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Wisdom Dug Out Of Dirt
The wealth possessed by a poor, old farmer.
Jeffrey (George) Winter
Journalist, counselor, author.
AUTHOR'S E-MAIL ADDRESS
|AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (10)
Ed's Gift (Short Stories) An insignificant man imparts the truth of wisdom and peace. [1,308 words] [Spiritual]
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Love Denied (Poetry) - [171 words] [Spiritual]
Strength's Illusion (Essays) A visit with a disabled friend: How our understandings of strength affect our relationships. [1,696 words] [Spiritual]
The Adventure Of Human Freedom (Essays) As title indicates. [1,149 words] [Spiritual]
The Power Of Surrender (Short Stories) A good man takes on evil. [1,431 words] [Spiritual]
The Way We Actually Were (Short Stories) Recollections from a veteran of the Third Reich. [1,337 words] [History]
The Weapon Of Hope (Short Stories) When all else fails, there is hope. Three short stories reveals where lies ours. [1,385 words] [Spiritual]
Tied By The Heart (Essays) Does our freedom ensnares us? [1,128 words] [Spiritual]
Wisdom Dug Out Of Dirt
Jeffrey (George) Winter
In a day that has seemingly surrendered old-time wisdom, perhaps the surest route to prudence lies in getting one’s hands dirty and working up a sweat.
At work a few years ago, I met a man, Stanley Thomas, who represents that truth like few others I’ve encountered. One who revealed more in a few sentences than years of debate over profound truths divulge. The man made it all seem simple.
In his late seventies, he stopped by from the nursing home for lunch with his son, Bill. Fortunately, a trip to retrieve food at a nearby restaurant was delayed, giving me a chance to visit with “Stosh”.
He’d been a farmer for many years, moving to northern Wisconsin from Chicago, nearly penniless upon his union being broken up in the 1940s. With the grit and resolve farmers likely know better than anyone, he’d built up a decent operation. Nothing elaborate, but enough along with help from his wife and sons, to make a go of it and assist the boys as best possible.
Profound truths weren’t much of a consideration for Stosh. He didn’t have the time or, given the demanding and often hard truths of farming, energy and inclination. Instead, his persuasion tended more toward simple honesty than it did toward in-depth reflections on the laws of the universe.
As is usually the case with simplicity, his perspective was more genuine than are complex analyses. He lived truth, didn’t just reflect on or debate it.
Requiring nursing home care due to a stroke, “Stosh” was wheelchair bound and, aside from Bill, had been as much as written off for dead upon his initial admittance.
With a body that once moved the earth with sweat and brawn now reduced to waiting on others schedules to be transported, he overlooked the inconvenience and took opportunity to capitalize on humor. Daily I heard from Bill and others the perspective-splitting and outrageously funny remarks he made.
I once posed what I thought would be a deeper question when I asked him about the impact of his physical troubles and about his prospects.
“Well,” he chuckled, “When I get back today, I’ll have supper.”
“And tomorrow,” he added with the anticipation a schoolboy prankster, “I’ll go to activities class and give the nurses a hard time.”
“And when this weekend rolls around,” he concluded, “I’ll get a chance to ride out to the farm with Bill.”
Then he smiled as contentedly as a child with no other worry than procuring a sucker.
But with a wisdom that knows suckers break, stick to things and sometimes go sour. “Stosh” was simple in the wisest sense, unpretentious, possessing the smarts to care balanced by the wisdom to accept what life rendered.
Bill talked frequently about his dad, often chuckling over the simplicity with which he lived while many around him were engrossed in and often embattled by complexities.
One of his favorite stories was of the time when, having returned home to care for his dad who’d taken ill, he was working in a shack on the farm. Concentrating on paperwork and phone calls, he was suddenly interrupted by the sound of a tractor revving up.
Dashing outside, Bill was startled to see Stosh, who’d recently suffered his first stroke, astride the tractor heading out to one of the back fence lines. Racing toward him, he asked his dad what he thought he was doing!
“Just riding out to the back field to sit and watch deer,” came the calm reply, “I’ve always done that. There’s nothing quite like it!”
No analysis or elaboration, just plain truth. “Nothing quite like it.” The old farmer was heading out to enjoy the same simple pleasure as he had in the past. Granting the severity of strokes, he’d nonetheless likely endured far greater storms during union busting and hoeing a living out of the hard dirt that so often gave little and forgave even less.
So there he was, heading out on an excursion that still delighted him. No money, reservations or long waiting lines required. No heady adventure or exotic get-away spot enticing. Simply the enjoyment and appreciation of nature and its gifts.
Made better by the surrounding silence and heightened perhaps by that within, developed by years of hard labor and knocks.
“You know,” Bill often told me, “Nobody seems to do things like that anymore. They’re always racing off for more of whatever it is they’re seeking.”
“Funny thing isn’t it?” he added, “My dad’s happier than most of them.”
Maybe the lives of farmers of preceding generations, exceedingly difficult though they were but before they fell prey to progress and modernization, were uniquely suited to that. You planted crops and tended them, milked cows and fed them, cared for sick animals and performed a thousand other tasks requiring sweat on the brow and thinking on one’s feet.
Little time was available for vacations, luxuries and conveniences much less their consideration. After all was said and done, analyzed and forecast, pretty much everything depended on the weather. Like a family planning for and preparing a picnic, the skies above always held final sway no matter how many factors had painstakingly been addressed.
Perhaps under such circumstances, a man learns quickly what’s his to control and what isn’t. And comes to understand that his role in every picture is to prepare as best he can and then accept what meets him and step forward from there.
Simply and humbly, not enamored of complexity and guided by truths dug up along the way.
“Stosh” died in the summer of 2002. At his funeral, a simple and non- extravagant affair, the priest encouraged everyone in attendance to, like Stanley, be thankful for the blessings that surround them
Ironically, something today that may be more difficult inundated as we are with them. For Stosh, whatever life brought was a blessing and he understood the limits in trying to rearrange it to suit one’s liking.
As he mentioned in our office visit,
“ It’s kind of hard to get out of the way of life even when it throws a curve. And it ain’t too smart.”
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© 2003 Jeffrey (George) Winter
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