We're here at the Lake, at Tantara, on the first weekend in December. For this family, there is nearly as much tradition connected to the Farm Bureau meeting as any other holiday season occurrence. Since 1982 or so, our family has taken this trip to the Lake to meet and greet first family, then later on, a multitude of friends and colleagues, to shop, to consult, to politic, to stay up too late, to swim, to play, to vote, to listen, then finally to pack up a carload again and make the drive home. The Lake is resplendent with lights this time of year; Tantara puts on a good show. When we first started coming down here, we stayed in the nicest and most spacious rooms we'd ever seen. The girls and I would meet up with my mother, who worked for Farm Bureau then, after she'd finished her official tasks, and browse the quaint shops, or walk the Lakeside, or buy caramels for my father. We were too cheap to eat any of the group meals, but Sunday morning my folks would buy us the fancy breakfast buffet at the Black Bear. We'd progress from there to ice cream sundaes and sausage and cheese courtesy of the Farm Bureau. Sunday evening was pizza; breakfasts were carry in, as we always did when we traveled.
The kids all grew up with Farm Bureau. From the time they could sit in a meeting, Greg Gaines would help entertain them as they sat and colored, as Lee and Ann did, or pushed tractors and airplanes, as Ben did. The girls thought they were pretty neat when they got big enough to know their way around and could go to the swimming pool, or down to the arcade room, by themselves. They were good babysitters and shuttled their brother up and down the escalator over and over. There wasn't a giant outlet mall way back when, so most of our entertainment happened right here at the resort. We could keep plenty busy if the weather was nice just walking the labyrinth of the grounds, but if it was raining (it was never cold to us northern denizens), we could play ping pong for free. It was a special treat when Laura and Mark came to spend a weekend; then we might bowl or even go ice skating.
But the center of attention was the meeting itself. Whether Blake was county president or a voting delegate or, good fortune of all, a member of the Resolutions (or Policy Development committee back in olden times!) sitting up front, the big packet of colored paper was center attention. Looking back, we hope no one remembers how, well, let's say, over enthusiastic, we could be about Farm Bureau policy. We were excited to be in the midst of folks who got down and dirty about ideas and politics, a situation we had been away from since college days. We might be bottom rung, but we were part and parcel even as we sat in the back or sides with our two little girls, and, later, little boy.
Now, some twenty some years later, Blake is moving from the back of the meeting hall up to the front. All of a sudden, it seems, I'm matching up dress socks in the drawer, instead of my normal theory on work socks (hey, if there are two socks and two feet, what more do you need?). We are trying to sync computers, calendars, cell phones, though I realize we'll still have the days in April and May when time reverts to its most primitive measurement, daylight and darkness, work and sleep. The man with the smashed black thumb is deciding which pictures he'd like to have with him in a new office. What part of home will be in Jefferson City? The black and white drawing of the little boy yawning on the Minneapolis Moline, plowing out rows of baby corn? The photo of Grandpa Hurst posed in front of the first sixteen row Kinze planter? The grandkids, of course, in a constant rotation of older versions, no doubt. But how about the picture of two other little girls, wistfully looking at their grandma's camera lens from the top of a tin roof as the setting sun softens the sky behind them? How about a yellowed newspaper clipping of Blake's first (and we obviously thought, last, since we framed it) article in the Wall Street Journal? All these carry a story, a life lesson, a reminder from the past to the future.
In that case, maybe I should get the little combo clock/picture frame from the office. Its a Farm Bureau hand me down from a year or two back, about the size of a hard cover book. The clock on one side counts time present, but the square picture opposite remembers time past. It is a square Instamatic shot dating from early summer 1977. That's the summer Blake and I were engaged but apart, him in Tarkio and me in Washington, D.C. I had the picture under glass thirty some years ago, to keep me company. There's a little three room house in a yard of overgrown grass with a dust driveway and a tall cottonwood as the sole source of beauty. Its a long ways from suburbia for prospective new marrieds and college grads. But the young man leaning against the fence post in the foreground looks pretty proprietorial, maybe even a bit smug, though maybe I'm reading that into his overly nonchalant pose. His tan is deep; his hair is too long; his hat is pulled way down against the sun, or maybe because it won't fit over all that hair.
There's still some of that kid in the guy heading south tomorrow. But its not the cocksure pose part; time and experience has tempered that! No, its the optimistic part, the part that sees a home in a shack, the potential of the good earth and ties to family and land and community. Times change, kids grow, but we are folks of deep roots and memory. We carry that wherever we go.