I’ve known James for almost 30 years and he has been a full-time farmer all of that time. In addition to considering him a friend, I’ve always thought of him as one of the shrewdest farmers I’ve ever met, in that he seems to analyze every move and every possible scenario before he changes his farming operation. More often than not, he makes the correct decision. He’s also a college educated farmer, but, as my late father would have attested, “He hasn’t let that degree mess up his common sense.”
He has a beef cattle operation, does some row cropping and still farrows out a few sows each year to market the offspring to the home freezer crowd. He has some wonderful daughters and a lovely wife that, in my opinion, just makes him the poster-boy for American agriculture; intelligent, hard-working, honest and successful.
I suppose the positive image I’ve always had of James may have added to my shock and disbelief when, last week at a farm meeting, I asked him how he was getting along and he answered, “Great. For the first time in my life, we are a two-paycheck family.”  
Given his sometimes dry sense of humor, I couldn’t decide whether James was proclaiming happiness because he had taken a job off the farm or he was trying to mask his embarrassment at possibly being forced by finances to seek an additional source of income. While he continued to talk, I blocked out everything he was saying, mulling over in my mind what could possibly have caused this major change at his age (he’s only a year or two younger than me).
I know the drought was tough on everyone last year. Could a crop failure have driven him to this life-altering change? We’ve had a major outbreak of trichomoniasis in this part of the country so I also wondered if maybe he had lost an entire calf-crop to the dreaded disease. Could he have made some unwise financial investments? Surely, the James that I’ve come to admire over the years would not have succumbed to risky ventures. Or, maybe, just those few hogs had cost him his dreams.
“Well, James, I don’t know whether to congratulate you or offer condolences.”
Looking at me with an awkward stare, he asked, “What are you talking about?”
“The two-paycheck comment,” I replied, not realizing that comment was made a couple of minutes ago and he had continued talking about something for which I had paid no attention.
“Oh, that.” he chuckled, “My wife retired from her job of 25 years and I found her another one. She’s drawing a retirement check and a regular paycheck as well.”
Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry about his books, or to arrange speaking engagements, you may contact him by calling 1-866-532-1960 or visiting ozarksfn.com and clicking on ‘Contact Us.’


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