Category Archives: Farm Life

Remembering Memorial Day

Don Detrick at David Brainerd GraveI like to visit cemeteries, like this old one in Northampton, Massachusetts, where I visited the grave of Pioneer American missionary, David Brainerd. I know that seems odd to most people. But there is something about visiting a cemetery populated by reminders of the past that makes me more aware of the present. And I always enjoy the history provided there, causing me to reflect on the legacy I might be able to leave behind, or not, depending upon what I do today and whatever tomorrows I have left on this earth.

As a boy growing up in rural Oregon, Memorial Day meant noisy boat races in the nearby Willamette River and a ritual my parents carried out as a sacred duty. They called it “Decoration Day” as it was a day for decorating the graves of our departed family members. Rising early in the morning, we would enter our yard and garden to pick the flowering white blossoms of the snowball tree, pink peonies, orange and yellow day lilies, red rhododendrons or azaleas– anything that happened to be blooming at the moment, colorful and fragrant. Dad was particularly fond of iris, which he always called, “flags.” These cut flowers were carefully arranged in Mason jars and off to the cemetery we would go. My parents would reminisce on the way there and back about relatives I never knew except what I gleaned via those conversations.

Today, many Americans have no idea why we celebrate Memorial Day, viewing it only as a reason for a 3-day weekend.  I once asked an Israeli cardiologist who was a resident at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles what he thought about living here. He replied, “I don’t understand your Memorial Day. In Israel it is a very sacred and serious day when we remember those who have died and given their lives for our nation. In America, it is a huge shopping day and sale.”

Memorial Day has traditionally been a day of remembering the many heroes who lost their lives during the Civil War and other wars in which the United States has been involved. All told, more than 1.35 million lives have been lost in America’s wars since our nation’s beginning.  However, for many people, Memorial Day is also a time to honor all loved ones who have passed on before us.

The American Civil War was the deadliest war in American history, and the only one fought on our own soil, with more than 625,000 killed on both sides. Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans – the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) – established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared it should be May 30. It is believed the date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

The ceremonies centered on the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant and other Washington officials presided. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day. The Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities. It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971 Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.

Gen. Logan’s order for his posts to decorate graves in 1868 “with the choicest flowers of springtime” urged: “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

The crowd attending the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was approximately the same size as those that attend today’s observance, about 5,000 people. Then, as now, small American flags were placed on each grave – a tradition followed at many national cemeteries today. In recent years, the custom for many families is to remember their departed loved ones by visiting cemeteries and cleaning up tombstones, or laying flowers or decorations on graves.[1]

Why do we need a special day to remember the dead?  The answer is simple – it is too easy for the living to forget about them.  Speaking of the dead, the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “For the memory of them is forgotten.”  (Ecclesiastes 9:5b NKJV)  He goes on to say, “Whatever they did in their lifetime – loving, hating, envying – is all long gone. They no longer have a part in anything here on earth.”  (Ecclesiastes 9:6 NLT)

While dedicating the Gettysburg National Cemetery on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln said:

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Today we know that to a great extent it was the resolve of President Lincoln that brought an end to both the Civil War and slavery, thus creating a “new birth of freedom.”  The United States of America still exists today because of the principles set forth in a graveyard dedication speech, the Gettysburg Address. Thus it is fitting for us who remain in this day to remember and show honor and respect on this Memorial Day in 2015–and maybe visit a cemetery to pay our respects. Who knows, you might actually enjoy it!

[1] Some information taken from “The Origins of Memorial Day” from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs office of Public Relations at

A Tribute to My Father

Howard Detrick ca 1936 - 20 years old

Howard Detrick ca 1937 – 21 years old

(Originally written for Father’s Day 2002)

Last Sunday my sister and I checked our 85-year-old father into the hospital.  He was very ill, with a temperature of nearly 104 degrees, yet his hands were blue and he was shivering from cold.  “Yes, he is my father.  Medical history?  Bypass surgery more than a decade ago, prostate cancer, slight stroke last year.  Yes, he has been here before, and yes he is taking his meds.”

As I sat next to his bed while my father was being x-rayed, poked and examined in every conceivable way, my heart was filled with a thousand thoughts and memories.

“Do it again, Daddy!  Please!”  He took me up in his arms and swung me back and forth like an old-time logger working a misery whip saw.

With his huge hands wrapped around my tiny body, he sang in his baritone voice, “Swing the little birdy in the tree, in the tree, in the tree.  Swing the little birdy in the tree, sing, sang to Donnie, whee!!!”  When he said “Whee,” he threw me up in the air toward the ceiling.  I thought I would explode with a delicious combination of giggles and fright.   I loved that game and over the years I saw my dad do the same thing with my own three children.

Another time, another place.  Dressed in my blanket sleepers, with a quilt wrapped around me, I was watching my dad fix the broken motor on the mechanical chicken feeder.  Mom was gone to a meeting for the evening.  I was in his care and too young to understand that the health and welfare of his livestock was the key to our family’s survival.   His hands looked so big to my four-year-old eyes, big enough to fix anything.  Big enough to carry anything.  Big enough to protect me from anything lurking in the dark shadows of the chicken house.  “Daddy what are you doing?  Can we go back to the house and watch television?  Daddy, I’m thirsty.  Can I have a drink?  Why can’t I help you?  Daddy, do I have to go to bed?”

It was the first time I can remember wanting something so much.  I needed that red Radio Flyer wagon in the display window of the Western Auto store.  It was just like the one Timmy had on the “Lassie” television show.  Lassie and Timmy had such a good time playing with that wagon and hauling around everything important to a young boy.  I had a collie like Lassie, too – and I just knew she would be as smart as Lassie if only I had a red wagon.   “Daddy, can I have that wagon?  Please, daddy?  Shep and I would love to play with that wagon.”

Then I remember becoming very sick.  The doctor came to our house and said I had rheumatic fever.  They poked me with needles and hooked up machines that watched my heart.  Dr. Bump said that I had to stay in bed for a long rest until I got better – but he also said I might not get better.  I was very weak, and had to take the most awful medicine that my dad coaxed down my throat with a mixture of applesauce and sugar.

One day dad came home from town.  He had been to the Western Auto store.  I was lying in bed on the sofa in the living room.  “Donnie, look out here on the porch.”  I’m sure my heart really fluttered because there before my eyes was the brand new Radio Flyer red wagon!  “It’s yours and you can come outside and play with it just as soon as you get better!”

With help from the Great Physician, and motivation from my dad, after six months I was able to go outside and play with that wagon.  My earthly father and Heavenly Father worked together to provide my healing and I have never suffered a heart murmur or any ill effects from the disease that had threatened my young life.

As I sat and waited, more memories came.  I was ten years old and an insurance salesman stopped by the house on his regular rounds.  He was always trying to sell dad a different policy, but he was always treated like a friend, invited into the house for a cup of coffee and a piece of my mom’s pie.  In fact, pretty much everyone who came by was treated the same way.  From the ubiquitous salesmen, to the field agent, to the preacher, no matter how busy my dad was or what he was doing, it was momentarily laid aside for some polite conversation and some of my mom’s ever-available dessert.  My parents had the gift of hospitality and they passed it along to their children.  It is part of our inheritance – their legacy to us.

Although not old enough to participate in the conversation on that day, I was old enough to eavesdrop and understand much of what was being said.  I knew times were hard and things were bad on our farm, but until that moment I didn’t realize how bad.

“We lost thousands of chickens ready for market during that last hot spell,” my dad was saying.  “Besides that, the price we pay for everything keeps going up, while the price the co-op pays us keeps going down.  I don’t know how we are going to make the mortgage payment and pay the bills, let alone buy another insurance policy.  I just don’t understand it.  You try to live right and work hard, and then things like this happen.”  His voice trailed off.

That day I grew a little bit and learned a lot more.  I’d never seen my dad cry before, but there were tears in his eyes and his voice trembled as he talked to the insurance man.  I’d always seen my dad as invincible, never afraid of anything, able to pull us through any situation.  But that day I learned that he was vulnerable to discouragement and I needed to do what I could to help pull our family through some tough days.

As they usually do, circumstances improved in time.  Now I was thirteen.  Dad and I were riding in the truck, going to McMinnville to buy supplies.  “Son, you’ve worked like a man this summer.  We couldn’t have accomplished what we did without your help.”  My dad was a man of few words and even fewer words of praise.  As if he had reached his absolute spending limit on such extravagances, he next did what he normally did as we rode together.

“Oh I want to see Him, look upon His face.  There to sing forever of His saving grace.  On the streets of glory, let me lift my voice.  Cares all past, home at last, ever to rejoice!”  On the seat of a tractor, or the seat of a pickup truck, my dad always sang.  He loved the old hymns and gospel songs.

But my mind wasn’t on the song; it was on his words of appreciation.  To tell you the truth, spending most of your summer daylight hours at the controls of a tractor isn’t exactly torture for a teenager.  But at least for a few moments, I felt vindicated; like I’d paid my debt to the family for all the times I’d been a slacker and complained about life on the farm.  A little bit of praise goes a long way to improve a thirteen-year-old boy’s perspective on life.  But that wasn’t all.

“Hey, where are we going?”  Instead of pulling into the feed and farm supply store, we were parking in front of the local Honda motorcycle shop.  I had to pinch myself to be sure I wasn’t dreaming.  I couldn’t believe it as we walked in together and I saw my dad plop down cash money to buy me a Honda 90.  I wouldn’t have been happier if someone had given me a million dollars!

Fast-forward another five years to 1973.  An eighteen-year-old high school graduate is spending a hot August day loading his car with most of his worldly possessions.  He has seldom been outside of his own state.  But tomorrow he will leave this home where he has spent his entire life and begin the drive to Dallas, Texas.  There he will attend a Bible college he knows only from a catalog he has pored over and prayed over.

“Son, I know you’ve got to do what you feel called to do.  You do your best and stay in touch.  But I want you to know there is always a place for you right here if you should change your mind.  You might be able to use these.  I can remember my dad using these same titles in the ministry, studying them for his sermons.”  He handed me two brand new books:  a Matthew Henry commentary and a topical Bible, both purchased (by him for me) from a traveling Bible salesman.

I was shocked.  I knew dad really wanted me to follow in his footsteps on the family farm.  At the very least he had encouraged me to get a back-up profession like a teaching degree or perhaps even go to law school after college.  But that day he gave me a precious gift – the gift of affirmation and the freedom to go and be the person I believed God was calling me to be.

Ten years later I was packing again – this time a moving van.  Jodi and I were leaving behind our home church where we had spent the past four years as associate pastors.  In fact, for the past six years we had lived and ministered close to the home place with both of our parents nearby.  Kristi and Mark were born during this time, and Jana was in the hopper.  Now we were moving to Toledo, Oregon – a new church assignment.  Even though I had more details to take care of, more boxes to pack, and more furniture to load, I took a few moments and drove out to the farm.

I wanted to see my dad.  More than that, I wanted his blessing.  Over the past years, our relationship had grown and in the process I’d grown to appreciate his friendship and advice.  Now I was moving his precious grandchildren more than a hundred miles away.

As usual, he was busy at work when I arrived, but not too busy to talk.  We walked and talked and did a few chores together.  “You know, I talked to the District Superintendent a few years ago about you.”

Trying to hide my surprise, I said, “Oh, you did?”  I couldn’t imagine my dad having a conversation with the Superintendent of the Oregon District of the Assemblies of God, and certainly couldn’t imagine him keeping it a secret for the past few years.

“Yes, I was over at the District Office to fix the roof for them and as he was showing me the leaks, he was talking about you.  He said he thought you’d be pastoring one of the greatest churches in the Northwest one day.  And I agreed with him.  Son, I know we’ll miss having you around here, but I think you are doing the right thing by going to Toledo.”  Once again my father gave me words of affirmation, a gift I have since treasured through some rough moments in the ministry.

“Mr. Detrick, we are going to have to keep you overnight and run some more tests.  Your lungs are clear, but your heart is going in and out of a fibrillation and there are some other things we need to check out.  Maybe your son here can gather your things and the nurse will move you down to another room.”  The doctor’s pronouncement brought an end to my trip down memory lane.  But it did not diminish the admiration I felt for the old man we were wheeling down to room 130.

Stricken by the poignancy of the moment, and the reversal of our roles, I was reminded of Malachi’s prophecy.  When I was a boy, I really didn’t understand my father.  I saw him as a good provider, but a workaholic.  And I’m not sure he always understood me – especially during my longhaired teenage years.  But over time, and by the grace of God, my heart has been turned to his heart and his heart has been turned to mine.  That’s really what our Heavenly Father wants from all his children as well.

As if you couldn’t tell, my father has a giving heart.  That’s how he has always expressed his love, by giving selflessly, expecting nothing in return.

But over the past few years he has grown to express his love in other ways – hugs, and kisses, and the precious words, “I love you.”  As we were leaving him behind in the hospital room last week, his parting words were for his ailing bride of 63 years.  I knew part of the pain he was feeling at that moment was his inability to be at home to care for her: “Be sure and tell your mother how much I love her.”

POSTSCRIPT: Father’s Day 2014

Howard & Madeline Detrick 50th Anniversary Jan 2, 1989

Howard & Madeline Detrick 50th Anniversary Jan 2, 1989

Little did I know when I wrote this twelve years ago, that both my mother and father would be in heaven within six months.  I am thankful I was able to deliver this tribute to my father personally, and see the tears in his eyes as I read it to him.  Up to this point in their lives, my parents continued to abide on the same farm in Newberg, Oregon where my dad had lived for 75 years, since moving there as a boy in 1927.  Although their health was failing with age, they still lived independently, Dad still drove, and they made it to church every Sunday.

Within a few days of writing this, my mother was hospitalized and placed in intensive care.  A combination of cancer, diabetes, and low sodium levels left her in a near comatose state.  Dad had recovered somewhat and drove to the hospital daily to sit by Mom’s side. One day, the nurses came into the room and found Dad slumped over in a chair.  He had suffered a stroke. So within the course of a week, my parents went from living independently to being hospitalized–and they never came home. Because of the severity of their health conditions and their need for constant care, they were moved from the hospital into a care home.

Although this was a difficult time for our family, two poignant memories stick out in my mind.  First, after Dad’s stroke, family members gathered around his hospital bedside.  The doctors did not know the severity of the stroke or the prospects of recovery. Nearly 86 years old, Dad was in a very weakened condition and in a comatose state. We knew he might be able to hear us so a number of us spoke to him and told him how much we loved him and prayed for him. Then, our youngest daughter Jana said, I want to sing to Gramps.  She began to sing, “On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross.”  As she did, the most amazing thing occurred—Dad started to sing along!   We all joined in and then began singing, “Amazing Grace.”  Although his voice was weak and trembling, he didn’t miss a word.  Nor did he open his eyes or show any other sign of being cognizant.  When the singing stopped, we all stood in amazement and tears, while Dad slept on.  He didn’t really awaken until days later.

Mom and Dad shared twin beds at the care facility. Mom went to heaven on August, 28, 2002. Before she died, Dad crawled into her bed, and gently cuddled next to his bride of 63 years. He was so sweet as he stroked her forehead and hands, and repeated, “I’ll meet you in the morning, on the other side. I love you and tell all the family I’ll be coming soon.”

A few months later, on November 12th, Dad went to be with the Lord and to see those family members who have gone on before. I spent the night sleeping in the room with him the day he died. Although he has been gone for nearly twelve years now, hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about him and his impact in my life. They say that grown men are just little boys in a bigger body. Even today, when I close my eyes, I can see my Dad holding me, a little boy in his arms, swinging me way up high as I giggle and say, “Daddy, do it again!”

Originally written June 18, 2002, Postcript June 15, 2014 – Father’s Day © 2014 Don Detrick  

Crossing the Gap

Crossing The Gap - CaterpillarIt requires courage to cross the gap from where you are, to where you want to be.”

“Donnie, the neighbor called and our cows are in their pasture.” That meant round up time for this young cowboy. And it was not a welcome call. Getting those critters back to their home pasture often proved to be an exercise in futility. Growing up on a farm, I never saw a fence our cattle could not eventually find a way through. After all, fences break and the electricity sometimes goes off.

But there exists a sure way to stop them from seeking greener pastures that works in certain situations. For some reason, cows are afraid of crossing a gap or slotted surface. That’s why you’ll see cattle guards on bridges or crossings in cattle country – just slotted planks with space between them that keep them safely within the boundaries of where they are supposed to be. They take the place of a gate that would need to be open and shut every time a vehicle or person passed through. Sometimes even lines painted on pavement serve the purpose. Even though there would be little actual danger from them jumping or trotting across, they stay put because cattle somehow perceive danger in crossing that obstacle, even if the grass is greener on the other side.

In contrast, the above photo I took shows a caterpillar crossing a gap in the concrete on his way to who knows where. He was making good time, and the gap did not slow him down one bit. Relatively speaking, the gap in the concrete was larger to him than the gap a cow sees in a cattle guard. No matter to the caterpillar. Whether guided by instinct or a simple need to find something to eat far from the barren pavement, the caterpillar did not mind crossing the gap.

It got me to thinking. Am I more like cattle, or more like caterpillars? I’m glad it’s not completely an either/or proposition because frankly I would not care to be either one. Yet how often am I hindered or stopped altogether by some gap in the road that distracts me from my true destination? While I’m not suggesting a reckless strategy, how often does fear of the unknown keep me from moving forward?

How about you?  Are you known for prudence and counting the cost, or do people see you as an adventurer, undaunted by gaps in the concrete, clouds in the sky, or rain in the forecast? More importantly, how does God see you, and how do you view yourself?

Prudence and counting the cost are both biblical virtues. However, an excess of caution can lead to a shortage of progress. An object at rest tends to stay at rest. To move forward requires some risk, but do you want to spend the rest of your life resting where you are—especially if God has given you a vision for something more? What will happen if you stay where you are? What might occur if you venture forth and cross the gap between where you are where you want to be?  What would it take to make a decision to cross the gap and venture ahead? What would it take to bridge the gap once you decide to do so?

It requires courage to bridge the gap from where you are to where you want to be. My wife, Jodi knows this. She excels at life coaching where she helps people cross crucial gaps because she has done so herself. My heart will be swelling with pride as I watch her at commencement exercises this weekend at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, MO. Because I know as she crosses the line to receive her doctoral diploma, this accomplishment occured because she courageously crossed many gaps to get to this point.

Don & Jodi Wedding Cake 6-8-74 PSWe married as teenagers, and she worked full time as a dental assistant so I could finish Bible college and enter the ministry. With her many gifts and skills, not to mention her winning personality, she could have had a career of her own. Instead, she chose the career of staying at home and being a mother to our three children and helper to me as an unpaid assistant pastor. Her imprint is clearly seen on our children’s lives, and the lives of hundreds of others to this day through her life, ministry, coaching, and writing for The Seattle Times and her new highly acclaimed book, The Jesus-Hearted Woman.

How did she get from where she was to where she is today? After our children were off on their own, she courageously accepted a call to serve as leader of our network’s ministry to women. Then, without a college degree of her own, she began a decade long journey filled with books, classes, papers, lectures, books and more books to read in pursuit of those degrees. And she did so with disctinction, having been chosen among her fellow seminarians to be one of the commencement speakers.Don & Jodi Detrick 5-2-13 lower res

She will be crossing the line this weekend as Rev. Jodi Detrick, D.Min. with a 4.0 GPA in her doctoral classes. She crossed a lot of gaps to get from where she was to where she is today. Gender gaps, educational gaps, economic gaps, and age gaps did not deter her. She enjoys coaching others who benefit from her own experience of gap crossing. And if you notice, as she takes her place with her fellow graduates this weekend, you’ll see me smiling broadly. I couldn’t be more proud.

Why I Love Old Barns

Why I Love Old Barns Graphic BarnDriving by, what you see is probably different from what I see. The barn may be old and dilapidated. The roof started leaking years ago and eventually the weather soaked into the supporting timbers so the old girl now sags where she once stood firm and tall. If you look closely enough, you might see flecks of red paint under the growing lichens and moss on the sideboards. If you are lucky, you might find the upper floor still intact, once the home to bales or mounds of hay, guaranteeing the livestock would not starve during winter’s ravaging days. And if you are really lucky, you might find the old block and tackle with rope still attached, now rotting and frayed, but once attached to a hay fork or hook designed to transport that hay and probably a young boy or two up to the hayloft on a hot summer day.

Work and pleasure—that’s what comes to mind when I see that old barn, along with a million more memories. Because I once was one of those delighted boys who loved it when the work was done and my dad would use the old block and tackle to provide me a joyous ride on a rope up to the hayloft. It wasn’t quite the same as riding the Zipper at the state fair. But for a home-made thrill, it was as about as good as it gets, at least in those days. Much better than coasting my bike at breakneck speed down Sunnycrest Hill, especially since there was no crash at the end with bloody chin, hands, elbows, and knees, not to mention the smattering of gravel ground in for good measure. No, you could ride to the top relatively unscathed without so much as a concussion, unless a friend other than your dad happened to be hoisting you up and let the rope slip when you were almost at the top! So I stop and take a picture to preserve what will soon be rot, dust, and ashes, knowing that somebody somewhere probably cherishes similar memories from this very place.

Old Barn and Silo 2 on Mox Chehalis Rd 4-14-13What adventures were staged in that hayloft, real or imagined? Pirates and terror on the high seas played out in a child’s mind, though miles from the nearest body of navigable water? Cowboys riding their horses at a gallop with Winchester Model 94’s pulled from the scabbard while in hot pursuit of a mountain lion threatening their cattle? World War II Soldiers fighting the Battle of the Bulge to protect the world from Nazi tyranny? Or how about a first crush daydream interlude, as a fourth grade boy imagines waking in the middle of the night hearing the screams of Laura Lane, his classmate up the road.  “Somebody please save me,” Laura screams. Our young hero bravely answers the call to duty and rescues Laura from the fiery inferno, although becoming mortally wounded in the process. Stumbling through the flaming wreckage with suffocating smoke, he grabs Laura in his arms. He relishes his final breath as Laura declares her eternal gratitude for her young rescuer and kisses his bruised cheek and smiles as he places her safely on the front lawn, his final act of sacrificial devotion. In a hayloft, heroes lived and died, and imagination was better than a video game.

Barns can also be a place of worship and prayer, of meeting with God. In the Old Testament, Gideon was threshing grain when the angel of the Lord appeared to him. Jesus was born amid livestock and laid in a manger. Farmers know well the biblical injunction to “pray without ceasing.” Whether praying about the weather, a crop, or a prodigal child, a farmer’s work often allowed ample time to pray while milking the cows, slopping the hogs, feeding the chickens, or driving the tractor. The pace of life and nature of the work provide a symbiotic relationship and environment for prayer and reflection to flourish. I remember a young boy praying while performing such chores, or while lying flat on his back in the hayloft. “Lord, what do you want me to do with my life?”

What about the economic benefit to the family and community? The livestock produced, the cows milked, all providing more employment for the hired hands, the delivery people, the feed store, and the grocery store workers? A single family farm could have far-reaching influence for labor and industry. Not to mention the lessons learned in thrift, character, and the satisfaction of working with your hands and cooperating with God in the care of his creation and growing things beneficial to God’s children.

Old Barn and Silo on Mox Chehalis Rd 4-14-13And what about the family ties, stronger than the rope in the hayloft, that intertwined and made family the heart of the family farm? While not fair to compare it to contemporary living in a city apartment, the truth is, there is no comparison. Memories of farm life are all about family, love, endurance, strength, doing things, and getting things done—together. Unlike most twenty-first century families, farm families lived, worked, ate, and played—together. We knew our land like the back of our hands, every fence, valley, creek, tree, and blade of grass. And we knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Despite the latter, we worked together to make each other successful. Every meal lovingly prepared was the tasty culmination of a team effort.

So, that’s why I take photographs of old barns. I see a different picture, an image carefully concealed and hiding beyond the pile of junk you might glimpse driving past at sixty miles per hour. I see the intersection of time, space, weather, God’s creativity and faithfulness combined with human existence to produce a work of art. Capturing it in a snapshot of time seems the least I can do.