My wife is awesome. Let me get that out there. I’m not just saying that because I’m trying to sweet talk her into a new farm gadget. I don’t tell her often enough.
Most husbands probably feel this way about their wives, but take for granted that the wives know how they feel. I hope they know, because on the farm, it takes a pretty strong partnership at the top – in a husband and wife team – to make it all work. And there are tons of distractions, troubles, breakdowns and heartbreaking tragedies and losses, as well as day-by-day struggles that get in the way. Yet, often enough, it is in those challenges, that bonds of marriage become even stronger.
I have a case in point for you. Last week, as my family traveled for the day, we knew that there was a winter storm warning on the horizon. But, we felt that it was not forecast to come on until late enough into the night that we would be safe to make the 100-mile trip for the day, as long as we returned early enough in the evening.
Well, about 6 p.m., I called my neighbor to see if it was raining or snowing at home, just to check in. He told me that some freezing rain had started, but the bad stuff was supposed to be several hours away.
What I didn’t take into account was the fact that forecasters had more treacherous conditions forecast for the roads between where we were at that moment and our farm. We decided to leave a bit earlier than planned, just to be safe.
We drove in hard rain for almost 50 miles, as I watched the outside temperature gauge in our vehicle dip. As we got closer to home and headed north again, the temperature dropped dramatically, below freezing, and the snow began to fall.
Roadways were icy and the northwest wind picked up. Fortunately, through all of this, our two-year-old and seven-year-old boys were sound asleep. My wife sat in the rear seat, next to our son’s car seat, trying to comfort me as the driving conditions deteriorated. Every mile seemed to get worse. Visibility was down to 100 feet at best, and traffic slowed to about 25 m.p.h.
Precipitation was coming down in sheets of rain, freezing rain and snow. My windshield wipers weren’t clearing the windshield. We were about 30 miles from home, and I began to panic. Drifts were piling up in our lane of the highway, and the shoulder wasn’t clearly visible. Even with the rear taillights of cars ahead of me in view, I was wandering into the other lane or onto the shoulder of the road.
I had our SUV in four wheel drive, so I wasn’t worried about getting stuck, but I was having trouble holding the road, and most importantly, seeing where I was going. I had flashbacks of driving home from Crofton in a blinding “whiteout” blizzard many years ago, when I had to open my door to see the yellow line in the middle of the road to creep home. I told my wife that I didn’t know if I could go any farther, but I couldn’t stop because there were cars following close behind me. I didn’t want to cause a pile up.
My wife calmly told me, “You’ll be OK. We’ll be fine. Just keep following the traffic lanes. We’ll be fine.” It was as if my Guardian Angel was whispering in my ear, the exact words I needed to hear at the exact time I needed to hear them. I am normally the most composed in times of trouble. I pride myself in being pretty coolheaded under serious strain, but for some reason, at this point, I wasn’t very composed. I searched for farm places to stop at during this stretch of the road. I knew how much trouble it would be, barging in on someone, without extra clothes or food for our little one.
My wife suggested slowly pulling off onto the shoulder and knocking the ice off my windshield wipers. I didn’t know if I could safely do this, but I tried, turning on my emergency flashers, slowly pulling off the road and allowing traffic behind me to pass. I cleared the windshield wipers and wiped the windshield clean. I jumped back into the driver’s seat and I could see much better.
We proceeded carefully on into the storm. As we got closer and closer to home, the snow subsided greatly, allowing for much better visibility. It became more and more apparent that we wouldn’t need to stop anywhere, and that we would make it home safe and sound.
I suppose if I had been alone, I wouldn’t have worried as much about driving under these conditions, but I had my whole family, my whole life in that vehicle with me and I lost my nerve and confidence in the fact that I could drive us home safely. My wife was my voice of reason, as she has been so many times in our married lives. She truly comes through for me when I need her, as so many farm wives do for their husbands in the daily struggles we all have, and I appreciated that beyond what words can say. During National Agriculture Week, it's important to acknowledge that crucial connection between farming husbands and wives that truly makes the relationship, the farm family and the farm, tick.
Be sure to watch Nebraska Farmer online and read our March print issue of Nebraska Farmer for news, information and tips on meeting the challenges of drought. Your best online resource for drought information is the Farm Progress drought site at Dateline Drought. And watch this blog the last Friday of every month for my new “special report” featuring the families growing our food.