More Tractor Time

My tractor time has been limited of late. I’ve had some help around the farm and even though I like to save the mowing for myself, the joyous task of driving around and around the top of this lovely hill has been enjoyed by my faithful assistant. Hope he got some good thinking time out of it. But last night, I took back my tractor and headed out on my mowing therapy machine to enjoy a beautiful Indiana late summer evening.

You never quite know where tractor time will take you, both literally and figuratively. I may plan to cut the lawn on the east side of the house but the next thing you know I’ve taken a turn onto Trail 3 and headed through the barnyard along the lane and found Trail 2 which of course leads to Trail 1 and the long haul around the south field. So 45 minutes in and I’ve just cut some random trails.

When I set out, I was working on an idea for a Labor Day message. Simple enough. But Trail 1 goes right along the edge of the woods and I begin to reminisce about walking in these woods and how strolling along the edge of a forest offers that special outsider’s view into a darker mysterious world. Some openings in the green wall allow a peek, but the trees don’t allow too much exposure for outsiders. You have to go in.

But I’m in tractor time so there’s no real plan. I remember being called home from hikes through the woods with a loud whistle from my father. A long mid-range note followed by a shorter low note and topped off with a quick, high, shrill finish. Time to go home. It must be time for a meal or chores.

Now, I can make a good, loud whistle with either an acorn cap or a strong blade of grass. To be honest, the blade of grass is more of a duck call than a whistle, but it makes a sound. My acorn whistle is respectable but my father could join his thumb and fore finger in front of clenched teeth and let out a strong shriek of a whistle that we could hear way out in the woods even across the creek.

I think of my father now and the years he spent as a forest ranger in Glacier National Park and how that whistle would have echoed through those vast spaces. I remember stories of horseback treks into the back country to catalog wildlife activity. Stories of cooking snake meat over a campfire and tagging deer and bear. Who knew where tractor time would go.

Then I think of my father’s father, my grandfather “Grandy.” He was more of a city kid and had spent his adventuring years in the Merchant Marine. Grandy was an inventor. He made things. And repaired anything that broke. He once made a fully operational grandfather’s clock by replicating the works of an old clock but all in wood. That old clock is still in my brother’s house and still works once in a while.

Should Grandy have needed to whistle, I imagine him taking some scrap metal out of a can under his work bench, melting the metal down and pouring it into a home-made form and then using an old boiler to make steam to set off a full strength end of work shift steam whistle. And the entire project would have been laid out on scrap cardboard in meticulously drawn plans with every measured detail.

Finally, tractor time takes me on a visit to my great grandfather, Grandy’s father. From all I heard, he would have considered himself far too distinguished to ever whistle.

So instead of Labor Day, tractor time gave me four generations of whistling history.

Most of us carry around these family stories and fables in our heads. When we gather with siblings, cousins, or old friends, we lay out our family tales and listen to how others might have a little different take on our versions. We try to forget the bad old stories but relish in the good ones and how they seem to embellish themselves as the years go by.

We help collect these stories at your Owen County Community Foundation. We might not have a record of exactly how grandma made macaroni and cheese, but we can enshrine her generous spirit in a permanent fund with her name on it.

A good number of our funds are family legacies created as permanent memorials to those beloved family members who went before us. We have scholarship funds that demonstrate a family’s devotion to education like the Burns Family Scholarship or the Roma Wilson Scholarship. We have funds to support something that was important to a family member during their lives so that their caring continues forever. The Flona Everly Query Fund supports the Vandalia Chapel and Schoolhouse. The Doug Dalton Fund supports charitable projects in the Coal City area where Doug worked so hard in his life.

The list goes on and on. We work hard to maintain these funds and the stories that go with them. Someday on a hill in Owen County, a man will be out on his tractor thinking about things and then pause on the thought that his great grandmother really cared about her community and created an eternal gift to continue helping long after she was gone. Nice family story. I hope he eventually finishes mowing despite the tractor time reveries.

Your Owen County Community Foundation is committed to helping our communities become better places to live, grow, and work. We value community involvement and charitable spirit . . . and a good loud whistle.

If you’d like to know more about how you can work with your OCCF to create a permanent legacy for your family, give me a call at 812-829-1725, email me at, visit us online at our Facebook page or, or stop by and visit us in person at our office on the second floor of the Owen County State Bank building at 201 W. Morgan Street in Spencer. And a reminder that we’ll be moving to our new office at 60 E. Market Street on the Courthouse Square on October 1st.

Have a wonderful weekend and Labor Day. Remember those labor pioneers who sacrificed, sometimes their lives, so workers could enjoy some fruits of their own labor.