Walking Beans

Dad turned 70 in August. We flew home to celebrate with him; a weekend at my sister’s was planned after several what-shall-we-dos were considered. In the end, it was his words at every Christmas that finalized our decision: “I love seeing all my kids and grandkids together.” We arrived a little early on Tuesday, the day before Dad’s birthday. Driving out to the farm and nearing Dad’s first bean field, I saw his truck parked in the level ditch. Together with my sister-in-law and nephew, Dad was walking beans. Pulling weeds. I nearly wet my pants, for we had just rolled into a real farming experience!

My sons’ idea of farm is so different from the reality of the farm-life that I grew up with. The farm has changed over the years from a dairy farm to a beef farm with no other livestock. No more chickens. No more butchering chickens with your cousins. No more collecting eggs. No more pigs. No more twice-daily milkings. No more holding cow tails. No more warm cow barns. No calves sucking on fingers. My visceral knowledge of “farm” is very different from my sons'.

In their computer game Minecraft, they showed me their cows. “Watch this, Mom!” Will collected a bucket, walked up to a cow, bumped her on the hip, and his bucket filled with milk. Shocked, I said, “You know it doesn’t really happen that way, right?” I was answered by an eye-ball roll. But really, he knows where the udders are, but he doesn’t know the process of moving milk from a cow to the table. Will hasn't smelled, seen, heard, felt, and tasted that experience.

Walking beans to cut volunteer corn and weeds out was my first paid job. I had many others (see About Me for my bucket list lived), but getting up at 4:30 a.m. to be in the field by 5:00 a.m.: a visceral memory.

I wheeled our car into the ditch. “They are walking beans!” I shouted. “There’s Grandpa!” my boys shouted. “They are walking beans!” I shouted. “There’s our cousin!” my boys shouted. “They are WALKING BEANS!” I shouted.

We joined the bean walkers. After walking one loop, I said, “Well, I have groceries in the car. I need to get going.” And the boys wanted to stay. I drove away, knowing they would need to finish the field before Grandpa brought them home. This wasn’t a dairy barn where they could test that hip-bump, but those were real weeds they were pulling.

My giddy smile lasted all the way to Mom’s.

(On occasion, I get to take the farmer East... "How did your crops do this year?" was the beginning of one such journey.)