You'll have to indulge me this week. My father, George Robert Bechman, passed away at age 92 on August 21. His body was worn out, and he was ready to go with the angels to see the Lord, but it's still hard to give him up. If you've lost one or more parents or someone you love, perhaps you can relate.
My father lived an ordinary life, but did some extraordinary things. And his life spanned an incredible period in changes within agriculture. Born in 1918, he milked cows by hand. Later he milked for 20 years in a three-stall, side-opening Surge parlor that may seem like an F-20 now, but was advanced for its time - one of the first installed in his county.
He drove an F-20, but before that, he drove horses and mules for threshing rings. He even claims one year he worked so hard that the old farmer whose wheat they harvested pulled him aside at the end of the work day on Saturday, and paid him double, since he'd done the work of two men.
Dad wasn't perfect - he didn't always work that hard. Sometimes he was on the tail end of planting and harvesting, especially until my brother, David, and I became more involved in the farm. But yet he milked 40 cows and operated about 300 acres by himself, with a Massey-Harris 44 and a John Deere 620, until 1965, when a D-17 appeared on the scene, followed by a big advancement - an Allis Chalmers 190 XT diesel in 1972. It was enough for this tenant farmer to go from barely paying bills to earning enough to buy a house to retire on, plus put two boys through school, plus have enough left to retire on. Even by today's standards, that's a sizable accomplishment.
Before he retired from farming, he hit 200 bushels per acre of corn, and 65 bushels per acre of soybeans. Those were unheard of in his youth. He went from shucking corn by hand and winning corn husking contests, although he claims he got cheated out of the most important FFA corn husking contest he was ever in - the other person manipulated mud on the wagon tires to eek past him- and three falls ago rode for an afternoon with John Kretzmeier, Fowler, in a big Deere combine with a 12-row, folding corn head and a yield monitor. Every time it hit 200 bushels per acre, he would get excited.
Maybe he never quite put the credentials together to be a Master Farmer, but he was a master parent. Admittedly, some of his methods would land him in jail today for child abuse, but looking back, his techniques worked. My brother, Dave, owner of Farm FirstLLC farm management and realty, West Lafayette, turned out OK. Between us, we've raised six grandchildren for dad, with one great grandchild less than a year old.
Perhaps most memorable of all, he was at the heart of the 'Greatest Generation.' This farm boy form Franklin, Indiana, found himself in the middle of the start of World War II. He was at Pearl Harbor, in Army barracks, strafed by Japanese planes. Until his dying days he recalled the sickening feeling of seeing planes flying over very low, and spotting the rising sun of Imperial Japan on the plane.
He was unique. We can only hope that there are those today willing to sacrifice as he did, spend four years overseas, suffer malaria, and then come home and take up the honorable occupation of farming, starting from scratch.
Yes, I'm proud of my dad. He's in a better place now, but I still miss him. While he was here, he exemplified what America should be all about. That alone should be worthy of high praise.