Musings, North Dakota Living

My Brother, the Farmer

For all my jokes about the oil field, let me say that there are in fact some great people working here too. Teachers, pastors, electricians, farmers, mechanics, truck drivers, public employees, day care providers: hard-working, genuine men and women represent every category. My brother Danny, for example. He has decided to make his livelihood here and become a farmer, and is in the gradual process of taking over my dad’s farm. He’s one year younger than I am, and currently we’re roommates. I keep things clean; he keeps things running. I think we match up pretty well.

Danny didn’t choose the location of the farm. He didn’t choose to place it directly in the center of the Madness. But here it is, and here he is with it to make it happen. Farming fits Danny. He’s an artist, and farming is its own unique kind of art.

Three generations of farmers (Danny is on the left)

I enjoy watching Danny at work. He’s a coaxer. He coaxes little plants to grow in little pots in his kitchen, and crops to grow in big fields. He coaxes kittens out of their hiding places in the barn where they’ve been hiding, wet and shivering, from the dogs. (This particular kitten is now the white terror named Saul running around the farm.)

He coaxes melodies out of his guitar.

He coaxes tractors into reluctantly sputtering to a start, an ability that I don’t quite possess despite helping on the farm for years. He coaxes airplanes into gentle landings. If you’re scared of flying, don’t be, if Danny’s your pilot.

He coaxes art out of things where many wouldn’t see art: bison skulls and moose antlers; a foosball table, each soccer figure now its own unique character; an ordinary piece of wood that, with some careful wood-burning, becomes a beautiful mountain scene with subtle purples and blues skillfully interwoven with a paintbrush. He has taken an ugly branch-scattered backyard – if you could have even called it a backyard before – and created a well-designed fire pit behind his house, perfect for bonfires.

Danny’s fire pit, waiting for spring

Danny also coaxes smiles and stories out of people. I don’t think he asks for it. He just has an easy-going manner that makes people feel comfortable. I’ve seen him make my mom break into a laugh when she’s at her angriest. I think he’s the only one of us with the ability to do that.

Farming fits Danny.

And I’m happy to be here with him.

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