Monday, October 17, 2011

A trip worth waiting for


















My dad is on his way home from what may have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Two weeks ago, he left behind his crops (which are ready for harvest), his cattle, his wife and his job at the bank to travel to Russia on a Kansas Beef Marketing trip with the Kansas Secretary of Agriculture and the Governor of Kansas.  He has spent the last two weeks spreading the word about Kansas beef to people on the other side of the world.

When I stop to think about the life he left behind compared to the world he has been exposed to in the last 14 days, it renders me, well, without words.

But maybe that's because I know his whole story.

The story that began with a young boy growing up chasing fly balls and quarterbacks in the neighborhoods of working-town St. Joseph, Missouri, and ended with a cattleman that earned the respect of a Governor and his fellow agriculturalists in the State of Kansas.

My dad learned of the farm and experienced the farm through his grandparents.  His own dad wasn't able to take on a farming and ranching livelihood given the agricultural technology of the 1950's coupled with severe asthma and allergies.  His dad, my grandpa, married my grandma, moved to St. Joseph, raised six children, sent them all to Catholic school, watched them all graduate from college, and only on rare occasions missed a little league game.

My dad went to Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.  He played football and baseball - was fiercely competitive and athletically astute.  He married my mom, earned a degree in English (his vocabulary dances circles around mine), and started a career teaching and coaching at his old high school.

Not long into his teaching and coaching gig, I came along.  My brother followed 13 months later.  Teaching and coaching at a catholic high school in the early 1980's wasn't exactly paying the bills.

He took a risk, moved his family, and tried his hand at banking.  Turns out, he was good at that, too.

He took another risk.  Moved us one more time.  Took another banking job, and began investing in farm ground and trying his hand at farming.  The farming thing really seemed to suit him.

My two younger sisters joined the family, the farming operation grew, and our family grew up chasing fly balls, quarterbacks, point gaurds, 4-H livestock, and Simmental cattle across the northeast Kansas countryside.

And that pretty much sums up life for the past twenty years.  Add in college, some weddings and some grandkids, but mostly, you'll find my dad chasing cattle and following K-State football.

I have always had a deep respect for my dad.  The trip to Russia didn't really change that.  What I wholeheartedly admire is the way he has "delayed the gratification."  He has spent his years quietly building his herd - his family and his cattle.  And now, into his fifties, he is stepping away from the farm, the ballgames, the grandkids, and doing something that is personally rewarding.  Satisfying.  And well deserved.

I'm so proud that someone else recognized the knowledge and experience my dad can bring to Kansas agriculture.  I've known it all along...