Holding on to The Family Farm ~ Are those days over?

A short time ago, I completed a farmhouse scene entitled Resting by the BrookAfter that, I painted a small one entitled Grazing Hillside.  Last week, I started a little painting with a red barn and a brick family farmhouse entitled Rockbridge Farm.  I have several more farmhouse scenes ready to go.  As I started painting Rockbridge Farm my mind began to wander down memory lane…

Every few years when we were kids (I have a younger brother, older sister, and an older brother who was already off serving his county) my dad would pack up the Nash Rambler family station wagon (then the Pontiac, then the Chrysler) along with his wife and three kids to make the somewhat obligatory 810 mile trip west to visit his mom and dad on the Iowa family farm. 

With my sister sitting in the middle of the backseat to separate my brother and me, due to our constant needling of each other, we would make the long boring ride over several days.  Occasionally the ruckus in the back seat would get so loud that my dad would say “If you don’t cut it out I will have to pull over!”  You didn’t want to make dad too mad because he was old school.  He meant it.  :-)

 My dad’s family farmland in Wever, Iowa was expansive.  It had a relatively small, white farmhouse where my dad and his four siblings grew up.  Fields of sweet corn, the sweetest I’ve ever eaten, went on for seemingly endless acres.  There were tractors, plows, and trucks all around.  I remember seeing old equipment cast aside, long grass growing over the rusty machinery.  For a kid growing up in the suburbs of Maryland, it was all new to me.  Why would they leave equipment outside to get all rusty I wondered? 

There was a hog pin, a large field of other vegetables like tomatoes and beans, a family cemetery with my ancestors buried on the hill up by the old apple orchard.  My brother, my cousin Randy, and I had unforgettable, smashing tomato fights in the tomato patch.  All wearing white tee shirts, we peppered each other with large, ripe red tomatoes. Amazingly our parents all thought it was funny.  It was all in good fun.  Nobody was concerned about the price of the tomatoes or worried about having to get the red stains out of the tee shirts.  Life on the farm.  Boys will be boys. 

My Uncle Philip was the one son that after WWII decided to stay on the farm, help out his dad (my grandfather Beebe) and eventually take over the family farm.  My dad and his older brother Ched moved east to pursue a different life.  I remember my dad talking about having to get up on blistery cold winter mornings to milk the cows at 4:30 am.  My dad was smart as a whip and became a lawyer.  However, you can take the boy off the farm but not the farm out of the boy.  He always had that reverential side, crediting his success to how he grew up with a strong work ethic and strong morals.

My uncle Philip toiled for years, working the land.  He had muscles to prove it.  He could roll his bicep up and down like Popeye.  He had hands like catchers’ mitts.  I can still remember seeing him climb into the hog pin chasing down a big, old hog in the mud and slop.  An impressionable memory for a little kid from the suburbs!

The family farm was left to my Uncle Philip, who in turn left it to his son Randy.  It was expected that the farm was to stay in the family.  Nobody considered selling it off so the siblings could divide up the money.  Farmland has become extremely valuable but the tradition was to keep the farm in the family. 

Now, with the tax laws most likely changing in the new year to regressive, old, high estate tax rates, I’m worried that it will become much harder to hold onto the family farm.  It’s a sad day when a family has to sell their farm just to pay the high estate taxes due upon settlement of their estate. 

I better paint fast because more and more farms will most likely go by the wayside down the road.  Each painting I do of a rural setting with an old barn or farmhouse reminds me of my grandparents and my heritage.  My mom’s parents were farmers too but that’s a farm story for another day!

I may be a suburban kid, but I’m still the proud son of a son of a farmer!


on 2012-12-01 15:50 by Administrator

Rockbridge Farm, 8 x 12, Oil on Board is just off the easel and sold!