WARNING: This might be a long rambling post. I did add hilarious photos from the past to make it better. Enjoy at your own risk…
The imagery is beautiful and Paul Harvey’s voice is perfect. I know there have been critics of the commercial, but this commercial made me homesick and I don’t know if I ever have been before really. The second time I saw it, it made me cry and it’s still hard to see with out tearing up. In fact, the people I have talked to who are in similar situations, said the same thing. Even my brother said it made him homesick, though he did not admit to crying, he’s a big softy below his grizzly exterior. I am not entirely sure what it is about it, but I feel I have to try and explain why this commercial resonates so much with me and others, so please humor me.
I don’t think I have every really talked too much about it, but I grew up on a dairy in South Dakota that was started by my grandpa. My dad and one of his brothers came back to farm after college with their dad and they still do today. Most of the people I know from home are farmers. Paul Harvey’s words are so spot and I don’t know if most people really understand how exactly true they are. Some people say it is romanticizing farming, but how romantic is it to, “…get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board?” Because that is what my dad did and when we were old enough we were out with him and there was nothing romantic or glorious or beautiful about it.
Growing up, I went through my phases of like and disliked about growing up on a farm. When I was little, I was happy to follow my dad out to the barn at 4 am, to sit on a bucket and watch him milk. I would ride in the tractor out in the fields with grandpa during planting season and in the trucks back and forth during silage season. At any given time for about 10 years you could find a small grandchild asleep in some weird, curled up position behind the tractor seat. When I was in middle and high school, I would try to find ways to get out of doing chores when ever possible. I couldn’t wait till I was old enough to go work somewhere else. I never got to sleep in on weekends, at times we were up earlier than weekdays to get stuff done before it got too hot. After a certain age, the joys of chasing cows wears off. Except when it came time to round up cows in the pastures, all kids were happy to help out at any time since that meant running around on four-wheelers and dirt bikes. I even resisted joining FFA until I was a junior in my persistent refusal of the agricultural life style.
I remember on day when I was in high school and we were chopping hay. We had this newish machine that would pack the hay into these ag bags. Guess it keeps it fresher like a Ziploc bag. Anyway, it was hot, I was driving one of the trucks between the field and storage lot, and I think I had already destroyed the clutch on that truck, (those big trucks are NOT easy to drive, and I was just starting to get the hang of them, I basically had to stand up to push the clutch down far enough) and I pulled in and dump off a load. Dad was out of the tractor, legs sticking out from underneath the bagging machine cussing and pulling out hay. I don’t exactly remember what was wrong, something stuck in the wrong place, I suppose, but I just thought, “I don’t know how he can do this. I could never do this. Every day something could and normally does go wrong.” Cows get sick and die. Someone screwed up and milked a sick cow into the the main tank and we had to dump and entire tank of milk, several thousands of gallons of milk down the drain. A tractor breaks down. There is a drought. The cows get out. A hay fire starts and last all night with everyone in the area comes to help put it out and watch over it after the immediate danger is gone. That was the day I knew I would never be returning to help run the farm, not that I had every really wanted to, but I knew for sure that I was not cut out for a career with so many daily disasters no matter how small.
That fact that I don’t want to go back and run the place, still didn’t change the fact that the farm is home, no matter where I am. A month or so before I finished graduate school, my family found out that they were closing the milk plant that we sold our milk to in less than few months. This basically meant that all the dairies on the western side of South Dakota had to figure out how to get their milk to another plant, well over 200 miles away, this is not cheap. All were family owned farms and we were the biggest, milking around 400 cows a day. Most farms stopped dairying and sold the cows. My family tried to move the dairy to the east side of the state, where they would be able to continue dairying in the “dairy corridor.” This was terrible news to me just in the fact that home would no longer be where home was, it would be some random farm in eastern South Dakota where nothing was familiar or comforting. For my brother, it meant his plans were going to be messed up. He had just started school at SDSU studying dairy science and manufacturing, just like dad did, with every intention of going back home to help run the farm when he was done. Now it seemed that it might not be economically feasible for him to go back home after school. For good or bad, this was during the beginnings of the economic crisis and nothing worked, for several years everything just kept going wrong. Finally, in the past year they gave up the idea of continuing to dairy and are now raising beef cattle.
This series of events helped me to realize how much I am really thankful for where I grew up and how. Do I get annoyed when I am home and Christmas and the occasion come up where we are called outdoors to do something? Yes. But I definitely have an appreciation for everything thing happening on that farm and am still in awe of how my dad, (and his dad and brother), can love this job and place so much, that they will do practically anything to keep doing it. Every day of every year, no matter what, I know we are all still scheming on how to make it a dairy again. Michael is a manager at a cheese plant in Wisconsin and scheming on how to get manufacturing back in western South Dakota . I am scheming, though not very effectively, the take down of corporate farming that is pushing out family farms and was the cause for the plant to be shut down. I am also a huge advocate for supporting local farming and agriculture. I’m not sure what my two younger sisters are planning exactly. Neither is in school for anything ag related, but none of us want to see home disappear.
So I guess that’s what the commercial gets at to me, it’s talking about home, in a perfectly honest way that is so fitting. Its not easy, it’s not always happy memories, its rough and messy and sometimes sad, but it’s home. I still don’t think I’ve properly explained in these horrible long paragraphs. It’s also because whether you realize it or not, you always long for that place you think of as your true home. I once told my brother I was so upset to think about the farm moving, because that was my rock, I could go travel and live where ever I wanted, and that rock would still be there. It’s definitely changed a lot over my lifetime, but it still has the same bones. What I may not have realized is that it’s not just the place but the farmers and family there too. So thank you Dodge and Paul Harvey for that reminder.
For those of you who made it through, I hope you enjoyed it or at least that some of the photos made you laugh. I tried to find better related pictures, I know they exist, like Dani blowing out her birthday cake in field next to a tractor, sorting cows, etc. but those are all in South Dakota. Next time.