I got some pictures today that sent the word to my heart that I need to talk about some things. I have often discussed the difficulties of following your dreams and the risk it takes to dare to take big steps! But this hits different today. I see the hardship that comes when people are working so hard to live the life their soul begs for….. dreams of the life they want more than anything ….that is huge but far from easy.
Most farmers I know have additional jobs to help survive. Some have more than two. They have been blessed with supportive wives who are nurses, teachers, secretaries, managers, all kind of jobs, that help to make ends meet and to offset the losses they have had that stem from drought. You don’t have to drive very far in our state to see that even the Buffalo grass crowns have died. Pastures have turned to dirt lots, corn, milo, and feed fields that are so pitiful that you can see from one end to the other. The wiley coyotes are skinny because even the mice are starving. A desolate landscape that would make desert lover cringe. Hope is drying up and so are the long suffering men and women who love the land. They live their way of life because it’s who they are. The can’t escape the call of the earth. Every fiber of their being is in the dirt. Even if they had to get other jobs, it’s in them.
Survival in Kansas has always meant hanging on by the skin of your teeth. Life in the High Plains is not for the faint of heart or the weak. It’s settled by people with more grit than you can fathom. These amazing humans optimistically hang onto the idea that “better days are coming !” It pulls them out of the darkness of long days and helps them get their exhausted bodies out of bed. Their daily fight to feed their cattle and feed their families, is a never ending juggling act while trying everything possible to cut costs. The daily worry about fuel prices and interest rates is enough to crater any one. Their faces show the toll that worry and hard work will do to a person. The cost of repair bills is the highest I can recall in my lifetime and the drought has stolen hope of pay off. All of the very things that they can’t control. I have said for years that farming is the only career in the world where they set none of their own rates. They pray for decent returns as they market their crops with prices set by people who have never seen a field. Men in suits who eat the commodities they trade for big money while dictating what the laborers are allowed to earn. They pay top dollar for seed, chemical, fuel, equipment but they have no say in the value of their crops. They control nothing about the very thing they live for. Most jacked up thing I have ever seen. It’s sad. Yet, somehow there is hope. Every single day. God is so good.
We find hope in the next generation. Our inability to quit has got to remain strong enough to give these children the life we envision for them. These are the kids who, like us, will learn to face difficulty head on. They will see how hard their parents work to do the right thing. They will remember that their great grandfather was there every day and never gave up. They will work beside their grandfather many long hours in the tractor only to fall asleep safely, knowing that perseverance and strength of character are what matters. They will live to fight the good fight and treat the ground with the same sacred respect that has allowed them to dig the dirt, plant the seed and pray for whatever God will bless them with, good or bad. They will fight for the little stamp of earth that they call home.
This has been a hard year for each and every family who lives by the land. There is no magic pill to make it better. It is by faith alone we walk through the desert of Western Kansas. We depend on God for the rain, the sun and the land to produce the bounty. This year is what my dad would have called “the starving times”. My ancestors from Sligo kept moving forward from one hard year to another and their fortitude lives in me. My Gram would say, “Don’t look back, Sister. You aren’t going that way!” She was right.
Prayers for rain are much appreciated. Prayers for all are appreciated even more.
I’m sharing the pics of my little people, and through them, I see strength.
Until the next time… live in hope.