Potato Cellar right before demolition.
Life on the Farm – “No, Mom, it’s fine. Seeeeeeee.”
Farmer Paul’s celebrated another birthday, but he almost didn’t make it at all, which would mean, no Maple Lawn Farms, no me or my sisters, no my kids, no freestone peaches this week, no Maize Quest. That’s right, Farmer Paul almost didn’t make it past childhood, and it would have been his own fault. His mother told him.
My Dad just turned 73 on August 2nd. That means he was born in 1942. That’s #alongtimeago and back then, Maple Lawn Farms was big into potatoes, chickens, and green beans.
We had an old barn we called, and still do call even though it’s gone, the Potato Cellar. It was a big, classic Pennsylvania Bank Barn, but featured an enormous dark, high walled-cellar for keeping potatoes cool and fresh.
(The Potato Cellar is gone now, victim of time’s ravages, but we have a great video of its last moments if you’d like to see it and try to spot the key door…CLICK HERE)
Anyway, young Paul was helping with the work in the barn, and in between loads was exploring and playing as kids often do. Old barns have many load out doors to make it easier to move farm products into wagons or trucks and the Potato Cellar was no exception.
Paul played near a closed door on the third floor level and his mother, Mabel McPherson called, “Stay away from that door, Paul!”
“Oh Mom, it’s fine. It’s latched. Seeeeeeee….”
Paul leaned on the door, the latch popped open and Mabel later replied that all she glimpsed was his feet as he tumbled out of the door; the door that was 20 feet off the ground. (See pic)
Have you even seen your own child hurt or sick? I know I can barely stand my kids with the flu. I’m a ‘fixer’ and when I’m powerless to do anything to help my kids, well, it’s about the worst feeling a parent can have, but I hope I never experience anything like my Grandmother did that day.
That day, Mabel didn’t run over to the doorway to see if Paul was alright, she ran to see if her only son was alive.
It was a busy day. My Grandfather Hugh apparently never did anything small. He had big ideas, a big crew, big equipment, big fields, big risks and always had irons in the fire. I never met him, but I grew up with the stylized caricature of him large in my life as my Grandmother was a big part of my childhood. I wanted to grow up to be just like my stylized, highlight-reel-only Grandfather.
We’re hard workers. McPhersons work. It’s who we are. It’s what we’re proud of. It’s our life. We’re farmers, so workaholic is a badge of honor. As Paul Harvey says, “Farmers… will put in 40 hours by Tuesday and go to town to sit at the school board meeting until 10PM..”(CLICK to Hear the rest of Mr. Harvey’s famous “Farmers” monologue.)
Wrapped up in ourselves. While all that sounds noble, workaholism in a form of self-focus. We get so wrapped up in ourselves, in what we want to accomplish, that we miss the moments, the time, the people around us, our family we’re supposedly working so hard for.
On the run. I can tell you with absolute conviction that Mabel wasn’t thinking about the potato crop; she wasn’t thinking about the house chores; not about preparing dinner. I can tell you that on the run out, down and around the barn hill… she was praying.
Why it takes a 30 foot drop. We are such creatures of habit, most big changes take a 30 foot drop. Think about your busy life. Think about how many coping systems you have in place. Think about how you habitually do things that same way, every time, just to make it through the day.
If you want to invoke some major change in your life, it often takes an emergency; a great big, makes-you-feel-powerless moment to wake you up and open your eyes to the reality of what’s truly important to you.
Good news, Paul made it. As we like to say, he landed on his stubborn head and pulled through. They say that in might have been the weeds that broke his fall and to this day, Paul lets other people do the mowing around here.
He had a massive concussion before concussions were in vogue. There was no ambulance, so some workers that had witnessed the fall, laid his unconscious body in the back seat of the car and drove 45 minutes to York Hospital. (Imagine that emergency services people! No backboard, no stretcher.)
So, right now, where are you in “the barn”?
Are you in the basement, toiling away with no idea what’s going on outside?
Are you playing, having a good time but way too close that trap door?
Are you watching someone who’s too close to the edge?
Are you falling into the weeds?
Are you running, praying, to see if you can save someone you love?
It doesn’t need to take a 30 foot drop. It’s OK if you call a timeout, make a call, go home early, hug friend, send a note, say a prayer, wake up, slow down, steal your time back from the cult of busyness in which we are so quick to enslave ourselves; even our children.
My own daughter, who is a major activity “joiner”, as I was at that age, finally said, “I think it would be too much” when her friends and teachers asked her to join yet another activity. My wife and I lept at the chance to reinforce her setting a purposeful limit for herself.
Set your own limit, call a “ time-out” and escape with the ones you love. If you need a place to escape with your family this weekend to just spend a little quality time together, we’re here for you. It’s quiet, peaceful, relaxing and the fruits delicious. Picture your family, doing nothing together but enjoying the time with each other in and amongst the orchard trees.
We’re here, heck the farm is here, for you because Farmer Paul bounced. He made it. That day, the answer to Mabel’s “prayers on the run” was “Safe”, and Paul has lived to grow and maintain the farm, to plant new trees, to continue the McPherson family.
And, yes, there are days I think Dad like to push me out of the barn himself, but he’s been a great support and advisor to me. I treasure each day I get to work with my innovative, thoughtful, hard-headed Dad – Farmer Paul.
Happy birthday, Dad.
Have a great week,