One might say we stepped out of the frying pan and into the fire. A lively week in the Great Smoky Mountains with our church family concluded with a 5AM departure on Friday. We headed back north, in order to immediately join a frenzied farm rehabilitation project with family in Richland County. It was extra-helpful to have a couple of college students in tow (one of them being my own son), and they were delightfully willing to lend a helping hand at the farm. As Farm Hands.
We joined forces with Marci, her two siblings, a sister-in-law, a nephew, and Marci’s parents to clean out the barn that’s been collecting dust for decades. The property was already quite distressed when Marci’s parents moved onto the land as the fifth generation of family occupants about fifteen years ago. But we’ve been slowly fixing things up since then. And this weekend, we were finally ready to clean out the barn and consolidate materials.
One might say that I’ve got two “left hands” when it comes to farm work. That is: I grew up in rural communities, but I never carried actual responsibility for the ownership or operation of a farm. I’ve driven tractors and trucks on occasion, but I’m not good at maneuvering a vehicle with a trailer. I get tongue-tied when farm folks start talking about the need for “tongue weight” when hauling cargo. I don’t always know what needs to be done on a farm.
Even so, I genuinely enjoy hard physical labor. So my job at the farm this weekend tended to be hacking down weeds and hauling burnable stuff from the barn out to the burn pile. Humble farm hand work.
My most valuable contribution to the farm clean-up project may have been when I served as the right-hand man for my father-in-law, Ross. He suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease, and he doesn’t always know quite what to do with himself. So to save both him and the rest of the crew from frustration, I volunteered to let him take me for a drive (he’s a little slow behind the wheel, but still generally a pretty safe driver).
First, we dropped off some scrap metal at the local recycling center. I provided him with turn-by-turn directions (pretty similar to what I’ve done in training my teenaged children how to drive). And we had no issues getting in and out of the recycling center. Even with his Alzheimer’s, Ross is better at navigating a vehicle with a trailer than I am!
It took us about 45 minutes to finish our business at the recycling center. After we finished, I asked if Ross might like some milkshakes from Paul’s Drive-In. He hadn’t said much up to that point, but he perked up at that suggestion and said, “Yes!” I asked him what flavor of milkshake he would like. And answered surprisingly-quickly: Vanilla. So we used up another half-hour getting milkshakes. After filling our bellies with milkshakes, we filled up the truck’s gas tank with fuel. After gassing up the truck, we went to the grocery store to pick up supplies for dinner.
We succeeded in spending almost two hours away from the farm. And in staying away from the farm for that long, we may have helped more than if we’d stayed.