Then and Now, prologue


Years ago, when I was finally old enough to appreciate the man, I remember visiting with my grandfather. Grandpa farmed using horses when he was younger.  The stories of that way of life and memories of the first tractors were very educational. Grandpa witnessed great changes in his lifetime. He never operated a big four wheel, but he did see them in action.

I haven’t always been a farmer like my granddad. My career path put me out on the road, manipulating semi trucks. I figured out I was the most happy working agricultural support though. During the times when I was over the road, I lost touch with the crop growing season. I missed that terribly.  Throughout my lifetime I can safely say I have been witnessing agricultural change. Maybe not as drastic as Grandpa did though.

The past three generations of the Shaw family have always had a hand in the soil, in some way. None of us actually owned the farm though, sort of…… Grandpa worked for a farmer for many years and took over the management of the farm when his employer passed away. Grandpa continued to handle those duties until he retired. We were always very close to the family Grandpa worked for. I always considered the widow another of my grandmothers.

My dad worked part time during the day before going to a “city” job at night. Of course, Dad’s employer was also someone the family grew close to. My dad ended up taking the gentleman in after he retired, until the farmer passed on. They were always close friends and it fit since the fellow had no family after his wife had passed. It seems I had alot of extended grandparents years ago.

It’s sad that the bond felt years ago, created from labor intense togetherness, doesn’t seem as prevalent. Modern farming isn’t the same. Now a day, a large close working team force isn’t required to keep a farm in check. Farms are bigger now, but the work has become easier, fewer people are needed to manage it.

I followed dad’s way of employment during my younger years. I started my career at age 12 working on a father/son managed operation. My initial job was  walking beans and mowing yard. As I matured and got bigger in stature my duties increased. The grain livestock operation grew several acres of hay. In fact there was enough baling done to justify a full time crew throughout much of the year. Our surplus hay was peddled out to smaller operations and recreational farmers.

I didn’t consider it so much a blessing then, but the farm I worked wasn’t totally up to date modern. I do now. Not many my age remember harvesting ear corn, storing the ears in corn cribs. The hard work of shelling the corn from out of cribs. Tractor cabs weren’t standard equipment then. They weren’t as nice as the climate control of today. I spent many years on open station tractors. I braved the sun, dust and other elements. I was also just off enough to enjoy every single minute. This may shed light as to why I collect now.

All through my high school years I continued working for the farm. I wasn’t only a part of the crew, my employers groomed me to supervise in their absense. At the age of 18, I was learning the maturity and difficulty of being the boss. This life experience would soon lead to a small hay operation opportunity of my own. I was the first Shaw to actually own a tractor, and manage my own farm ground, not just operate one for someone else. The triumph was short lived, a 20 year old isn’t always smart enough to understand a good thing when he has it.

I continued to work my first farm job off and on whenever possible. 20 years later, I moved south near Springfield, IL. My career had already taken on a road aspect. I did work for a farmer full time for about a year. It didn’t take long to realize the glamorous life style of working in a hog confinement. I gave up handling the “show girls” and went back to the pursuit of the road. It was at this point in life I discovered I enjoyed ag support. It was the combined pleasure of both loved worlds, farming and the road.

I currently work for a grain company now. I can’t claim to be just employed as a driver though. Driving is my principle duties, but my past experiences allow me to be utilized on the 4000 acre farm operations my employer also have. Some of the farm work is familiar, but I had to modernize  This could be considered my “dream” job. I enjoy being a part of the team.

I will be sharing a series of my “Then and Now views on farming in a few part series here on the blog. I hope that you the readers will enjoy my reminiscent views ……

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