A couple of weekends ago, I went home to de-stress a bit after the first week of classes started up for the fall semester. Nothing beats coming home for a weekend to relax, but this weekend was even more exciting because my dad found out about a farm auction that was going on.
I absolutely love auctions; from the atmosphere, to the unknown treasures that are being sold, to the sweet musical sound of the auctioneer rattling off numbers and taking bids. It’s music to my ears. I’d have to say they are one of my favorite events to attend with my parents, not only because of the atmosphere, but also because of the stories that lie within the items being sold. Not just that but I love to think about the stories of the people who used these items before they were placed on the sale rack too. It’s history first hand. At this sale there were items from old cream separators, to feed sacks, to bushel baskets, to tractor seats.
While looking at these treasures, I started looking at the people at the sale who were bidding. Most were farmers both young and old, some were Amish families, and there were many others that love farm auctions, like myself. But where this story begins is when a gentlemen farmer picked up an old tractor seat. It wasn’t the seat that attracted my attention, it was his hands that did.
They looked very similar to my dad’s, and I’ve always thought my dad has had very unique hands. You see my dad has very large powerful hands like a bear, with thick muscular fingers. There are a lot of cracks and creases and usually when I see him his hands are very dirty because of the work that he is doing on the farm, whether it be fixing tractors, working with animals, or working out in the field.
After this farmer’s hands caught my attention, I began to look around and observe everyone’s hands including my dad’s and my own. I noticed that many of the farmers that were at this auction all had hands similar to my dad’s. And then I remembered thinking back to a time when my dad and I were practicing handshakes. I remember he told me that my hands were a lot like my mothers. I never thought anything of it. I just always thought I inherited hands like my mom’s instead of my dad’s—it never struck me though that the type of work could define someone’s life through their hands.
So amongst my observations, I leaned over to my mom and mentioned my thoughts to her. She looked around and commented back, “Well they’ve got the farmer’s hands.” Still trying to comprehend, I questioned back and she replied, “The work that they do requires a great deal of manual strength. Their hands are muscular because they have had to adapt to the physical work they are putting in. Their hands are proof of the amount of strength needed to be a farmer.” I let that sink in a bit and then started looking around at all the items that were being auctioned off. All these items were huge advancements in their day. They were created to make farming and living easier for the ones that were using them. Even though they were considered advancements, they still required a great deal of manpower to run efficiently. The same can be said for the agriculture advancements of today. Even though we use a lot more technology and innovative farm equipment like Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and combines and planters, the equipment still requires a great deal of physical labor to be put in. The equipment won’t work unless those hands do. The work can’t be done unless those hands get to work.
Now just because farmers might have larger and stronger hands than some does not mean that anyone else’s work is not successful or as hardworking. The hands of a farmer just reflect the work they do everyday. They tell a story of the trials they’ve faced and the accomplishments they’ve won. I guarantee if you sat down with a farmer and looked at his or her hands, you could see the scares, the cuts, the missing fingernails, and the burns and ask them about it and get a story to go along with it. It could be a story of the lesson they learned while fixing fence, a memory of bringing a calf into this world, or a story of the hands they’ve shook along the way. Whatever it is, these hands have experienced a great deal of trials and lived to tell a tale of it. They are unique to the agriculture industry, and a symbol of the work that is done here. Without these hands, we would have no food, no clothing, and a great deal of more work thrown on to our own shoulders. So the next time you see a farmer, shake their hand and ask for the story that is held within.