A Disappointing Surprise Under the Christmas Tree

10 Dec

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

A Disappointing Surprise Under the Christmas Tree

                For many years, we had a forage blower here that we used to blow chopped hay into our big silo.  Over the last several years, we had a lot of problems with it.  We finally decided it was time to get rid of it and get a new blower.  All four of us were in favor of that, especially Joshua, since he was the one who used it the most.

Joshua had already been looking at machinery advertisements and been reading up on the different blowers on the market.  He had his selection narrowed down to two different ones.  So with that, I got a lot more information on the two and priced them both out at local machinery dealerships.  Men from both dealerships came out to our farm last year in early December and looked at our old blower that we were trading in and gave us price quotes.  The one that we liked best turned out to be a little cheaper than the other one which really surprised us.  But, it’s O.K. to be surprised that way once in a while!  So we set our focus on getting that one.

I called that dealer up a few days later and told him I would take it for the agreed upon price. He said, “Sold.  We’ll deliver it in the spring.”  So we were all really happy here that we were getting what we believed to be the best forage blower on the market for a good price.

Now, in our family here, we love to give each other lots of good gifts under the Christmas tree.  So as the days go by in December, more and more gifts get put under the tree.  Since I had a blower bought, and Joshua was so looking forward to the new blower because of all the troubles he had had with the old one, I decided to put a picture of it into a box.  I put a note in with it telling him it was for him to use and then wrapped it up.  I knew this would really bless him.  Then over time, I put more gifts under the tree for him.  The pile of presents under the tree continued to grow.  Now a lot of the gifts under our tree don’t cost a lot, but it’s the love with them that counts!  We all love to give gifts and we all love to open them.

Everything was going fine, until a few days before Christmas, the dealer called me on the phone early one morning and said he couldn’t sell me the blower at that price!  I was shocked.  I said, “What? We had agreed on the price and you told me, ‘sold’.”  “Yes,” he said, “but I can’t keep that deal.  You see I can’t get that blower for the price I thought I could.  Somehow there’s been a mistake in the computer and it’s going to cost me more so I have to have $400 more from you.”  I was shocked that he wouldn’t keep his word and said, “Good-bye.”

To my amazement, a few hours later he drove into my yard with a bunch of invoice sheets.  He told me he thought he had better stop in and explain the situation to me.  With that he showed me on the papers that the blower was costing him $400 more than what he originally figured.  As I quickly glanced at his sheets I was absolutely amazed.  He told me originally that he was only making 2 to $300 over the invoice price.  Now as I looked at his sheets I saw that he was making well over $1,000 more.  I quickly pointed this out to him and his face turned color.  He realized in trying to justify himself he had made a big mistake in showing me his paperwork.  He said a few more words and said he had to have the extra money.  I sternly said, “Good-bye.”  With that, he left.

Now I could’ve paid the extra money, but I refused to do so.  The man had outright lied to me and he broke his word.  The Bible says a man ought to keep his word and not break it, even if it’s to his own hurt.  Needless to say, I haven’t done any business with him since, nor do I intend to in the future. For if a man will lie and break his word over a little bit of money, how can you trust him at all?

So now I was faced with a problem: in a Christmas present under the tree, I had a note to Joshua telling him that I had gotten a new blower for him to use this next year.  And I had no idea what present it was in!  So I couldn’t go under the tree and get rid of it.

Well, Christmas came and we opened our presents.  When Joshua opened the blower present he was surprised and super happy.  He had no idea that I was going to put that under the tree for him.  But then I had to tell him the whole story.  The expression on his face just fell!  I went on to tell him I was going to try and get that model blower from some other dealer.  I told him I couldn’t guarantee that I could get one, but that I would do my best.  Joshua understood and took it well.

It wasn’t long after that, that Joshua started looking for other dealers that carried that line of equipment.  He found one close by that I didn’t know even carried it.  I called him up and shortly thereafter he came to our farm.  He looked at our old blower and gave me a price quote for a new one.  Now was I ever in for a surprise.  He quoted me $850 less than what the other dealer originally quoted me!  I bought it right there on the spot.  And true to his word, when spring came he delivered us our new blower.  Joshua was all smiles, he got his big Christmas present after all, and I must say that the new blower worked excellently.  Since then he has thanked me a number of times for getting it and we are all thankful that we didn’t get it from a man that we couldn’t trust.

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Unloading haylage into our new blower.

The Wild Apple Tree

29 Oct

When we bought this farm, there was a small, old heifer shed up on the hill west of our barn.  It was in bad shape, but we used it for a number of years to house our mid-sized heifers.  In those early years, we didn’t have a skid loader to clean it out with, so we did it the old-fashioned way – doing it by hand with manure forks.  And Joanne and I gladly did it, we were so thankful to have our own farm to serve the Lord on.

Oftentimes in the fall and winter months when I would go up there to clean it out or to feed the heifers, I would be eating an apple.  When I would finish eating the apple, I would usually throw the core off into the area west of the building.  That area was a steep hillside that was really rough and brushy.  Years before a previous owner had dug a bunch of shale rock out of the hill there.  So many times in those early years I tossed my apple cores into that area.

Well, guess what?  Eventually one of those apple seeds germinated and grew.  It was just two feet on the other side of the heifer fence on an extremely steep slope.  Not the ideal place for an apple tree!

The tree grew and got several feet tall.  It was a terrible scraggly looking apple tree and I never did get an apple off of it.  And then it happened.  My old heifer shed got to the point where it was getting dangerous to use it anymore.  So we took it down and got an excavator in with a large backhoe to move more of the hill away.  In the process of doing it, he ran our apple tree over with the tracks on his backhoe.  I figured the tree was dead.  Finished.

Well, we built a bigger, better heifer shed than what we had before.  It’s been excellent and a real blessing to us and to our cattle.  What about the apple tree you ask?  It wasn’t dead like I figured.  Somehow, from the roots in that shale rock on that super steep hillside, it started to grow again!  I didn’t think much of it though, since it never did give me an apple.  I decided it could stay there though, since it would give my heifers some shade on real hot sunny days.

Since we all really like to eat apples, I have bought and planted a number of apple trees here over the years.  So the other day when my daughter said to me, “Have you seen that apple tree up there this year with all those beautiful apples on?”, I was bewildered.  I replied, “What apple tree do you mean?”  “That one on the shale rock slope,” she replied.   I said, “Not that one, that one never gets any apples on it.”  “Yes,” she replied, “It’s just loaded with beautiful apples this year.”  Well, I could hardly believe it, so I had to climb down to it from the top of the hill through a whole bunch of brush, being careful not to fall, to see the amazing sight!

It was beautiful, loaded with lots of bright red apples just gleaming in the sunshine.  Seeing that I had never gotten an apple off of that tree in twenty years, I expected I never would.  Boy, was I wrong!  Now I’m looking forward to harvesting those apples and tasting them for the first time.  I know it will be a challenge harvesting them on that super steep hillside, but it will be a pleasure to do so.

It’s amazing how that tree grew from one apple seed in an apple core that I threw out there many years ago in such a harsh environment.  And yet today, it is so beautiful to look upon.  Catherine says that she oftentimes likes to look out the barn window and see it up there with all its bright red apples.  I know of one other thing that is far more amazing and beautiful than that.  That is when a person turns from their sinful ways and follows Jesus.  It doesn’t matter how their lives started out or what a harsh environment they are in.  The change in their lives is incredible and the fruit they bear is wonderful.  I know this from personal experience.

 

You Can Have it All

26 Sep

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

                It was the summer before my senior year of high school, and I was spending a couple weeks of my summer vacation helping my uncle George on his dairy farm. George was a very hard-working farmer who always treated me very well and was fun to work around. We would always do the barn chores together, and then the fieldwork, or whatever else needed doing. In the summer time that usually meant putting up lots of baled hay. It meant getting up early in the morning and usually working till after dark every day. And did we ever get a lot of work done in a day! It was enjoyable seeing the barn and sheds getting filled up with hay to feed all the cattle for another year. There was such a sense of accomplishment in it and rightly so.

On the day I was to go back home, while George and I were working he said something to me that almost floored me. He said, “Next year after you graduate from high school, if you will come and farm with me, I’ll will this whole farm to you when I die. You can have it all.” I was absolutely shocked to say the least. I enjoyed farming greatly and knew I wanted to farm after school.

George always treated me very well and he had a beautiful 240 acre farm. It had some very fertile flat land along with a lot of rolling hills and some very steep woodland. He had a nice herd of dairy cattle, mostly Holsteins with a few Guernseys mixed in. He had a beautiful set of buildings with lots of large maple trees, well over 100 years old, scattered among them. George also had a very good line of machinery.

For a young man who wanted to farm, it sounded like a dream come true. George always treated me far better than my own dad did. I was hoping that my dad would work me into his farm along with my older brother, but I knew that was very questionable. So when George made me this offer my immediate response was, “I’ll be over next year after I graduate.” George was super happy and so was I.

But something happened that year in high school that changed all that. Study hall. That period of the day that students have to do their assignments in. On many days I would get my book work done and have a little extra time left over to think. And did I ever think! Should I go and farm with my uncle George whom I loved greatly?

Why did I even think this you ask? Because there was one dark side to this whole thing that I was terrified of! Pornography. George loved his pornography and had it all over in the buildings on the farm. Not only that, the way he talked about women was very wicked and lustful.

I knew down inside that if I went and farmed with him, he most certainly would give me his farm someday. But I also knew that his pornography would destroy me. I did not know Jesus as my personal Lord and Saviour, but I knew that the lust within me, coupled with his pornography, would certainly destroy my life, and probably send me to an early grave. So, sitting in study hall in high school, I made one of the biggest and most important decisions in my life. I decided to say, “No” to George about his farm and the life I would’ve really liked. In doing so I said, “No” to pornography and lust and a destructive life style that I’m sure would have ended in an early death for me. And how wise I was. For the Bible says in James 1:14-15, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

After high school, when I was at a very low point in my life, I knelt by my bed one day and repented of my sins and asked Jesus to be my Lord and Saviour.   What a difference He has made in my life! I told George about Jesus, but he absolutely refused Him. George made me his offer a few more times over the years, “You can have it all!” but I always refused.

Sadly, George died many years ago of a heart attack with piles of pornography on his farm. The farm he used to have is in ruins today. But, I’m not. God has taken good care of me and provided abundantly for me these many years. Has it been an easy walk you ask? No, but it has been a wonderful, blessed walk with Jesus.

Oftentimes the world will tell a person, “You can have it all.” But the price it asks brings destruction and death to a person’s life and soul. I have never regretted saying, “No” to George and to, “You can have it all.” And I have most certainly never regretted saying, “Yes” to Jesus and following Him. In the end the world offers death and an eternity in Hell. But Jesus offers life and that so much more abundantly and an eternity in Heaven with Him!

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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