“Secret Crying Places”

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I thought today of Gene Logsdon’s book Gene Everlasting and the piece entitled “Secret Crying Places.” Inside the back deer fence, among tall weeds, from the mud I extracted mostly rotten Yellow Parma onions. Though the wasted onions did not make me happy, they were not what was responsible for my tears. Clark Howard Willis heads to kindergarten next Wednesday.

Being a stay-at-home farmer/father has not been easy. I have not been as good at either occupation having to do both. Without a doubt, I could not have feigned “farmer” at all without the great gift of generous grandparents and friends. But always both babies (farm and children) beckon: “Do this, and do it now.”

Amidst the work and demands and exasperation, however, profound joys bloom, sometimes sneakily. I realize—in the middle of my exhausted complaint—that flowers have been taking root. Things have been growing that I did not know were there. I quit quibbling. I smile at my sons, and I am glad to be present. I savor a fleeting moment.

Even on days when I spend so many solo hours in the field it is sickening, separated by some space from Clark and Campbell, they have almost always been within a short walk. I come in for lunch and say hello. We know each other are near. Our selves have been entwined, like carrot roots diving down deeper together.

Whereas Clark cannot wait to acquaint himself with kindergarten, I have trouble accepting the passage of time. Friends say, “When you blink, he’ll be 30,” and I know it is true, and I rue the fact that my buddy is graduating from me, slowly but surely, like all seeds do their parents.

“I cried, I think, because the passage of time marks the death of a boy or a girl becoming a teenager or a teenager moving on to manhood or womanhood. These kinds of death are really more final than a body becoming a corpse. A corpse decomposes and returns to life. Days of boyhood never come back.” (Gene Logsdon)

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Farming and parenting can become a perfect pair. With babies it is harder, but with young boys, earnest and bright and interested, the intentions can intersect. An important job can be done well, by my child, triumphant and proud. Life has allowed me a good number of precious moments. None have been more precious than the oneness between a farm, a father, and his son(s).

It’s August. The sweat is streaming down. Perspective wanes. I am prone to melodrama. A farm grows more than crops. We are nourished by more than food. I could not sit there and cry forever; there is much more work to be done. But Clark Willis is going to kindergarten, and that, for me, is something new under the sun.

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