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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



I rolled out of bed this morning, no easy task some days let me tell you, and drug myself into work just in time to be greeted by a smiling co-worker who wanted to show me a picture of her and her dogs that ran in yesterday’s paper. I was tickled to see it as she’s always talking about her love for her animals and as I was skimming over the page looking at the obituaries right next to her photo I noticed a name and a face that looked familiar to me.

Even though the sun is shining brightly this morning helping to warm us from the chilly overnight lows that are flirting with the frost threshold, today seems to be a little more cloudy inside as I read of the passing of a boyhood neighbor, C.B. Clark.

C.B. was a unique character in my small neighborhood. He lived up a long lane in a large two story house with his wife Josephine. I don’t remember interacting with her a lot as a boy, but would see her from time to time and always remembered how nice and friendly she was. C.B. was a farmer, and he raised hogs and corn. That I do remember. He was never showy about his farm, never seemed to go out and buy that next new fancy piece of equipment, but he made do with what he had. I always liked to look at the pasture in front of their home on my way to school on the bus. Looking out the window and over the different pieces of old farm equipment that found their final resting spot there always seemed to me to be a treasure of farming through the years, as though they were his own little history museum.

I remember his smile and always disheveled hair. Looking at him in my memories from my youth, he always reminded me of the photos you would see in text books of the Okies during the depression. His face full of lines and rough edges a testament to the years on the farm. His gravely voice and the way he’d laugh and always thought that we boys he hired from time to time were just the greatest for helping him out. He was also cool because he had initials for a name. I don’t ever remember anyone calling him Charles aside from his wife and to all of us he was a dear friend.

My first of few jobs I worked on for C.B. was helping Gene Simons on a sheller crew. Corn shelling was probably my favorite thing growing up as a farm kid. There was something very exciting to a young man when the sheller would pull into the yard in the morning. The big yellow machine would be pulled up behind the crib and its chutes would be laid out in preparation for the start of the day. Of course I was much to young to ever help out with this task, other than playing in the cob pile every now and then and by the time I was old enough we were no longer picking ear corn, thanks in part to yours truly taking out the grain elevator while trying to squeeze an 18 foot tandem disc through a 14 foot gate.

But the day did come, as we boys would soon learn that any farm kid who can put in a good days work could find a job here and there as a hired hand. I’d worked for Gene before, most notably bailing straw, which to this day I swore weighed more than any hay I had ever bailed. The day came though when I got to help as part of a shelling crew. We backed up to the wire crib that sat just south of the house and laid out the conveyors and got ready with our shelling forks, which were old pitchforks with the tines bent down in a L shape to drag the corn out and onto the conveyor, and began we did.

I remember that day being more fun that work, of C.B. standing right there with us and working hard along side of us, of my friend John being deathly afraid of snakes, and of being able to say that I had indeed worked on a shelling crew at the end of the day.

As I grew older, C.B and his wife moved off of the farm and had a sale. After all those years of looking at that pasture with antique farm equipment in it I finally was able to stroll around and see for myself the treasures it held, one of which, sits in my yard today. I can still picture him in my mind, that old gentle farmer who loved a laugh, always had a story or a joke to be told and really defined what a good farm neighbor should be. I’ll miss him, much as I miss all of my farm neighbors that so defined my youth, and even to this day, when I drive by and stare of into that empty pasture I’ll always know that farm as C.B’s place and remember my very first job on the corn shelling crew.

See you next week. Remember, we’re all in this together.