Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Frankie's Persistence

He is purchasing his first computer, a laptop. He attends educational seminars and product meetings across multiple states regularly throughout the winter months. Frankie tells his wife and business partner that he is still learning how to farm. He has been the recipient of enough awards to cover a barn door. He farms over 1,100 acres, drives the tractor, sprayer, and combine himself. He is in the bleachers for his grandchildren’s school activities; he even climbs the stairs when necessary. He also continues to play the accordion in a polka band, as he has for decades! This may not seem overwhelming. Others farm more acres; drive tractors and combines, operate computers, play accordion and attend school activities.

What sets Frankie apart from most others? Frankie is seventy years old, and over twenty-five years ago he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Frankie sadly tells that of those he shared the (MS) diagnosis with at the same time, he is the only one still on the go. The others have either died, or are now crippled to the extent of being unable to work. The diagnosis has not been the only tragedy, he lost a son in a farming accident, and he himself has lost portions of several fingers in farming accidents. Frankie could easily give up, but he has too many things to get done. His smile is permanently fixed on his face, not by a plastic surgeon, rather by his positive, winning attitude.

Frankie uses two canes to walk, one in each hand. He hangs them on the hand railing of the tractor or combine, while he negotiates his way up the steps, into the drivers seat. He informs any doubters of the benefits of farming therapy. “I can get plenty of physical therapy right here on the farm. Once I get situated in the cab, I can do anything thing I need to do,” he energetically quips.

Some question why he does not retire from farming, considering both his age and health. Frankie views these challenges the same as a drought, floods, or a crop-destroying hailstorm. They are inconvenient and bothersome, but they are not the ends of the journey. They are simply challenges to work through.

Initially, every trail ended at some point. Someone had to overcome the challenges to continue the trail in a progressive direction, onto greater opportunities. Where the trail ends, the adventure begins.

Frankie continues his life’s adventure and has gone on to pave greater trails in soil conservation, farming techniques, and the human mind. He does everything in his power to assure every kernel of grain reaches the market, every grain of soil and drop of water is retained in the field. He says, “Every gallon of water (rain or snow) kept on the farm is a dollar in the bank”. He engages life with the same attitude, every moment in pursuit of a goal. He utilizes every ounce of his physical ability or energy to pursue meaningful results, whether in faith, family, or farming.

I have known Frankie four years. His continual emotional drive, competitiveness, wisdom, knowledge and understanding, and positive attitude are simply remarkable. People like Frankie make this world great. They are driven to do everything in their power, including prayer and worship, to leave this world a better place. It would be easy for them to become bogged down in self-pity and the challenges in this life, but their focus is on adventurous results!

Why is Frankie buying his first computer now, at the age of seventy? He sat by another farmer in a meeting who had a laptop with him. This guy was getting information on the markets faster than Frankie. After all, as Frankie says of himself, he is still learning how to farm and if the trail is widening in a new direction, you can bet Frankie will want to be a part of it!