We’re planning my folk’s 60th anniversary party. My parents are a life force: At 81, they have definite ideas about most everything, as they have had for six decades of wedded bliss, and we’ll work hard to give them exactly the party they want. With a square-dance caller, I just learned this morning. Are there still square-dance callers? We’re about to find out.
Think about what 60 years of marriage means. That’s 65,700 meals. 60 harvests times 50 days (if we were lucky). 3,000 times Mom has loaded up the car with sandwiches, baked beans, various casseroles and always dessert. Usually dinner slides around the back seat or more recently the back of the large SUV that Mom drives. Dinner may be spread over the back of the car, but there’s always plenty. I sometimes sneak by the car for a quick sample before Julie and our daughter Lee bring lunch for me and my son-in-law Ryan. Dinner in the field can be a buffet.
Mom is shrinking, as Moms are likely to do, and the sight of her 5-foot frame peeking over the steering wheel of a 4-wheel-drive behemoth always brings a smile to my face. I wonder how many trips she’s made for parts. She wastes no time on the road, by the way. Dad was impressed with the short time it took her to travel to Iowa recently, and said, “That was a quick trip!” Mom smiled, and allowed as how she had the speeding ticket to prove it. Which is unusual. Not the interaction with the local constabulary, but the actual writing of the ticket. Most cops don’t write the ticket after a few minutes of charm from the white-haired great-grandmother behind the wheel.
More numbers. Dad started planting, or more correctly listing, when he was 14. This year will be 67 springs that he’s planted some of the same fields. We farm in an area prone to floods, so replanting is not unusual. He’s planted some fields well over 80 times. Not surprisingly, Dad is not completely buying into the big data craze. If you’ve seen crops on the same field for two thirds of a century, you don’t need a map to tell you where the good ground is and where it isn’t.
We run two combines, and last fall, I was running the second combine in a field after a rainy spell. Dad calls me on his phone (one of the last flip phones in existence, by the way. Mom and Dad buy “burner” phones from the local Walmart.) Anyway, he calls me on the phone and says he’ll work out the wet spots. After all, he goes on, “I’ve got more experience.” Which is true, I suppose, but I’ve been around the farm for nearly 40 years. A mere blip in the timeline that started with my grandfather, who ran the combine until his late 80s.
Dad can tell you every dry year and every year with floods since 1950. He knows the handful of years when everything worked perfectly, and he remembers the summer we hauled 100,000 bushels of grain that had been contracted for $1.50 a bushel, while the cash price was well over $3. He remembers the Minneapolis Moline Five Star, the White 4-wheel drive tractor with the Cat 3208 engine, the Ford F-600s and the year we planted the bottom ground four times. Mom counts her wealth with children (3), grandchildren (10) and great-grandchildren (11) and at least one more on the way. 60 years is a whole lot of numbers, and a whole lot of love.