It’s not every day, fortunately, that an email pops into your mailbox with someone requesting that you help tell their story after a loved one died in a grain bin accident. And it’s hardly ever the case when the incident only happened a few weeks ago.
Niki Cain, Rushville, sent the email. I responded. Within a few days I was sitting next to Niki at the family’s dining room table. Her father, Roger, died in a grain bin accident on Jan. 13. Across the table sat her mother, Roger’s wife of more than 30 years, Christie. Next to Christie was her niece, Ashley Bowles. Niki’s youngest sister, Hillary, was present via speaker phone.
Here is a portion of their conversation as they shared memories of a farmer I never met. Long before they finished, I regretted not having the opportunity to talk to him in person.
Niki: He was all about farming. For Christmas we gave him a framed version of the ‘God made a farmer’ poem’ made famous by the later Paul Harvey. He was moved. In fact, Hillary reading the poem in front of everyone wasn’t enough. We had to find the Paull Harvey version. He hung on every word.
Christie: All Roger ever wanted to do was farm. My family had an implement dealership. After we were dating my family thought it was great- Roger would be needing equipment! Everyone knew he was going to farm.
Roger was a worker. He didn’t care what he looked like that much - he cared about farming and doing the job.”
Niki: But he always wanted us to look nice on Sunday. When we went to church as a family, he would make sure we all looked good before we left the house. I think he wanted people to know we knew how to dress and honor God.”
Ashley: What I remember is that he loved to play with my kids. He and Christie don’t have grandkids yet, but Uncle Roger loved to play with Kinslee, my daughter, all the time.
Niki: I have a day care, and sometimes I would bring the kids over to the farm. Dad loved it. The kids all went home dirty and smelly, but once I explained it to their moms, they didn’t seem to mind. The kids always asked when we could go again.
Christie: Roger loved to teach people. He was always looking for ways to help others learn. Some employees we had over the years needed someone to show them how to do things. Roger loved the challenge of teaching others what he knew. He wasn’t always easy on them. But one person just told me if he hadn’t worked for Roger and learned about responsibility, he doesn’t think he would have a good job and career.”
Ashley: Talk about the 4-H fair, Niki. You guys were always working with animals.
Niki: We weren’t about winning or being the first ones there. Dad sometimes got steers out of the feedlot. And we might be closer to being the last ones there. But nearly every year we won the rate of gain contest.
Hillary: Yes, that was important to Dad. One year I won and my animal gained nearly six pounds a day. That’s what Dad was all about.