They Were Farmers And Much More

In the rural country sides of this state, everyday traditions and simpler lifestyles seem to be the norm among the families I have known in my lifetime. I began life during a time when the majority of my neighbors farmed and Sundays were spent going to church followed by a fried chicken dinner at home instead of in town at a franchised restaurant. In fact, Saturdays involved selecting a pullet from the barnyard to become Sunday’s meal, which also caused a lot of boiling water to be carried outside to help in that chore. At our house it was a regular weekend event, but it added a lot of normalcy to our lives that seems to be missing these days. Routine has gone the way of dial phones and only three channels on TV, with something good to watch on all three channels at the same time.  

I have had a lot of time recently to think about those days of routine, as I have stood with the very folks I have shared my life with in our rural country sides in visitation lines at funeral homes. Either I have reached that age of making more of these visits or this summer has been really hard on my old friends, but for some reason I have stood too much and too often in these types of lines lately.  

For five of those I went to honor recently, many people would describe them as just farmers. However, as we stood there in the dim light of those funeral homes, we all knew they were so much more. As friends, family and life-long neighbors passed by to express their respects, the discussion was about life and how Mr. Bill, Mr. Ed, Mr. Ray, Mr. James and Mr. Dan had made a difference. They all five had farmed all their lives and raised families on their farms who are still following in their father’s tracks dealing with weather, prices and the government. One of the tough things about farming is when you think you are making ends meet, someone moves the ends.

Yes, they were just farmers, but they were also providers for their families, as well as their communities. If the community needed help, you could count on them. They were just farmers, but they were also a part of what kept the community going. They were on the school board, the Farm Bureau board, the PTA, county commissions, citizen groups, church committees and anything else that needed someone to lend a hand to get the job done.

All five men were what I would call very intelligent. They may not have had doctorate degrees, but they could tell you how to cure a sick cow, put the correct formula of fertilizer on your crops and even give you some law advice if the need ever arose. They operated on a balanced budget, which our government can’t do, could make a deal with a handshake and their name was the same as money down at the local bank. But they didn’t accomplish all of this alone. Each had a good wife at their side to support them during the bad times, as well as the good. They were all big in education and saw it necessary that their children went on to higher education and are now giving back to society rather than taking.

Mr. Ed, Mr. Bill, Mr. Ray, Mr. James and Mr. Dan were all enjoying their farms right up until about a couple years ago. They were struck with what has touched a lot of families these days. Cancer and heart problems entered their lives and each day changed after that. But each looked at what nature had done to their health in the same way as what nature had played in their days of farming. Just like the rain and sunshine, they had no control when either would appear, but they continued to farm everyday with hope and faith that the next crop would be just a little bit better. The same was true with each man and their last days here with us. They knew they had no control, but they just hoped and had the faith that what was ahead would be better. That comes from a rural and country lifestyle.

They all five are gone now. I guess God needed another group of farmers to attend to heaven’s cropland. I’m sure He is getting a good job from those five, because we all know they were just farmers and a whole lot more.  


–       Pettus L. Read is editor of Tennessee Home & Farm magazine and Tennessee Farm Bureau News. He may be contacted by e-mail at