early birds

For most of my life, I’ve been an early bird. The best time of my day is the morning. I love a piping hot cup of coffee and the calm, as dark brightens to dawn. For as long as I can remain quiet and still, the day remains unblemished. Pristine. Perfect.

“An early bird gets the worm,” Grampy always said. He should have known. His days were long and full. A farmer in the era of horse drawn implements, he saw a lot of the early birds pecking for breakfast as he fed the livestock, milked the cows, and plowed, planted, and harvested a modest acreage.

He did fieldwork trailing behind a workhorse kicking up clods of dirt. Back then, farming happened at the pace of a man and his beasts of burden. Even when he modernized into tractors, he always kept horses. Grampy loved his horses! I think he kept his good natured white gelding, Lucky, around just for the grandchids’ bareback kicks. I’ve many fond memories of my kind and gentle Grampy.

And oh, how he loved his garden! Each row was carefully tended, though he was permanently stooped all the day long. I remember that he had a particular way of planting potatoes, timed to the light of the moon.

Flashback to Grampy, butchering chickens — after he’d left the farm and was living next door. I was horrified by the cartoonish execution. I held my breath as he submerged them in scalding water. But I couldn’t refuse to help, plucking wet feathers, extracting the still-warm eggs as we went along. It was just another day for Grampy. His life was earthy, hard. But he had a chicken in the pot and a few in the freezer. He felt blessed.

Modern farming is altogether something else than my Grampy’s farming. Ringside, I observe the harried hustle through the day. Some days, it seems there are three rings! A sense of humor is essential. It’s serious business, though; such complexity in machinery, markets, and miniscule profit margins. Weeks merge into months as a blur of seasons pass in turn. We close in on another year.

Yet I can slow the reel down in my mind well enough. Some of my most treasured memories are of our farm and family interactions over the past thirty years. Such sweetness, roaming fields and forest with our chids. I can still see them, tugging on tough brown-eyed Susans, scrambling up an apple tree, racing through the pasture to the river, chasing a calf around the yard, finding kittens in the haymow, stalking turkeys in the hedgerow.

It was a great way to raise a family. The best! We’re excited to welcome a wee one soon. We cherish the thought of the next generation grounded by the farm. My daughters-in-law and son-in-law are in for a real treat.

So, here I sit, coffee in hand, fireplace glowing bright against a gray sky, clouds streaking pink with the rising sun. Although I was up long before dawn, I was slow to rise behind The Hubs. He’ll have a full “normal” day in before lunch!

I’m thankful this work calls him and our boys. It’s honorable work. I’m proud of them. I don’t know how they do what they do. I couldn’t do it. (We all agree they wouldn’t want me!) I just feel privileged to have the perfect perch with some of the early birds. I’m always curious about that old worm!

~René Morley

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