A while back, I was chatting with a friend about a number of things and somehow, the conversation shifted to farming. He had just recently obtained some farmland and he was pretty excited about it. He knew I had grown up on a farm and had some knowledge, albeit a small amount, but farming knowledge nonetheless. We discussed farming, buying a small tractor for his current property, drilling winter wheat, CRP and the dream of one day living on his new land. As the convo waned, I just told him that it was hard work and I hope for the best for him.
The months passed and as harvest came and went, his excitement of owning a farm did the same. His statements went from that of a child on Christmas morning to that of a man looking for payback on an investment. He said that the farmer who the land was leased to didn’t make the crop he had expected and he hoped that some kind of a profit would be made.
As I listened, my mind traveled. It delved into the depths of my memory to a childhood of running through shelter belts of trees, climbing on plows and trailers, reenactments of historical battles with my brothers and my dad.
I remember hearing these same exchanges growing up. “I just hope we get that rain this week, we really need it. I think we’re gonna plant some wheat or guar this year.” Gaylon Tucker, the ‘Wildman of West Texas,’ was a farmer through and through.
He was an upteenth generation farmer, turning the same land he had grown up on. Teaching his boys to have a love for the land, the value of a dollar and virtue of a good man.
Being the third and final son, not a whole lot was put on me with the farm. James, the eldest, and John, the middle, were the farmhands of the family. I was the gopher. Go get the tools, get this bag of seed over here, get the water hose to fill up this fertilizer tank, etc. But when there was a job to do, the family would be out helping. I can remember the countless times that we hauled hay bales, picked black-eyed peas before the deer could get them and picked huge red diamond watermelons and mom bringing out sandwiches. Now those are some memories.
But things weren’t always so hunky dory. Farming had hardships. And we knew all too well about hardships. Planting seed and getting a far less than perfect yield. Running a combine over wheat and the machine catching on fire. The water well going out…a lot. Carrying water by hand to the animals. The pigs breaking out of their pens, right before the bus picks you up for school. (Mom was the bus driver, so if we were late…everyone was late.) Dad out working till dark to get at least one of the antiquated tractors running to get the crop in.
There were many more occasions that I could talk about, but it will only lead me away from the main part of the story, which is my dad.
It takes a special man to farm and Wildman was that kind of man. Despite all of the experiences, good and bad, he was unwavering. He smiled and just kept on trucking. I don’t remember him ever saying he just wanted to give up or quit, which was something he passed on to his boys. I can’t tell you how many times I came home telling him how bad a job or an event at school was and he’d just say, “Son, there are gonna be things in life that you don’t like to do, but you just gotta do it anyway. You made a commitment, honor it.”
Speaking of commitments, dad was also one to “loan” his sons for a number of odd jobs. One summer, I think I was turning 15 that year, he committed me to weed eating with a mowing crew. I had never ran a weed eater. It was just something that we didn’t have. But, according to my dad, I was the best and fully capable. I spent an ENTIRE summer traveling the back roads of three counties, trimming the tall weeds around culverts and road reflectors. Looking back, I realize that he was instilling in us a hard work ethic of a farmer, even though I wasn’t going to be one myself. That quality, I have learned, is something that separates you from the rest of the pack.
With all that being said, I don’t think we, me and my brothers, would have become half the men that we are if it weren’t for The Wildman.
I finally snapped out of my memory daze and told my discouraged friend to keep going. Farming is hard, but the return is worth it. Just ask my dad. He planted us, fed and watered is with words of encouragement, watched us grow and weeded out the bad when necessary and when we were ready to leave the farm, he was proud to show off his prized crop. Even though the profession of farmer wasn’t carried on by us, something far greater was passed to us: a legacy of hard work, virtue and care for others. Thanks dad.