December 02, 2023

Rural Issues: Staying grounded in uncertain times

So many things in this old world feel a bit off kilter these days. It reminds me of lyrics from an old Willie Nelson song, “Hands on the Wheel,” from his “Red Headed Stranger” album: “At a time when the world seems to be spinnin’ hopelessly out of control…”

It is at times like this when I crave those activities, places and people that make me feel the most grounded.

From digging in the dirt — even the dusty and dry dirt — in our gardens to harvesting, shelling and freezing peas or harvesting, cleaning and canning pickled beets, from spending the day at the zoo with people I love to baking angel food cake from scratch with eggs just collected from our flock of White Leghorn hens, these activities bring me peace.

No one in my life makes me feel more grounded than my dad does. He is well-balanced, calm and sensible in the most stressful and chaotic situations.

I love both of my parents very much and I am not picking favorites here, but my dad is simply the best person I know. That is saying a lot because I know a lot of people.

My parents had three daughters before their first son was born. He and my mom instilled in all of us the importance of being able to take care of ourselves.

My daddy did not suggest that we “go it alone,” but if we wanted to, needed to, or had to, he wanted us to be capable.

He is the best teacher of simple tasks, as well as important life lessons. I learned from watching and listening to my dad the importance of a positive attitude.

Through droughts, storms, equipment breakdowns, low prices when selling and high prices when buying and all the other frustrations and disappointments that go with farming, Dad always took the high road.

When Dad was angry or frustrated, he did not take it out on his family. He turned that emotion into something positive.

In 1993, due to an overflowing creek and seep water, the crops in all of Dad and Mom’s river and creek bottom fields stood in water and slowly drowned.

Despite their devastating loss, my parents continued to take the late-night shift, walking the levee along the Illinois River looking for any signs of a boil or breech as it threatened neighbor’s fields, homes and farmsteads.

They spent days working just as hard as everyone else filling sandbags that would protect someone else’s property. Why? Because it was the right thing to do.

Earlier this year, my mom shared a memory about one of her first dates with Dad. They had a flat tire. It was raining.

Mom said that Dad was out in the rain getting soaked to the bones fixing that flat tire and was humming the entire time. She told me that is the moment she knew he was “the one.”

Most of the advice I received from Dad I picked up by following his example, but there were times when he offered it.

I remember one summer day many years ago I was headed to the field to rake hay and mentioned that I did not want to be late to the wedding of one of my high school friends.

Dad said, “You finish what you start.” I still hear his voice in my ear with that advice when I’m ready to give up on a project.

Dad demonstrated the importance of being a part of the community you are in. Whether it was serving on the county fair board, the county Farm Bureau, Farm Service Agency county committee, the cemetery board, or frying fish at the Glasgow Picnic — his is and always has been a servant’s heart. He does it for the cause, not for the applause.

I hope you have activities, places and, most importantly, people to help ground you when needed.

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear is farm director and operations manager for Brownfield Network.