Sunday, June 15, 2008

Full Circle Farm, or Happy Father's Day

My dad is John A. Rowe. He was born in Oklahoma on July 27, 1938. He grew up farming with his seven siblings, aunt, a cousin and maybe another family member thrown in for good measure. It was not an easy life. He tells of how my grandmother would can at least one hundred jars of food per family member to have enough to make it through the year, And she would make a hundred biscuits from scratch every morning while the kids did chores, then they would come in and have warm milk from the cow with their hot breakfast. My dad milked. He also made the pie crusts for the family. Not to mention all the other chores he must have had.

Growing up on a farm in Oklahoma in the 30s and 40s meant the kids had to learn how to do just about everything. They picked cotton, sold milk and cream, raised peanuts, raised pretty much everything they ate. After highschool, Daddy went to college for a little while, but ended up joining the airforce and then later on, became a firefighter. Daddy loves to help people and is great in an emergency. He was a great firefighter. I have fond memories of going with Mom and my sister to the station and feeling so proud of my dad in his starched uniform and hat.

When I was around 4 or 5, Daddy moved us out of Oklahoma City and out to the country, outside of Prague, Oklahoma. We loved those hundred acres. He and mom started reading books on homesteading. They read Foxfire books. They bought cattle and goats and horses. They plowed and hayed and gardened. They made cheese and bread. Not too long after we moved out to the country, Daddy was diagnosed with a degenerative heart disease. Doctors told him he would probably not live more than ten or thirteen years. (guess they were wrong-he is about to turn 70!)

We children did not know how hard things were at the time. Daddy had to retire from the fire department at the age of 36. Thank goodness for that move out to the country. He had many hives of bees and collected honey to sell in town. I can smell that honey on a warm summer day, and just about taste the honeycomb we would chew like gum. That honey bought lots of groceries for a family of five.

Daddy wanted to learn how to butcher meat, so he got a drawing of a side of beef, with all the cuts, and started learning how to cut up meat. He would go in town and work at the locker plant and became a master butcher. Later on, he acquired processing equipment, and would butcher over 200 deer a year for other people. That was how he paid the property taxes. And bought Christmas presents.

Mom and Dad wanted to have lots of children. Their first born son died. There were several miscarriages. But they were happy with the three of us girls. Daddy just took us along as if we were sons. When he went out to cut wood, we went to load and stack. When he went to build fence, we went to hand him staples and tools. When he had to pick rocks in the fields, there we were. He would pay us a dime for a bushel of weeds.

Daddy sings. For many years he was the song leader in our little country Baptist church. I love to sing with my dad. We would often sing specials together at church, and mom would often play the piano late into the night as we would sing hymn after hymn.

Daddy is a story-teller. We would ask him to read a book to us at night, and he would tell us he couldn't read. (of course he can...) But he could tell stories. Our favorite series of stories was the one about Flunky the Monkey and Tarzan the Hairy-legged ApeMan. I don't know how many stories he told us, but we sure begged for more. Now my children beg for more, and he seems to always have a story, even when he is tired out.

My dad taught me a lot of things. I think we always had the saying that Daddy can fix it, cause Daddy can do just anything, and we truly had reason to believe it. He didn't have money to pay other people to fix things, so he learned to weld, to mechanic, to do plumbing, to build barns, to pour concrete, to fix toasters and waffle irons, to make frames for my mom's paintings, to call coyotes, to make guns, you name it. And he always made time to help other people who couldn't do it for themselves. He was always inviting someone over to eat. My mom is a great cook, but Daddy LOVES to cook. Noone can match his fried fish. Or his barbecue brisket, or his pico de gallo and tacos chihuahua. I am making myself hungry just thinking about it.

Daddy and I are a lot alike, though it has taken me many years to be able to admit it willingly. Through the years we have butted heads. It is hard for two very strong-willed opinionated people to always get along placidly. At some point I was able to forgive Daddy for being human. Think that happened about the time I realized that I was human, too. I don't know what I would do without him. When I have goat questions, you can guess who I call first. Same with garden, bees, pigs, cows, milking, haying, chickens etc. He is getting much better at teaching me how to do things, like sharpen knives. Or maybe I am getting better at learning. When I couldn't figure out how to teach one of our new goats how to be milked, he came and helped. We don't always agree on every method, but I am so happy that we are finding many happy mediums. I wouldn't be living on this farm if it weren't for my dad. I wouldn't keep getting up when I am tired if it weren't for my dad. I wouldn't get out there and weed the garden if it weren't for my dad. I wouldn't try things I probably shouldn't be able to do if it weren't for my dad. Somehow in the middle of our butting heads he gave me the self-confidence to try. To try to raise a family, to try to farm, to do hard things. I am grateful.

He also gave me the example of a husband who loved and adored his wife. He still loves and adores my mom, and I guess that that must have seriously influenced me, because I have a husband who is just as wonderful to me as Daddy is to Mom. And just as my dad was involved in my life, Philip is involved in our children's life. I could never ask for a better husband or father to our children. I pray that the circle will continue rolling along and that someday our children will have a similar, albeit different flavored story.

I love you, Daddy, and am grateful for your influence on my life. There is plenty more I could say, so many stories. But I have to get to bed so I can get up and milk in the morning! Happy Father's Day

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