Laurel Thomas

farm Archive



June 2017



Heavy Machinery in the River

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I love order. Like when my house is clean, the laundry is done, and the garden has flowers, not weeds. And I’ve gotten my word count in for the day. You know, design that colors within the lines.

In my life, this happens only on occasion. Except for the writing, which I’ve made as non-optional as possible. Most of the time I’m okay with order that only visits.

Control freak, you say? Well, maybe. It took a long time to learn that it wasn’t order I longed for as much as it was design. I needed to know where things fit and why – especially in the middle of a mess.

Like last week when my husband and I pulled up to our family farm in Missouri. You might remember my story as a newly-wed living on this same property. Cows (as in a herd) chased me when I was on an evening run. Carnivorous Malice

Country girl, I was not. Nor had I morphed into one in the last thirty-eight years.

In case you’re imagining nostalgia when we pulled up as new owners of the property last week, hold that thought. Weeds in the front yard were taller than me. Boxes in the bedroom were filled with sixty-year old treasures wrapped in vintage newsprint and sprinkled with rodent droppings.

We sighed a little, then got to work. Our first job was to mow. That meant we had to get into the barn, which hadn’t been opened for said thirty-eight years. How hard could it be?

Two hours later the door opened, thanks to a trench we’d shoveled around it. I peered inside the barn before entering. A fully-preserved possum skeleton lay near a big groundhog hole. Mud-dabber nests decorated ancient farm equipment like spidery chandeliers that hung from the ceiling.

Once inside, all we had to do was un-attach the very old mower from the very old tractor, then reattach it to the new tractor. Another couple of hours and several cans of spray lubricant later, we were unattached.

Okay, so maybe we’d moved from unattached to broken. This was not progress at its finest. It was more like demolition derby.

It wasn’t that we were unfamiliar with demolition. My husband and I’ve lived in a variety of places along the way. Some needed fix-up. And there were the early years of marriage when we yelled and threw things. We’d carried some baggage into our new life that had to go. That took time and hard work.

But now? In our sixties? Heavy labor wasn’t in my plan. I fired up a quick prayer. Lord, is there any design in this? If so, I need to see it.

The next day the answer came with Jimmy, who’s farmed the family land for many years. Instead of riding in on a white horse, he barreled up the lane in a John Deere front-loader. Within a few hours he’d fixed the tractor issue, pulled up a crumpled chain link fence, along with posts set in concrete, and cleared a colony of dead trees and brush.

Blazing a trail can be hard. Beginning a new career or starting over in whatever way life demands, strains our emotional muscles. We ache and look around, peering at the tangle of weeds and brush that cover up the potential of our new beginning.

The mess can blind us to the goodness that beckons beyond it. But now isn’t the time to get blinded or quit. Because help is on the way. In the form of heavy equipment.

God doesn’t just cheer us on. He comes on the scene with help. The kind that clears debris of past generations and prepares the ground for a new start.

Even though we look around at uncharted territory in our lives with more than a little dismay, we can know something is underneath all that disorder, pregnant with God’s design.

A design bigger than we’ve seen, crafted by a God who can get the job done.



August 2014



Carnivorous Malice

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Who would have thought on that balmy spring afternoon that I, a city girl, would face a herd of carnivores with malicious intent? Well, maybe not carnivores, but malicious for certain. Married for three months, we lived in a sixty-year old farmhouse. I learned about well water, septic tanks and howling coyotes that long, cold winter. Still, there was one more lesson country living had to share.

We had a lane that led to a state highway. And we had cows. My husband taught me to say “Haw.” He said the cows would back up and leave me alone if I yelled it like I meant it. I didn’t think practice was necessary.

I tied on my running shoes and sprinted out the front door like a bird dog out of her kennel. About fifty yards from the cattle guard three cows munched fresh grass bordering the winter wheat. Who knew what went on in a cow’s brain? It didn’t hurt to be cautious.

I slowed my pace as several more gathered. They moved like a military unit, slow, but undeterred, toward me. Two appeared from under the willow tree. Then, by silent command, they ran. Not just in my direction. Each nostril flared as the whole herd thundered toward me and my Nike’s.

“Haw, haw!” I squeaked.

They galloped with the speed of wild mustangs. My “haw, haw” became a breathless “Ahhhh!” Undaunted, they chased me like I was lunch.

I ran like a Missouri wind gust, with my eyes focused on the nearest cattle guard. One final leap brought me to the other side of its protection, heart pounding, gasping for breath and legs shaking. The cows stood, looking with even gaze, their evil scheme thwarted.

Once over the cattle guard, I remembered an important point. The house was on the other side. Our gravel lane stretched out a hundred yards before me. Cars whizzed by on the highway at the end. My husband was gone. He wouldn’t be home for hours. The cows stood, smirking.

“Look, you bullies. Back off. I may look helpless, but don’t let my timid exterior deceive you. I am hell on wheels when it comes to danger,” I said.

Squaring my shoulders, I considered walking back through that menacing crowd. But, no.  I looked at them. They looked at me. I walked to the end of the lane, too tired to break into a jog. My heart still pounded. Strength had run out in a gush of adrenalin and said good-bye for the duration.

I was a chicken. No way around it. But chicken it was, because I had no intention of passing through that herd with just me and my tennies. Instead, I sat on the gravel, feeling its sharp stones press against my tired behind. It was hot. I was thirsty, then hungry. All the comforts of home, now denied, screamed for my attention.

A gold Toyota Camry pulled into the lane. My sister. My sister who lived in a neighboring town, appeared for no apparent reason. Except to save me. I stood up, waving my hands in something between a wild welcome and victory salute. The cavalry had come.

Climbing into the front seat, I closed the door with a firm grip. We headed back through the cows. They parted as the gold chariot charged forward. Now it was my time to smirk.

Not a chicken anymore, I had been rescued by a force stronger than a pack of carnivores. I felt like a conquering hero as I stuck my head out the window waved at the cows. I remembered a quote by Jarod Kintz. “Fight or flight? If I had wings, there’d be no choice. But since I don’t have wings, I have to rely on my cape, and a long running start.”

In the years to come I’d face many dangers. This time I learned that a cape and a running start had nothing on a gold Toyota Camry plowing through the middle of pack of Missouri cattle. Those Nike’s and I sat victorious, if only for a moment, in the sweetness of a ride home.



Laurel Thomas