After all that daydreaming, I’ve concluded I was born at just the right time — the son of a World War II veteran tenant farmer and a farmwife in the ’50s.
Here are 10 reasons why I believe I was born at the right time.
1. Old house, newer house. The tenant farmhouse didn’t even have indoor plumbing when I was born, but it was installed soon afterward. Our house today has two full baths and a half bath. This was an early sign that I was bridging gaps between generations.
2. Milk cows. If our dairy barn had been a stanchion barn when my dad got mumps when I was 6, I couldn’t have helped milk the cows. We had an early three-stall parlor and pipeline, and Mom and I milked 40 cows.
3. Work ethic. I didn’t complain when Dad built a feed shed with push-button silage feeding. But we still had one silo where I had to fork silage, load it into a cart and unload it into the auger. There was value to doing that hard work. Besides, the push-button unloader didn’t always work!
4. World’s best ag teacher. If I’d been born at any other time, I wouldn’t have walked into Jim Cummings’ ag room at Whiteland High School in 1967. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” he asked. “I want to be a farm broadcaster like Harry Martin,” I whispered. He didn’t laugh — out loud. Without his guidance, I wouldn’t have landed at a job better for me than broadcasting!
5. Purdue traditions. My freshman year at Purdue University was the last year school ended in June. I still remember stepping over sorority girls sunbathing on the sidewalks. I would rather have been planting corn, but you do what you have to do!
6. Grandparents with character. My maternal grandfather lived with us for 12 years. It taught me the value of caring for elders — as we eventually would do for my mom and dad. If friends and I laughed, Grandpa would say, “You must have found a ‘tee-hee’ nest in a ‘haw-haw’ bush.” Now I know what that means: Laughter is good for you.
7. Inquisitive about technology. Mechanics was never my thing. Maybe that’s why new things intrigue me. I help others understand their value by writing about them, even if I can’t always figure out how to use them.
8. Great mentors. There was the late Martin Stob, my counselor at Purdue who said it was OK that I didn’t know what I wanted to do until my junior year. There was also the late Jim Newman, who taught fellow Farm Progress editor John Otte and me about the impact of weather on crops just as agriculture became a global market.
9. Parents with purpose. I called home in November of my freshman year. I hated Purdue. “You must stay for me, Tommy,” Mom said. “I will pray for you.” She did. Thank the Lord for Mom and Dad!
10. Right spouse and family. Who could have planned it any better? I married a farm girl, and we have four wonderful children — three with careers in agriculture and one currently at Purdue. I didn’t plan it. God did!