Flags Across the Harvest #2August 6, 2018
Je me souviens.
As the creator and sole contributor to the Farm Machinery Digest, I enjoy the fact that I do not have to hide my passion for a bygone era from the watchful eyes of a corporate copy editor. It seems that in so many ways life today is diametrically opposed to the way it was when I was growing up. Back then society looked forward through the metaphoric windshield of life, and now many of us spend our time gazing in the rear-view mirror, longing for days past.
Those of you who have read my thoughts in car magazines over the years may recall that I have a love for license plates. To me they are a snap shot of life in this wonderfully varied United States. In many ways a simple guide to the things that make that state unique, represented by either a quote or an image.
My family has been in America for over 100 years but my relations on both sides were immigrants from the Ukraine that came through Ellis Island. So, if anyone ever wondered what lineage my difficult to pronounce surname is you now know. Though my name may be Eastern European, I am American through and through and proud of it — my heart belongs to the red, white and blue and that will never change.
For a reason that I was never able to get an answer to, some of my very distant kin ended up in Canada instead of America when they immigrated in the very early 1900s.
Thus, as a child we made many trips to Ontario to visit those that settled in the Great White North. They were wonderful excursions all made in a 1963 Chevy II station wagon with a 194 cubic-inch straight six-cylinder engine and a three-on-the-tree transmission. I always rode in the back of the little Chevy facing rearward, soaking in whatever the world had to offer.
What I especially enjoyed was the Canada-specific American cars of the time and the license plates. Though we would visit Ontario (Yours to discover) we did go at times to Quebec, which was proud to state on their tags, La belle province: The beautiful province. And it was no lie — Quebec is a beautiful place with some rich farm land.
Many years had passed until I went back to Quebec but this time I was just old enough to drive and crossed the border in a $400.00 1968 Dodge Dart with my friend Glenn Nadel. We were going to what I believe is now the defunct Molson Grand Nationals NHRA drag race in St. Pie.
It was 1979, and Quebec had a new license plate. It stated, Je me souviens. Wondering what that meant even though I took French in middle school (I was not a good foreign language student!) I asked someone. I was told that it meant, I remember. To which I replied, “Remember what?” To my dismay no one really was able to truly tell me what was being remembered but I knew it must be something meaningful. Remembering is always good.
I respectfully submit that the confusion about the saying that is still on the Quebec license plates has not ebbed much since it first appeared in 1978. By some accounts it dates to June 24, 1895.
Thomas Chapais dedicated a statue with those words on it. He stated that, “We remember the past and its lessons, the past and its misfortunes, the past and its glories.” A good mantra in my book for every farmer, no matter which side of the border you hail from.
This prompted me to think about how many things have changed about life on the farm, the way we grow crops, and the wonderful machines we use.
Je me souviens:
Getting excited about checking the rural mail box (not the in-box), the dust cloud telling us that someone was coming to the farm, cultivating the crops, walking the corn (a sweet corn grower’s version of walking the beans), getting a picket fence stand with a plate planter, the first diesel tractor in the neighborhood, and the awe of seeing a combine as a young boy. These are only a microcosm of the wonderful things I remember.
Taking poetic license to Mr. Chapais’ words, each farm family has had misfortunes, joys, sorrows, laughter, but also had their days in the sun. And we need to remember and be thankful for the good; grateful for the lessons learned through tears, and honor those that came before and provided us the opportunity to grow up a farm kid.
For this reason, the video tab on the website was created. The content was chosen to prompt you to Je me souviens.
The “Why I Farm” series by Beck’s Hybrids along with “Empathy” from the Cleveland Clinic, and “Into the Heart” by Ford Motor Company, use exquisite imagery and words to prompt us to remember that the gift of life, family, faith, health, knowledge, and the ability to farm is something we need to keep in the forefront of our mind, even when life is not going our way.
During the era of the sailing ship, the highest mast was fitted with a woven basket identified as the crow’s nest. Every day the captain would send a sailor to it so that he could take a compass reading. It was found that some cargo would influence the compass on deck, but the height of the crow’s nest would be far enough away for a proper bearing. Thus, I have coined the phrase, “go into YOUR crow’s nest.”
We all at times need to get away from the influences of life. Take the time to look at the blessings of being on a farm and chosen by our Lord to steward His creation and to feed His sheep. If we do not do this our internal compass will become skewed and not only will the decisions made often be wrong, but we will miss out on the joy that living on a farm or ranch and working close to family so richly provides.
I respectfully ask that we all remember the sanctification of our life and chosen profession.
The Scriptures tell us that there will be trials in life. These times become the fabric of who we are. Our strength is found in the roots given to us by faith in God, our loved ones that have gone home, and this blessed nation.