When Rachelle was five days old, I went back to work full-time on our farm. “Why so soon,” you might ask? I had to write paychecks and pay bills, we had a week’s worth of sows that had been bred and weaned; I needed to enter this into the computer and print new sow cards (sow cards contain the sow’s medical history on them). Just because I had a baby didn’t mean my work stopped. It meant I had to find a way to keep up with my work and be a mom at the same time. This is no different than any other mom or dad in the world today! The only difference might be that I had no back up person to do my work for me while I took some time off for maternity leave. That’s why I only took five days off work. The good thing was if I needed to lie down and rest I could and I didn’t have to worry about being fired for it. (You have to find the bright side of every situation!)
As babies, Rachelle and Conner grew up in a play pen that sat beside my desk inside my in-laws home office. The office used to be their garage but they gave it up for me so I had a nicer place to work than their kitchen table. As the kids became more mobile, my office became their play room. So every day I would barge into my in-laws home and spend hours and hours working on paper work for the hogs with two small children in tow. Kathy’s house would be immaculate when we showed up and by the end of the day it would be littered with toys and cheerios. (They wouldn’t have had it any other way and neither would Kevin and I.)
We feel very fortunate to have some great people work with us on our farm. One of my favorite co-workers is a man named Larry. We affectionately call him ‘Larry the Feed Guy.’ Larry went to high school with my in-laws. He began working for us sometime after Rachelle was born, I can’t remember exactly when. Larry has been with us for as long as we have had kids, so to us, he is like a member of our family, especially for our kids. He has watched our kids grow up and has been a great role model for our kids. He shows up every day with a smile on his face, even if he doesn’t feel like smiling. Larry delivers feed to our hogs. He arrives early and stays late to make sure the hogs are fed, even on weekends and holidays. Larry takes his job seriously and he is an important member of our farm family. (We probably don’t tell him this enough).
Larry has been with us through it all, the ups and downs, and he has been very supportive of our family. When Rachelle was a little girl, she would look out the patio door (which replaced the roll up garage door), and watch Larry load feed onto his truck. When he would glance in her direction, which became a habit for Larry to do, Rachelle would get so excited and wave at him. When the weather turned nice, Rachelle would step outside and stand on the patio and scream “HI LARRY.” When the weather turned cold, Larry would make a special trip into the office just so he could say “Hi” to Rachelle because he knew it meant a lot to her. He took time from his job to make this little girl’s day, even if it made his day longer. That’s more than just an employee, that’s family in my book.
As Rachelle grew bigger, she would run out to the feed shed when Larry showed up and visit with him. Larry took his time once again to talk with Rachelle. Then when it was time for him to leave the farm with his load of feed, he would ‘race’ Rachelle back to my office so he knew she was safe and out of his way. Rachelle just loved to race Larry and beat him. He always let her win, and later on, he didn’t have to let her win anymore because the little stinker was pretty quick! Over the years, my kids have grown to love Larry just like he was another Grandpa. They think they are pretty lucky to have so many Grandpa’s, they have two very special biological Grandpa’s and two men they have adopted on their own to hold the title of Grandpa. One is Larry, and the other is a very special man named Shorty who I will talk about another day.
When our son Conner was born, we were still making feed in our old make shift mill. Conner was born with a special heart you might say, one he inherited from my side of the family. We spent many days in the hospital with Conner. This meant I needed Kevin with me at the hospital and Gary was left to make feed on his own, and to try to do what I normally did too by this time which was weigh in/out corn trucks. (We buy corn from farmers to make our feed for the hogs). Gary tried his best to weigh the corn trucks in and out and still make feed at the same time but it delayed Gary in making feed. Larry spent many hours waiting on us back then because we had to make the best of a challenging time, and when I was gone it made it more of a challenge. The days were long then for Larry….it would take Gary or Kevin over 13 hours to make all of our feed on a good day when we had no break downs, and this happened 6 ½ days a week. Larry would spend 45 minutes waiting for a load of feed at times. He was so patient with us. And all these years later he is still here with us, that is the true definition of dedication!
When I made it back to work full-time after having Conner, Conner was about 10 or 11 days old. I was a nervous wreck and Larry would come in my office with a smile on his face, play with Rachelle and he would always look at me and say, “That boy is going to be just fine.” I would look at Larry with tears in my eyes and say, “I hope your right.” Larry always smiled and said, “I am, just you wait and see.” When it seemed like Conner wasn’t growing as fast as I thought he should, Larry would always say, “he will grow, you just need to be patient; he’s going to be fine.” And Larry was right; Conner has grown and overcome many obstacles. Now when Larry sees Conner, he will look over at me sometimes and wink and say, “I told you that boy would grow!”
The kids are older now and they don’t get to see Larry as much as they did when they were younger because of school but they still love Larry. Every time Larry comes into the feed mill after the kids are out of school or ball practice, they run up to Larry with open arms and give him a big hug, even if he is covered in feed, all the while singing out his name, “ LAAARRRYYY!” Larry always gets a big smile on his face and hugs them back, even if he is in the middle of getting directions from Gary. This is what warms my heart, to see my kids love Larry so much. We have many special people who work with us but I think Larry is by far my kids’ favorite! Life on our farm just wouldn’t be the same if Larry wasn’t a part of it!