Years of farming and physical work show on my father’s hands. Big, strong hands calloused by shoveling sand into the stalls and cow pies out of them. Stains from iodine and straight up dirt make them look even darker than the deep tan from the sun. A farming accident from when he was younger has taken one of his fingers from him. They are beaten and torn, cracked from dryness in the spring, and numb from cold in the winter.
Yet, through the elements and hardships they carry a nimbleness with them while maneuvering a tractor during planting season. They have a firm gentleness when delivering a new born calf, bringing new life into the world. These same hands that fumble with a text message are flawless when treating a sick cow.
These are hands that have held our mother’s hand through raising 4 children. They have picked us up after falling off our bikes and set us right back on them to give it another go. Hands that have cheered and clapped loudly, encouraging us and many others at events. A good strong handshake the first time he met my then boyfriend and a gentle passing of my hand from his own arm to his now son-in-law when we reached the end of that aisle.
These hands refuse to give up and let go. They have provided and protected our family, yet at the same time comforted and held us in our weakness. They have taught us how to work hard, to love fully, and to pray earnestly.
Next time you shake a farmer’s hand, remember all the work he has put in to bring food to your table. The same food he feeds his own family with. When you feel the tough callouses think about the work he has put into his land year after year to keep it healthy and the waters clean. It’s the same land his children rode their bikes through and the same water they drink when they are thirsty from that long ride. Let the dried, cracked skin remind you of the elements he has endured through the seasons to make sure the his animals are perfectly taken care of. He would be the last one to verbally tell you how much of himself he pours into his farm, but look at his hands, they’ll do the talking.