I grew up hearing stories about my mother’s dad, Earl, although I know him as “Pop-Pop”. I was never able to meet him; sadly, he passed away before I was born. But in my heart and mind, he is a legend. He was known to work tirelessly on his 920 acres of ranching land and still have the energy to be the life of the party every time he went out. I have dozens of pictures of him dressed up in elaborate costumes, always with a huge shit-eating grin on his face and the family around him looking on adoringly. You can’t help loving a man with this kind of exuberance for life. After serving in World War II, he returned to his roots and became a rancher, just like his father before him. Growing cotton, tomatoes, and dairy cattle, he made a modest living in the San Joaquin Valley in California. I have been raised with the stories of his generous spirit, dedication to providing for his family, and deep love for his friends and having a good time. I have also been raised with his love and longing for working with his hands on a ranch and I have been told that longing runs in our blood. Without ever knowing him personally, his life has always directly impacted the dreams for myself and for my children. I have always felt honored to be his granddaughter, and I always hope he would be proud of me and my desire to keep his passions alive.
A few years ago, I was watching the Super Bowl, when a Dodge Ram commercial came on with the familiar voice of Paul Harvey. The commercial was called, “So God Made a Farmer.” In it, Paul Harvey’s 1978 speech given at the National Future Farmers of America Convention is played, discussing the qualities, character and importance of farmers. My mom and I both got tears in our eyes as we watched it.
Immediately conjuring up the image of our beloved “Pop-Pop”, we were reminded of the sacrifices and hard work required by ranchers to provide the food enjoyed by us all. This commercial seemed to epitomize their lives and a heritage I am so proud to come from. It also offers “city folk” a glimpse of what life in this world looks like. It is almost a love note to those of us who idolize this world and are eager to be a part of it, and it encourages a kinship amongst those who’ve done the work for so many years. It was in this beautiful tribute to ranchers, that we felt a connection once again to our Pop-Pop, a man we so desperately want to have a conversation with, if for nothing else but for love and wisdom. Well done to Dodge Ram, and of course, Paul Harvey, for capturing the true spirit of the American Farmer.