Have you heard or read the speech that Paul Harvey gave in 1978 at the National FFA Convention? The words “So God Made a Farmer” are wonderful and very inspiring. The first thing that comes to my mind is our dad, John McClure.
Dad got up at dawn or before to tend to the irrigated crops, milked cows, feed his cattle and horses, make sure they had water, pat “Old Pup’s” head, give the kitties some milk in the barn. He carried the full milk pail into the house and poured milk in the jars to be refrigerated. He ate a great breakfast that my mom had made for him and us kids, washed up and shaved, put on his Sunday go-to-meeting clothes and took us all to church. We took the long way to church, as he picked up all the neighborhood kids to go with us. At one time there was 14 kids packed in that old pea-green four-door Dodge. Dad would sing his heart out driving into town and expected us all to sing with him. He would look in the mirror to see if we were singing and if we weren’t he gave us the “stink eye.” It was fun and we loved every minute of it. The memories I recall today are priceless.
We were the only Irish family in a mostly German-Russian community. Dad would say “just remember you are Irish” and Mom would say in her scolding voice “now remember, you ARE Irish and don’t do anything to make your dad be ashamed of you!” That simple statement kept me out of a lot of trouble! “What would your dad think?” was pounded into our head. Actually Mom’s background was English and Austrian-German and Dad’s was Irish. But in Mom’s eyes we were all Irish and she would add “and don’t you forget it! And our last name is McClure. And don’t you forget it!”
I never knew what nationality our neighbors were because during World War II, the Germans became Russians and after the war some switched back to German. Dad teasingly called his friends “Rooshins.”
It did not matter very much to me because the kids were my friends. I got to go to their houses and eat such wonderful dishes as Kraut Burgers, a most delicious cabbage pocket. (Cabbage and hamburger wrapped in a soft bread dough and then baked.) Or go to Betty Schmidt’s house for dill pickles that were fermented down in the dirt basement in a crock — my goodness those were good! You just reached your hand in the crock and grabbed a pickle out of the brine — no matter where your (or anyone else’s) hands had been before that. Eileen Lauck’s mom was a good cook and different things on the table were so interesting and tasted so good to me.
Geraldine Dietz seemed to have apple pie at her house all the time. The Winnicks were good friends of Dad’s. Their kids were older, in high school.
The farm next to our farm were Italians. Tony and Mrs. Aranci, their pretty daughter JeanAnn and their son Duane, who became (and still is) a good friend of my brother John. Mrs. Aranci called her husband Anthony. We all enjoyed Anthony playing his violin. We all thought it was most fascinating! Dad would smile and clap whenever he finished a song. Dad called him Toni. He would bring his “fiddle” as Dad teasingly called it, to our house. He and I would play good music as I tried to keep up on the piano. He very patiently taught me to play along with him. He was a good teacher. He played for square dances with my piano teacher Kathryn Sutherland, in the Sutherland barn. Those dances did not last long and I do not know why. I enjoyed them so much.
The last names of our farmer neighbors were Aranci. Winnicks, Schmidts, Dietz, Triples, Klings, Buderus, Strobles, Shields and Reins and of course McClures! Good hard-working friendly farmers.
Dad never cut corners as he plowed, harrowed and seeded his fields. In earlier days he used three big horses, Barney, Babe and Dan. My biggest memory is Dad hefting me up on the back of one of the big draft horses and telling me to hang on, as those gentle wide backed horses took their time going to the barn after a big day in the fields. Dad would unharness them, rub them down, feed them oats, pat each one the rump as they went out to the water tank for long drinks of water. I sat on the milk stool in the barn and watched this gently man — my Dad.
Always smiling, always willing to help his neighbor and always ready to tell a story or a joke with his smiling Irish eyes and big grin. He held one of his kids on his lap and scooted another up beside him and put his big arms around them. Yes, we as family, were proud of what our dad did. Because God made him a farmer!
Note: I wrote this article Sunday Morning and then watched the AMC awards Sunday Evening with Bob. There on television was the very Paul Harvey poem I had written about! Bob and I were speechless — so this article mean a bunch more to me now.
If you would like a copy of the Paul Harvey speech, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be glad to e-mail you a copy. It is priceless. Thanks to my sister Ginger I have my copy!