One of the Master Farmers to be honored on June 23 reminds me of my dad. Unfortunately I can't tell you who right now because it's still a secret – except to the winners. Anyway, I was explaining how much he reminded me of my dad to his wife and a story I hadn't thought about for a long time came into my head.
My dad was a farmer, a World War II veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor, a hard worker when the chips were down, a good friend, but more than anything, someone who loved his family, his wife and his kids. It was almost embarrassing to hear him brag about one of us sometimes, but I soon sensed it was because he was proud of us.
He urged my brother, Dave, and I to excel at whatever we did. It wasn't sports – I tried track my eighth grade year. "Oh try track, Tom, you run fast going after those cows," a neighbor told me. Right, I was 32nd fastest on a team of 32, 8th grade boys. But I stuck it out for a season. Dad was all about sticking it out.
Our main activity was FFA. I won a few trips for judging. My brother became a state officer. If FFA ever really meant father farms alone, it was in our case, although it was father and mother farms alone – they didn't hire any help. We were it, and many nights and sometimes for more than one night we weren't there.
Then came Purdue. I'll save my early struggles with not wanting to be there for a different day. By the end of my senior year, my counselor told me I needed to go to some senior cookout at the old Purdue Dairy Center one evening at 5:30. I said "thanks, but no thanks," I wasn't into get-togethers. Then he insisted, and I knew I better go.
So there I was standing in a crowd of kids, most of whom I didn't know, in the sawdust in the show arena of the once-majestic, old red brick dairy show pavilion, now gone with a golf course in its place – progress!
A program started and the announcer, an old professor I knew, said "and the 1975 Outstanding Senior in Agriculture is …..Tom Bechman."
Huh? Me? He had to be kidding. People started clapping and the professor motioned me forward. I moved up to the front of the arena by him. I really don't remember what he said – I was in shock – until he said this: "Now we would like to introduce his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Bechman."
Now I knew he had flipped out. This must be a dream. My mom and dad were one place every night at 5:30 – in our three-stanchion Surge milking parlor, milking cows. I actually stepped forward to tell him he was mistaken, when clapping started in the back. I looked and there they were, appearing as if by magic, in the back of the arena. Someday I may not even know my name, but I will never forget that moment.
Seems the professor, Jack Long, had called and invited them, and wouldn't take no for an answer. My dad did the unthinkable – he told mom they would go. He started milking at noon that day. A neighbor stopped by and thought my dad had his days and nights mixed up. Well before 5:30, they were in West Lafayette, all the way from Greenwood.
How much would my dad, and my mom, do for their children? Anything within their power, even if it meant bending sacred traditions.
Maybe that's why I do some of the things I do for my kids. You certainly can't say I do it for profit, and many times you could argue I'm not in my right mind. But there's something about a dad, and a mom, and a son, or a daughter – these sacred bonds should never be broken!