In Memory of Grandpa

My grandfather, Leonard, passed away at age 93 on Thursday. He was a kind, gentle man. A father, a husband, and - as many of the other men in my life - a farmer.

 Leonard Finger, pictured on the right, holding stalks of milo

Leonard Finger, pictured on the right, holding stalks of milo

What a great blessing I had last weekend when I had the chance to stop by and see Grandpa on one of his last days here. He didn't remember me, but he knew it was lambing season.

At one time, Grandpa cared for over 400 head of sheep, not counting the lambs. In the winter, when ewes gave birth in the pasture, my grandpa (or perhaps my mother or one of her siblings) would go out to the pasture to find the lambs and bring them with their mama ewes to to the barn.  This time for the mother/baby pairs alone together in the barn allowed the mama ewe to bond with her lamb. In addition, if left out in the cold, the lamb might freeze to death.

 Grandpa at the farm taking scraps out to feed the chickens.

Grandpa at the farm taking scraps out to feed the chickens.

To bring the lambs in, Grandpa would carry one in his arms and encourage the mama ewe to follow as he walked to the barn. After vehicles became common on the farm, the method changed to bring in the lambs, but it was still hands-on. One person would drive the pick-up and the other would sit on the tailgate and hold the lamb. It was the back-of-the-pick-up-person's job to bleet and bah so the mama ewe would follow. Thus, one by one, Grandpa and his kids would bring the ewe and lamb (or lambs, if they happened to be twins) back to the warm barn.

Last Sunday, my mom told the story of a time helping Grandpa bring in the lambs when she was in high school. There were so many lambs that day and night falls quickly at the end of autumn. So, mom (very efficiently) decided that if she were to load several lambs into a wagon, it would be much quicker than bringing them in one by one.

 Baby Ann with daddy Lee and Grandpa Finger

Baby Ann with daddy Lee and Grandpa Finger

While we humans might recognize each other by sight, animals know each other by scent. With the lambs piled on top of each other, all of their scents mixed together. So much so, in fact, that by the time they reached the barn, the mama ewes no longer recognized which baby was hers.

Grandpa patiently spent the rest of the night separating the pairs and making sure the ewes bonded with their lambs. Mom never tried that trick again.

 Grandpa & Grandma with us at our wedding

Grandpa & Grandma with us at our wedding

A farmer doesn't go to an 8-to-5 job. He doesn't accrue PTO or earn a pension. In fact, he never really retires. Long after Grandpa stopped farming and moved to town with my Grandma, the farm was always on his mind.

He talked about what equipment needed to be fixed. He wondered about the price of grain and worried about the right time to sell. Even when his mind was slowing, he could strike up a lively conversation about the time to plant and which fields needed irrigation. When walking was difficult and he could no longer drive himself, Grandma took him on drives through the countryside to look at the crops.

We'll miss you, Grandpa. You were a fine husband, father, farmer, and friend to so many. May you rest in peace.