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Legacy

by budr Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 01:55:52 AM EST

I lost my Dad a year ago today.  I had hoped to do a proper diary on this first anniversary, but things have been crazy at work the past couple of weeks and I never quite had the time or the energy to do it justice.  This is something I wrote for his memorial service.  Here it is as I wrote it, from the heart and unfiltered.


The only thing Dad ever wanted to be was a farmer.  He could have been anything he wanted.  Doctor, lawyer, engineer, teacher.  Anything.  He chose to be a farmer.    He considered it a noble calling.  He was a disciple of the Green Revolution.  He firmly believed that with modern scientific agricultural methods, the American Farmer could feed the world.  He considered that his mission.

Dad's entire life was about stewardship, about taking care of the land.  Preserving it for future generations.  Leaving it better than he found it.

In 1955 he bought the home place, where I grew up, there south of the Willie Place.  We moved there when I was just a little kid. The place was a total wreck.  Gullies all over it.  Little odd shaped fields here and there between the gullies.  Old broken down fences all grown up and blown under.  Sand dunes you couldn't drive over.

We moved there in 1955 and he went to work making it better.  How he ever made a living on that sad excuse for a farm I don't know.  There wasn't much to work with and it had to be touch and go  in the beginning.  I don't think he could have made it if Neil Dikeman and Truman Melton and Don Clark at the First State Bank hadn't believed in him and kept him going when others might have failed.

But he didn't fail.  He made it work.  He turned that old broken down farm around.  He cleaned out the old fence rows. He pushed down the sand dunes and filled in the gullies.  He built terraces to control the water and stop the erosion.  Bub Horn must have worn out two or three dozers pushing dirt around on that place.

All the time I was growing up I thought we were dirt poor.  He never spent any money on us if he could help it.  We wore the same clothes til they unravelled and fell off of us.  He would buy some old used pickup and drive it til the wheels fell off.  He would buy an old tractor and run it til it wouldn't run any more.  If he had any extra money he would put it back into the farm.  Making it better.

He spent his entire life building up that farm.  Making it better.  Controlling erosion.  Building up the top soil.  He took that old worn out wreck of a place and turned it into a productive farm.  And that is his legacy for all of us.  Taking care of the land.  Preserving it for future generations.  Leaving it better than he found it.


dad_at_reunion.jpg



William Garland Rogers

1923 - 2007

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Sweet remembrance and nice lesson.  Plus he's got a legacy of a name!  (Will Rogers)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 05:57:31 AM EST
There are important lessons in his approach to the land, and also hope in being able to turn around a situation that was so difficult to work with.  You've done him justice in sharing that, thanks.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 06:02:14 AM EST
excellent

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 06:09:00 AM EST
of how real wealth is not where we are incessantly told it is - and how we still know it in our hearts, despite the incessant propaganda. Eulogies are a good way to track the values we actually care about, as opposed to those we are told we should care about.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 06:09:19 AM EST
wipes eyes

magnificent tribute, extremely inspiring, as was the picture of him.

thankyou.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 08:31:22 AM EST
I worry - a lot - that one thing that seems to be largely missing in the U.S. nowadays is just that type of consistent, can-do work ethic, combined with a vision or goal. It's still around, but, as the William Garland Rogers disappear, it seems to diminish. (Just an old guy thinking out loud, perhaps.)

paul spencer
by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 10:41:27 AM EST
I remember asking my father why he moved us to Whizbang Oklahoma in 1946, where he built a house on a 40 acre reserve on which Phillips Petroleum granted lifetime leases to employees.  We had a cow, a pig, chickens, for a while a horse, the right to graze the cow and horse, and a large garden--all of which I was expected to tend.  He responded, "You'll appreciate it when you are older." How right he was. I suspect that you might be able to identify with that.

I wrote a eulogy for him and my mother upon my mother's death while on the airplane with my two brothers on the way back to Oklahoma to bury her next to him.  It felt like the words just flowed from the depths onto paper.  I suspect you felt the same.

Thanks for this.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 12:23:46 PM EST
thank you

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 01:34:01 PM EST
Thank you for sharing!

He really treated the earth as what it is - a loan to us by our children. Time we take care of it again, so that we need not be ashamed when we give it back to our children.

by Fran on Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 01:39:29 PM EST
AS720IS_2008-05-17T15:11:28

Not the best picture in the world, one of a series I took experimenting with perspective and white balance.  

Caveat: this from childhood memories a half-century old.  In the mid foreground, about where that patch of scrub is, there was a huge, ugly gully, perhaps five or six meters wide and almost as deep.  Dad worked for years, first to control the erosion, and then to fill it in.  If I had a before picture the contrast would be shocking.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 03:27:19 PM EST
AS720IS_2008-05-17T14:58:30

Again, experimental.

Pecan trees I planted when Navy Son was about a year old.  In my own small way I am trying to continue Dad's legacy.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 03:34:51 PM EST
Also in green.

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 04:40:05 PM EST
And in orange.

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 05:47:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for sharing your memories of a great man. The notion of land or even wealth as something that is only in our stewardship for a while and that we have a responsibility to pass it on to the next generation and to the larger community in better condition is one that is largely lost in our individualistic, hedonistic, consumer culture where everything is transient and everything is falsely declared to be absolutely ours to be disposed off at will.  There is no absolute right to property, only a right which comes with certain responsibilities to use it for the commonweal and your father seems to have exemplified that value system very well.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 04:44:27 PM EST
Thanks for this memory.  These are the sorts of people I knew as a child so that when I wrote my first book, I began, "In the beginning, there was agriculture" to honor their contribution to social and economic progress.

My grandfather's farm was just outside of Vilas Kansas.  He also believed in every sort of conservation method he could figure out.  We sang "This is My Father's World" at his funeral.  Here is my father's self-portrait of himself standing in my grandfather's winter wheat field ready for harvest. (1938)

This country really misses these folks--there are not many of them left.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Tue Jun 3rd, 2008 at 01:38:18 PM EST
Speaks volumes, doesn't it?  The portrait is of the field, of which he is just a small part.  That's the sort of thing Dad would have done.

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Tue Jun 3rd, 2008 at 04:38:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Glad you liked the picture.  Soon after I posted this I was slapping my forehead saying "you just stepped on budr's tribute!--are you kidding?"

But this is the best picture I have of this sort of wheat field.  And yes indeed, I'll bet your father was VERY proud of his fields when they looked like this.  And since we cannot recognize the farmer in question, let's just claim it was your father.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Tue Jun 3rd, 2008 at 05:27:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh.  I suspect they would have recognized each other as kindred spirits instantly.  I have a letter that Dad wrote home to his parents when he was away in the Navy in the late forties.  It was springtime, just about planting season, and he goes on for most of a page about imagining the fields all plowed and harrowed and ready for planting, and about how he longed to be there for that special time.  It was absolutely poetic, and my Dad is the last person on the planet that anyone would call a poet.

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Tue Jun 3rd, 2008 at 06:29:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Elegant Technology...the book
In the beginning, there was agriculture. Before agriculture, humans were barely different from the other primates. Agriculture would change everything because agriculture grows more than plants and animals: it grows civilizations. Before agriculture, human groups consisted of nothing more than wandering clans in search of food. With agriculture, humans could predict when and from where their food would come. Having solved this essential problem, humans would go on to build cities and libraries and governments.

Wow.  And why have I only just now discovered this?  As usual, I'm a little behind...

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Tue Jun 3rd, 2008 at 04:59:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you.  (blushes)

I come from the Farmer-Labor wing of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party here in Minnesota.  The political economics of Elegant Technology comes directly from the thinking of those enlightened agrarians.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Tue Jun 3rd, 2008 at 05:45:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We need many, many more of those.  Here in Oklahoma we got mostly the other kind of Democrat, the ones that made the Southern Strategy work before the Republicans coopted it.  

Oh, I really enjoyed your diary on Thorstein Veblen, btw.  He is now on my To Read list.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Tue Jun 3rd, 2008 at 06:34:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Have you read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn?  It's a decidedly different take on the invention of agriculture and the growth of civilization.  Caused me to step back and reconsider a bit.

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Wed Jun 4th, 2008 at 06:31:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a case to be made that the average human was better off 12 000 years ago than 1000...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jun 4th, 2008 at 08:19:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What an awesome picture.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 3rd, 2008 at 05:28:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That field looks much larger than anything commonly seen around Paris...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Jun 3rd, 2008 at 05:53:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Who was it said Americans think a hundred years is a long time.  Europeans think a hundred miles is a long ways?

The American answer to everything is just make it bigger.  More acres, bigger equipment, more fuel, more fertilizer.  The fatal flaw of the Green Revolution was that it blithely assumed petroleum would always remain at nineteen fifties' prices.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Tue Jun 3rd, 2008 at 06:56:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Part of the point is also the hundred years is a long time. Fields in Europe often show the history of the thousands years of agriculture preceding the current state : you can still detect circular field structure around villages that were built in the middle of forests nine hundred years ago ; field size is often determined by what was optimal with techniques two hundred years old ; a large field may have been cut in to because a family had two sons in 1654...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Jun 3rd, 2008 at 07:27:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly.  Most Americans have very little sense of time or space.  Anything before the 20th century is kind of jumbled together in the fog.  George Washington chopped down a cherry tree on his way to Valley Forge.  Or something like that.  Anything before Plymouth Rock is prehistory.  I feel a deep personal sense of history because I know the story of the walnut trees along the fence line between my father's and my grandfather's farms, almost a century old.  Almost a century, can you imagine that, the American says with awe.  Most us don't even have that much.

And most of us have no sense of being constrained by physical boundaries.  Our nation was founded on the notion of an endless frontier, there for the taking.  The very idea of having to fit into patterns that were there before is utterly alien to most of us.  It's a very juvenile mindset.  We think nothing of bulldozing old growth forest to make way for a parking lot, and then planting saplings to give it that natural look.  We could do some really great things if we just had some adult supervision.

Don't it always seem to go...

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Tue Jun 3rd, 2008 at 10:14:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]


We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Tue Jun 3rd, 2008 at 07:23:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The field is 40 acres / 16.xx hectares.  My grandfather would often plant a hay (alfalfa) crop after the winter wheat was harvested.  I am old enough to have baled that field in the late August Kansas heat. Then the field seemed HUGE.  But compared to the wheat fields that were 100 times the size in North Dakota, it wasn't so big after all.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"
by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Tue Jun 3rd, 2008 at 10:20:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
1600 hectares ? That's a square with 4km long sides ?!? In Europe you're almost guaranteed to find a hamlet or a village in such a square, at least in places where wheat is cultivated...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jun 4th, 2008 at 04:28:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(Although indeed I've looked for such fields in North Dakota on gmaps and couldn't find them...)

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jun 4th, 2008 at 04:34:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
40 acres is a little more than 16 hectares.

The basic division of land, at least in the more or less rural lands west of the Mississippi River, is a section, one square mile, 640 acres.  Most homesteads from the settler days were 160 acres, a quarter section.  My Dad's farm is a quarter.  My Gramps farm next to it is also a quarter.  Forty acres is a natural subdivision of a homestead, a quarter of a quarter.  A century ago a farmer could sustain a family on forty acres if the topsoil was decent and the rains came on time.  Not so anymore.

And I don't know about North Dakota, but I've heard of wheat fields in Kansas that are a full section, 640 acres.  That would be almost 260 hectares. I've seen pictures of four or five combines in formation traversing a field that seems to go to the horizon.



We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Wed Jun 4th, 2008 at 07:04:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks budr

That picture looks like the high prairie all right.  It's enough to cause "horizontal vertigo."  And yes, I have seen combine formations of 10.

At the current price for wheat, some folks are making a lot of money these days.  That's twice now in my life (58 years) that such a thing has happened.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Wed Jun 4th, 2008 at 07:21:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds a bit oversized... How much time is lost simply moving the combines around, at this size !

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jun 4th, 2008 at 08:21:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not much.

Please remember that I lived in North Dakota in the 1960s and since then, farms have only gotten bigger.  But the way I remember it, very few farmers even then harvested their own wheat.  That would be done by migrant crews that followed the harvest north out of Texas.  Much of their work schedule was determined by the weather and there was always the problems of equipment breakdowns but the distance between farms was usually pretty small--and even a move of 100 km could be done a few hours.  Lots of 18-hour days.  And it is very efficient.  I remember my first North Dakota harvest.  Red wheat for miles and miles--and then three days later, it was all harvested.  And aside from some strangers in town with a LOT of machinery and some VERY nervous locals listening to the weather and crop reports, one would hardly know it had happened.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Wed Jun 4th, 2008 at 12:57:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The homogeneity of the MidWest makes things both harder and simpler, with everything having to be done at once...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jun 4th, 2008 at 05:59:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No.

16.187426 Hectares (40 acres)

And yes indeed, there WERE 4000 acre fields in western ND and eastern Montana when I lived out there.  That is 6.25 square miles or 16.187426 square km.  Not a lot of them mind you, but they existed.  The biggest farmer in the church my dad served "owned" 15,000 acres (oh well, do the math yourself.)

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Wed Jun 4th, 2008 at 07:12:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a fine tribute and a fine comment thread. Thanks, budr, and everyone else involved.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jun 4th, 2008 at 04:39:54 AM EST


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