way it was, we were all perfectly safe and we gave thanks to God.

                I have always sought to give my children good advice and to follow the advice I give them.  Too many times parents tell their kids, “Do as I say and not as I do.”  Many children do as their parents do and end up ruining their lives.  Parents need to realize that their actions speak a lot louder than their words.  But, when their actions line up with their words they leave a powerful lasting impression on their children’s lives.  The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  This is most certainly true, but we must realize that we need to live rightly before them everyday ourselves.  Then we can expect them to listen to us, follow our example and be blessed.  If we do this we also will be truly blessed.  I know I am, the big maple tree crashing to the ground didn’t hurt me a bit.

Tom Heck, his wife Joanne, and their two children, Catherine and Joshua, own and operate a 35 cow, 159 acre dairy farm in northwestern WI.  Contact Tom at: lifeonthefamilyfarm@gmail.com   Copyright © 2014 by Tom Heck.  All rights reserved.

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                      Tom falling a tree.