When I was young and growing up on the farm, one of my father’s standing rules was that whenever we encountered a rock while working in the field, we were to pick it up, place it on the tractor platform and deposit it along the fence row for later collection. I was twelve when I finally understood the relationship between rocks, costly equipment and seed displacement. You see, I was a young farm boy who was prone to daydreaming. Although I had my assigned tasks on the farm, I wasn’t very diligent in performing them because my mind was often wandering to places and events far beyond our acreage in north central Ohio.
During the spring of my seventh-grade year my father had to be hospitalized for an extended time. My mother and I were left to milk the cows, feed the hogs, gather the eggs and prepare the fields for planting. My siblings at 9 and 8 years of age were too young to materially assist us, so I missed a few days of school and we soldiered on. After we had the fields ready for planting, our neighbors and fellow church members arrived with their planting equipment and completed the job in one day. I learned about neighbors helping neighbors and the blessings of community that year. It was an eye-opening experience for my curious twelve-year old mind.
Back to the rocks… During my early years on the farm I could not fathom why rocks would appear in fields after we had picked them the previous years. One field was particularly obstinate. It consisted of 6 acres of “jackwax”… a black-blue soil that turned over in huge slabs when it was plowed with a moldboard. It was beautiful to see and extremely difficult to work as the reluctant slabs would fight every attempt by the disk, cultimulcher, cultipacker, springtooth and harrow to tame it into a seed-ready bed. That darn field was a kidney destroyer when I would drive the tractor across its massive slabs. Invariably, a few days after beating the black mass with our entire equipment inventory, my Dad would tell me to take the small tractor and a trailer and go “pick up the rocks in the jackwax field.” I was perplexed. I thought we had retrieved all the rocks the year before…and the one before that. What evil presence was pushing these rocks up to the surface just to annoy me?
That year that my father was in the hospital… the answer was revealed to me. The rocks were numerous and were lying in the rich soil quietly minding their own business when an all-day soaking rain or a 30-minute “gully-washer” would wash the soil away and expose their hiding places. The fertile black-blue soil camouflaged the rocks as they lay silently waiting to damage a disk blade or deflect some precious grains or kernels of seed. The cleansing rain washed away their cover and exposed them for what they were: impediments to our lives and prosperity. If the field were to have a good yield, the offending rocks had to be removed. Their hard-core interference had to be stopped so that our family farm might flourish.
More than a half-century later I was picking rocks from my own fields for the same purpose that my father and grandfather had. Even as I approach “golden-ager” status, my mind still wanders….and wonders. As I was driving my Gator while “rock scouting” and stopping to pick up the offending “back breakers,” I thought my exercise would provide a simple metaphor for where our nation is today. We are so blessed to live in a land of abundance and variety. We have a population that has brought the strengths of many cultures to our shores, but we are struggling…. and our yields are diminishing.
If the field represents our nation, the rich and potentially productive soil is symbolic of our natural resources and our citizens. Clearly the rocks are the faulty policies, the venal career politicians and the arrogant bureaucrats who damage our tools and suppress our yields. The Tea Party, liberty advocates and patriots are the rains. The steady downpours are the constant vigilance and insistence for accountability that our freedom warriors demand. The thunderous gully-washers represent the inflamed ire of our people when they have been “crossed,” sold-out or cheated. Freedom-loving people will expose the offending rocks and remove them….one by one until the field is cleared. We must never forget, however, the rocks will continue to appear, and we must always be vigilant rock pickers forever more. We cannot afford to be daydreamers like that young farm boy was more than a half-century ago. We must be alert. The heavy lifting never ends.