Creation and the Iowa Farmer nter: an opportunity

Wednesday, September 27, 2000

For six days, God got dirt under his fingernails, creating the good black earth. He sat down to rest on the seventh day, perhaps along the bank of a slow-moving Iowa creek, and it occurred to him that with putting in all of that overtime, he had forgotten something to work with the rich soil that he had stirred.

So he took a handful and spit in it, and started to mold the family farmer.

An angel watched on, not too impressed with this lanky thing.

"If the small plants are way down low to the ground, why do you make this farmer thing so tall?" the angel complained.

God smiled and said, "How would he be able to see home over the cornstalks? And if I didn't make the farmer tall, who would the farmer's children have to look up to?"

God shaped the farmer's head carefully, as he knew it was going to have to fit a worn seed corn cap. The angel though the Maker had surely lost a step on that one.

"A farmer knows who he or she is. A farmer doesn't have anyone to impress, and this head is more important to people than anyone who will wear the finest of crowns," God explained patiently. "Beside, he will need that cap for the sun and the rain and the wind and the hail, all of which he will have to be able to live with... and he will, because I've made him out of some stout stuff."

God had shaped the farmer's hands big and sinewy. The angel looked and frowned. "Do you know what you are doing? Those hands look pretty rough, and they already need washing. They don't look so good to me."

And God smiled and said, "I know, but those hands are a masterpiece. They can bring a lamb into the world with gentleness you wouldn't believe, and they will be able to fix a $175,000 high-tech tractor with baling wire and duct tape when they have to. They will be tough enough to survive gallons of pesticide and still soft enough to carry home a little one who falls asleep in the cab of the combine."

"Hrmph," muttered the angel, not convinced.

God drew in some lines on the farmer's face. The angel shook his head at that move. "He isn't old enough for those. Boy, you can sure tell it's the end of the week for you, all right," he clucked.

And God smiled and said, "He'll earn those lines. This one is for the years when rain puddles up in the field on the very day he wants to plant, and that one over there for the unexpected frost that hits the day before he wanted to harvest. This one is for the salesmen that will interrupt his supper, and this, for the creditors who keep calling.

"This one over here is for those market analysts who try to explain why the prices for his pork and beef and corn and soybeans are often lower than what it costs them to make them, while the price for groceries does nothing but go up. And these are for the big megafarms that will take away his business. And the rest of these deeper ones are for the times he's had to watch friends, neighbors or family driven off the farm by forces he can't control. These aren't lines, they are awards of perseverance."

God didn't give the farmer too many words, because he wouldn't have time for them anyway. He set it up so the farmer would talk kind of slow, never get to travel the world, and never quite be able to get all the grime out from under his toenails, but in return for this he gave him a world of patience, tolerance and calm.

He gave him broad shoulders that would haul what two city men couldn't pick up. Bony hips for plain, non-designer jeans. And he gave him two extra-large feet. "Are you crazy? He'll trip on those things when he's supposed to be tending your fields," the angel complained.

And God smiled and said, "No, they will work just fine. He has a lot of ground to cover, and he will keep going on these long after anyone else would have quit. And when he is gone some day, he will leave some very big shoes to fill, won't he?"

God kept working through the afternoon, and after the sun went down over the broad horizon of promise. "You're wasting a lot of time on this one, aren't you?" the angel asked, "Why don't we knock off for supper?"

And God smiled and said, "Have you seen the specs on this order? He has to have eyes in the back of his head to spot weeds and bugs the normal human eye would never see, eyes attentive enough to see his child's car coming home from college two miles away or to spot the pretty wife I will make for him when she's bringing a cooler across the field.

"This one has to run on black coffee and cold sandwiches for four solid months at a time.

"He has to be as smart as a banker, as bold as a gambler, have as much faith as any minister, and be as tough as a prizefighter. He will have 180 moving parts, all replaceable, because he will work for maybe 80 years, and still never get it done."

The angel pointed, "I told you that you put in too much! Look! He's sprung a leak."

And God smiled and said, "That's not a leak, that's a tear. Because no matter what he does or how hard he tries, there will come a season when the drought will knock down his crops, the equipment won't work, and what he does haul to the elevator won't be worth the gas he's burning. He will miss a lot of time with his own family in order to feed everyone else's, and the only thanks he will get is honked at by cars because they think his gravity wagon is going too slow on the county road.

"He's going to need those tears sooner or later. He will grow and grow and grow and will use every tool he has in his shed and some he will have to invent. And in the end, sometimes it will work and sometimes it won't. In a way, I guess this one works a little like I do."

And God smiled at his angel, and said, "Now, my friend, are you satisfied?"

In spite of himself, the angel was impressed.

"You're a genius," he said.

"Ah, but it wasn't just me that this one grew from," God smiled, kneeling down to let the soft, black dirt run lovingly between his fingers. "It wasn't just me."

And the angel shutteth up.

*With apologies to the late, great Irma Bombeck