From the time he was a baby, Cody has always had an innate desire to be a farmer and work with his hands. I remember him being a baby and being contented by holding actual tools, not plastic pretend tools. He was always tinkering around and "fixing" things. When he was old enough, he loved riding with my dad or Scotty in tractors, combines, or any piece of farm equipment anyone would let him ride on/in.
As a small child, Cody obsessively tracked the whereabouts of the farm implements, often giving my dad the third degree as to why he moved something around in the yard while he was gone to daycare or school. He was always close at hand when Dad fixed anything, happily learning how to operate the air compressor, how to check tire pressure, how to operate the grease gun, greasing implements so my dad could go in the field. As he grew older, he learned how to check oil, how to refuel the implements (with lots of help/supervision), how to cut the twine on haybales, how to feed cattle, how to operate the bale stingers on the feeding pickups. Then he learned how to drive the feeding pickups through the pasture, he learned how to operate my dad's old white pickup (the one with the standard transmission that was the bane of my sisters and my existence), and he got small lessons on how to drive the tractors from the house to pasture, to help my dad move machinery around.
Now, this small child is a young man. He's on the cusp of 14 years old, and is well over 6 foot tall. He is strong and able-bodied. He is half-grown. While he is still a teenager at heart, he possesses a maturity that few of his peers can match. He is an old soul, yearning to be an adult, but still hanging on to the fun, carefree times of his youth. He reminds me so much of Scotty, his dad, with his playful spirit matched by his dutiful, helpful nature.
For those of you who didn't have the privilege of growing up on a farm, I should stop and explain a little piece of how farm life works, especially in the life of a young person. There is always work to be done, whether it's in the field, feeding livestock, maintaining equipment or work buildings, so on and so on. It is a wheel that constantly turns. Getting backlogged in work can be costly and inefficient. If something isn't ready by a certain point and the weather turns, you could have to wait days, if not weeks, to resume the work. In that time, market prices can change, availability of certain goods could be affected, or the work could simply become much more difficult than originally anticipated. All of these things can be costly and detrimental to any good operation, no matter how big or small it is. Since there is always work to be done, that means that it requires all hands on deck at all times to assist in this. Work doesn't discriminate among age or gender. As soon as you're old enough and mature enough to be of good use, you will be employed to help. Typical notions of waiting until you're of legal age go by the wayside (within reason), based more upon maturity and timing than anything. Everyone helps somehow, or nothing gets done, and that's simply not acceptable on a farm. That means that it's okay for children to help feed a herd of cattle. It's good for kids to have a working knowledge of tools and the machinery used, especially in case of an emergency that could disable the adults in the situation. Help can be direct (by helping in the midst of the operations) or indirect (by helping to make sure everyone is fed, well-hydrated, and that other necessary household chores get completed). No matter how it looks, everyone helps. Furthermore, nothing fun or relaxing can happen until you reach a certain point in the work, which can further incentivize helping with the work. Hopefully this will help you to understand the story I'm building up to a little better!
One day, there was some field work that needed to be done. My dad made the suggestion that Cody do it. He's made the suggestion for a couple of years now, but it wasn't as easily dismissed this time. My mom and Emily (probably Scotty to a certain extent, also) were nervous at the idea, but everyone tentatively agreed. Cody was dispatched to the field to sit with Jeremy, who was making the opening rounds, to learn specifics. He spent the evening on the tractor, soaking it all in. It was decided that he'd make his solo run the next morning, finishing up what Jeremy had started.
The morning came, and Cody came over, donning his Wranglers, work boots, ball cap, and blood institute t-shirt (my dad's unofficial farm work uniform) and was ready to begin. We talked for a while before his antsiness spilled over into a plea to go out and prep the tractor with my mom's help. Out they went, to refuel and check oil. My mom drove him out to the field to give him a better roadmap of where to go and to answer his last-minute questions. We peppered him with the battery of reminders..."Be confident, but have a healthy amount of fear/respect for the machinery," "Don't be in a hurry and make careless mistakes," "Watch what you're doing," "Don't be afraid to stop and call someone if you need help," "Take your time," "Don't turn too sharp," "Watch the fencelines," "Keep track of how long you're out there so you don't run out of fuel," "Keep an eye on the temperature gauges," so on and so on...until we got to the point that he finished our sentences for us, assuring us that he would be conscientious at all times and would consult when in doubt. Meanwhile, Emily checked in with Mom and me to ensure Cody's safety while not letting him know of her concerns (so he wouldn't get too nervous, I'm sure).
Off he went to the field, making lazy circles in the terraces, doing his part to continue the cycle of farming that has taken places for years, becoming another generation to carry on the work of his ancestors. Before long, he completed the first field and took a short lunch break.
After lunch, it was time for him to move to the next field. He was confident that he could start it, but equally happy when my mom offered to go out and help him open it up. It was good that she did, as the ground was a little tough at one point, and probably would've been a little more than he was equipped to handle on his own. (My dad may have gone out there to help at one point also, I can't quite remember.) Through the afternoon, he came in for fuel and to rest for a few moments. He didn't linger for too long though, as he likely wanted to return before someone else offered to take over. We just knew he wanted the "bragging rights" of being able to know he did the work all by himself. By late afternoon, Scotty and Emily came home from work and marveled at seeing their "little boy" living his dream. I could feel their pride (and residual nervousness) pouring from them, as well as my parents. Eventually, Cody was beckoned back to the house for the evening. The fieldwork would have to be finished the next day, which he was promised he could do.
Everyone had a subdued sense of pride, awe, and sentimentality that day. We knew the next chapter had officially begun. We knew that Cody was fulfilling a goal he had since he was a little kid. It was a great day to be on the farm, and I'm glad I was able to witness it.