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Tractor Tales: Stories that Inspire a Love of Farming in Youth

June 26, 2024

Table of Contents

Tractor Tales: Stories that Inspire a Love of Farming in Youth

Rooted in Gratitude

I am blessed – there’s no other way to put it. Blessed with a long line of wonderful patriarchs in my life: my dad, amazing grandfathers, and a great-grandfather. Expressing gratitude is not just a gesture of my appreciation, but a heartfelt acknowledgment of the love, the lessons learned, and the legacies they bestowed upon me.

These men, each in their unique way, have shaped my life profoundly – weaving a tapestry of memories, wisdom, and unwavering faith that continues to guide me, especially as I grew older and had kids and grandkids of my own. They were men of few words, but their actions were sufficient. From long days during hot summers riding on the tractor, learning how to farm, to stopping by the full-service gas station for a fill-up and a Coke and bubble gum, to the fun nights listening to some awesome bluegrass playing while singing all of our favorite hymns as a family, to the Alabama football games even on the hottest days of the season – I loved every minute of it. I loved everything I learned.

My dad, with his steady presence and unconditional love, was the cornerstone of my upbringing. From him, I learned the importance of perseverance. He spent countless hours teaching me practical skills, pushing me to keep moving at every milestone, and offering a shoulder on which to lean. His life is a testament to the power of hard work and compassion, showing me that true strength lies in humility and dedication.

Legacies of Resilience and Faith

Each of these men embody a wealth of experience and a lifetime of stories, and all were a source of inspiration and guidance. Their tales of overcoming adversity, their wisdom in times of uncertainty, and their joy in the simple things have enriched my life immeasurably. They taught me to value heritage and to draw strength from it, knowing that such is what binds us.

Their lessons, often imparted in the quiet moments of harvesting the garden, sharing a meal, or watching them work, taught me to appreciate the beauty of life’s journey and the importance of staying true to myself. My great-grandfathers, though I knew them mainly through the stories passed down, have also left a legacy. They were men of great character, resilience, and faith. Their lives, marked by trials and triumphs, have become a source of respect and admiration.

From them, I inherited a deep-seated belief in the importance of family and faith. Their legacy is a reminder of the enduring power of love and the strength of the human spirit. But among all the invaluable lessons these remarkable men have imparted, the most significant is the importance of faith. Through their examples, I learned to place my trust in God, finding solace and strength in my beliefs.

Cherishing the Gift of Relationships

As I reflect on the memories and lessons shared by my dad, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers, I am filled with such a sense of gratitude. Their love, wisdom, and faith have been the bedrock upon which my life is built. They have shown me that true wealth lies not in material possessions, but in the richness of relationships and the strength of character.

Their legacy is a precious gift, one that I cherish deeply and strive to honor in my own life. In saying thank you to these remarkable men, I am not only acknowledging their influence on my life, but also celebrating the enduring bonds of family and the timeless values they have passed down. Their love, their lessons, and their faith have shaped me into the person I am today, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

As one farmer eloquently expressed, “True wealth lies not in material possessions, but in the richness of relationships and the strength of character.” This sentiment resonates deeply, especially when reflecting on the invaluable role my own patriarchs have played in shaping my life and values.

Cultivating a Love for the Land

Growing up on a farm in south-central Iowa, I was immersed in a world that many may think is flat and full of corn, but in the south, we have rolling hills, ponds, and wooded pastures. My dad’s land was pocked with old coal mine hills and pits, which was a great place for a boy with a big imagination to grow up.

I had mixed feelings about living on the farm. I loved the animals, the people, and the time spent outdoors. I loved my dad’s shop, full of odds and ends that I could invent with. I loved hunting for fossils or geodes and digging in ditches for old medicine bottles and rusty bike parts. I loved working cattle with my family and then sharing a pot of chili on the tailgate of Dad’s pickup.

At the same time, I felt restrained by the obligations of being part of a farming family. I disliked all the hours spading thistles and fixing fence. I felt like I was always shoveling one thing or another – manure, animal feed, gravel, snow, or a mixture of these. Sometimes I tried to do art and farm work at the same time, sketching while driving the tractor mowing hay, which led to curvy rows that neighbors laughed at. As much as I love the land, I always knew I wasn’t destined to be a farmer.

Embracing a Lifelong Passion

Surrounded by animals of all kinds – cows, pigs, goats, sheep, horses, chickens, geese, dogs, cats, silo pigeons, and plenty of wild varmints – I developed a deep adoration for these creatures. To this day, I adore animals and love to incorporate them into my art.

For me, the idea and the mood are much more important than the medium. I haven’t yet found an art medium that I didn’t enjoy. I’ve always loved painting, and in college, I really enjoyed copper plate etching. These days, I work mostly in digital painting in Photoshop on a Wacom Cintiq or in the ProCreate App on an iPad. My wife appreciates that this process does not create a mess. I’m also an obsessive sketcher and carry a pencil and sketchbook with me pretty much wherever I go.

My journey into the world of illustration and art education has been a winding one. I taught art for twelve years and have been doing freelance art and illustration work for 18 years. Not long ago, my illustration work picked up to the point I had to choose to either go full-time or simply stick with teaching. My launch into my art career has been slowed down by my struggle with chronic pain and fatigue due to Lyme disease and mold illness, but by the grace of God, I’m doing better now and can handle more work.

An Artful Legacy

As a local author trusted me with her manuscript and gave me my first shot at illustrating a complete book, I was able to refine my portfolio, which attracted other clients. These early jobs helped me to hone my skills, and it’s been a journey of trusting in God to provide. He always has.

It always begins with a pencil and a sketchbook. I feel a sense of play come over me as my mind bounces around from one idea to the next. Then I’ll use these early rough sketches as a conceptual support for more refined work. From there, it goes into several stages of refinement – blocking in big shapes, working out the composition, testing out light, adding shadow and textures, and then finally working in details.

Over the years, I’ve done brand identity and logo design, murals, custom paintings, and many other random art jobs. People come up with some crazy ideas, and I’m happy to help them bring these ideas to life. Whether it’s illustrating children’s books or creating whimsical farm scenes, my passion for storytelling and connecting emotionally with characters shines through.

As I reflect on my journey, I’m reminded of the importance of following your heart and trusting in the process. Thornappple CSA has been a constant source of inspiration, reminding me of the beauty and wonder that can be found in the simple joys of farm life. Just as my patriarchs instilled in me a deep appreciation for the land and the creatures that inhabit it, I strive to capture that same sense of wonder and connection in my art.

So, whether I’m sketching a playful farmhand or painting a vibrant sunset over a field of vegetables, I know that I’m carrying on a legacy that stretches back generations – a legacy of resilience, faith, and a profound love for the land. And in that, I find the greatest inspiration of all.

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