Thursday, February 6, 2014

Farmer Fred Award Winner September 2013: Overwhelmed but Faithful

Sometimes simple thoughts turn out to be universal truths. Our lives in America are built on the backs of brave people from previous generations. The proof is all around us. On this day, we stumbled upon it.
The Farmer Fred Award for September 2013 is presented to:
Overwhelmed but Faithful
originally published September 6, 2013
There is joy and camaraderie in harvest. It is a season of complicated work and simple pleasures.
 Never do we feel more connected to the past on the farm. And yet, we are using the best farming technology that modern agriculture can offer.
 There is a little graveyard overlooking our harvest.
Like silent sentinels the tombstones guard the homestead. 
Rachel went to her grave as a young woman of thirty-three in 1888. All I know about her is written on this stone. Someone loved her enough to erect a monument to her life and that life was apparently lived in faith and heavenly hope. 
A little research tells me that the inscription translates 
"You were overwhelmed, but faithful." 
It took faithful women to settle this wild country. I am humbled by this sacrifice.
 The baby died at seven months. Just as Spring was dawning, at the time of greatest hope on the homestead, the baby died. This grave made me wonder if Rachel died of a broken heart, alone with her grief in a strange land, without the comfort of parents or kin. She couldn't face another Winter.
Or perhaps by October there was another babe within her and she had not the strength to carry on to term.
Either way, overwhelmed seems the appropriate epitaph.
The remnants of a nearby house are too modern to ever have been Rachel's home. This house was built after her departure. 
Perhaps a room at the back was the original home that she shared with her husband, where her baby was born and died. Where, likely she died as well.
 There was little to be done about life and death on the homesteads of the Dakota Plains in 1888. Medical treatment, hot compresses for infection or cold compresses to reduce fever, was administered with liberal doses of prayer and worry. 
I do not know this story, but I wish the walls could tell me. 
If I could answer Rachel's questions, what would she want to know? 
How could I explain what has happened with machines to work the land and harvest wheat?
What would she think of a farm without a single work horse, milking cow, or oxen? 
How could Rachel grasp the value of electricity for light and heat during our long cold winter? An airplane could bring her mother or sister to comfort and care for her. She could visit with her friends anywhere in the world on a cell phone. It would frighten her, I suppose, but her homestead, though still remote, is not isolated from the world. It need not be a lonely place. 
I hope her heavenly reward is warm and bright and full of color. I hope her sacrifice accomplished something good for her family.
"What is life? You are a mist, a puff of smoke, a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes." Never has that felt truer than today.
We are caretakers here for an instant and thankful that today is a very good day in GriggsDakota.
(Quotation from the book of James chapter 4, verse 14 in the Bible's New Testament)

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