Lessons at “the Land”

This was originally posted on my church’s blog. You can see the original post here.

One of my favorite memories as a child was time spent at “the land” my grandpa had in Stillwater. Every time we’d travel to Stillwater, we always looked forward to going to “the land.” Time there was filled with all sorts of activities: getting to drive the four-wheeler or the John Deere Gator, fishing in the pond, hunting for deer, shooting guns, and camping out regularly. I remember as a young boy we’d go “exploring” and think we were deep inside the wilderness when we never made it outside his 160-acre plot. It would seem so far from civilization, when in reality if we yelled, we were probably heard by someone.

Going out to the land meant spending time with our cousins, but also spending time with our grandpa, who we called Papa. Anytime we’d come into town, no matter what Papa had going on, we’d always get to go out to the land. Sometimes we’d go for no particular reason at all, but other times we’d go to work. We cut down cedar trees, checked on and fed the cows, cleared brush and operated the tractor, and built deer stands.

In these times there were always moments for life lessons.

When going to shoot guns, we’d walk off the distance, set up the shooting bench, then walk through an extensive safety lesson. We learned that powerful weapons needed to be treated carefully and I always think of his instruction to check the chamber on a gun when I first pick it up, even when I’ve seen someone I trust just do the same thing. I learned that the safety should always be on until the very last moment. I learned to pick my target, get my breathing right, then flick the safety off without looking. Only then did I put my finger on the trigger.

When we mastered shooting, we were allowed to hunt. We learned how the deer moved, to get up early and stay late, and how to sit silently and remain patient. When we shot our first deer, we learned how to use the animal and not waste any part.

We learned about catfish, sunfish, perch, and bass and what bait to use for each. I took a liking to fishing for bass and preferred the plastic worms to other methods. I’d stand there for hours and hours, casting again and again, learning to catch and release all on my own. Initially I’d get hung up or catch a fish, but gradually he left me to fish alone, forcing me to learn how to solve my own problems.

When cutting down cedar trees, we learned the importance of culling your land. Anyone with land knows this is hard work, with sap and chainsaws and building burn piles. We’d spend long, hot days doing this work. In this we learned that you had more endurance than you thought, but also when to take breaks to extend your ability to work even harder. We took pride in this work, and it taught us that hard work pays off and that work was something to take pride in.

When playing, there were many, many lessons that were precipitated by our mistakes. One time we wrecked the Gator and were taught that moms don’t need to know everything. We were taught that we were to be held accountable for our mistakes and that once we made a mistake, we should not repeat it. We also learned that there were times to goof off and times to be serious, and when carrying a gun that was definitely a serious time.

At one point, he took us all out to the land and let us pick a cow that was “ours.” He told us the importance of taking care of the cow and let us participate in many elements of raising the cow. When it came time to sell the cow, he took us to the auction where we saw the cow be sold and got the proceeds. In reality, he’d bought the cow, fed the cow, and taken care of it, but despite all that, we had a pride in ownership and learned to value our possessions.

Looking back it’s easy to forget all that you’ve learned. I’m thankful for him teaching me each of these lessons and with an immense amount of patience. And I’m thankful that I have these lessons to teach to my eventual children. My Papa recently passed away and while I did get to thank him for many things, I didn’t get to thank him for lessons like these. So with Thanksgiving approaching, I encourage you to use this time to reflect on the impact family members have had on you and show them the appreciation they deserve.

“I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” – Ephesians 1:16