That's where we went every Sunday. To my grandparents farmhouse. My grandfather was a sugar beet farmer. He irrigated with siphon tubes.
I looked forward to Sundays. I could hunt or fish just so long as my Uncle would take me. Maybe shoot my uncle's black nylon, semi-automatic Remington .22. Sometimes I would ride around with my father and grandfather- watching them drink brandy, laugh and tell secrets, as they sized up other farmer's crops and equipment. Back then, drinking and driving wasn't the crime of the century. I don't remember anyone getting drunk and there weren't any car wrecks. Not in my family anyway.
Perhaps dad and grand dad had simply learned how to drive under the influence- in some sort of safe and moderate way. At no time was I ever worried and I certainly didn't feel "endangered." I knew my dad and grandpa had good sense even if the prevailing wisdom of today disagrees.
I liked Sundays. The western show, "Bonanza" always came on at night. I'd watch it and fall asleep. I would sleep in the car on the way home after Bonanza was over. My dad would carry me to bed. I never remembered how I got to bed the following morning.
My mom and dad, the progeny of farmers, certainly did not want to be farmers themselves. Farming is a hard and uncertain life. We left eastern Montana for western Montana and by the time the early 70's rolled around, my grandfather found himself with cancer. I remember that year well. It was terrible. I learned two things about my grand dad. He was tough and he paid his dues. He sold his farm to pay his hospital bill. He kept the mineral rights.
My grandfather didn't seek bankruptcy protection. He did the right thing. My grandfather was an honorable man and when he died- he made arrangements for his wife, my grandma, to live in that farmhouse until she passed away some 18 years later in 1990. Today, the farmhouse still stands. The barn has nearly collapsed. The word "Pioneer" is almost indiscernible, vanishing with the aid of four decades of brutal winters and blistering summers.
My parents and my parent's parents were hardworking, honest people. Simple. They didn't attend boarding schools, they didn't kiss some elite ass somewhere that greased their careers. They earned every penny they possessed and when people took advantage of them- they didn't whine or complain. They paid their own way and they sure as hell didn't take government handouts. And when war came- they were proud to fight for their country. They signed up.
For years, I carried a private resentment. I resented the fact that I had not been born into some rich or elite family. I didn't go to boarding school. My life wasn't mapped out and paid for- and there sure as hell weren't offers to go to Harvard. There would be no cushy college educations and dream careers. No wealthy benefactors, no trust funds, no connections. I didn't win the birth lottery. All there would be was just me and whatever living I could muster up. I landed on law enforcement. Law enforcement, done right, is a noble service. That is something I refuse to apologize for and I still believe in.
All of that pity and self loathing are gone now. Ridiculous remnants of an ego that thought it was unlucky, or less than- all of those silver spooned kids who I lived with for decades. I used to think those spoiled little rich kids had lives worth coveting. Kids who wake up on third base and think they hit the triple.
Today, I think maybe I was wrong all of those years. There is nothing wrong with honest, hard work. Work that doesn't require deception, trickery, or a bunch of ivy league accomplices. Work that lets you sleep at night knowing that nobody got screwed over because of something you did. Farming is hard work. Most people can't do it. My grandparents did and they didn't apologize for it. They didn't need to.
Someday, I hope honesty and hard work make a comeback. Maybe I did hit the birth lottery after all.