Wednesday, February 25, 2015


It all seems rather quaint now. Come the second week of February we swept aside the place mats, salt and pepper shakers, and napkins from our table and replaced them with ledger sheets, a calculator, pencils and pink rubber erasers. We girded our loins and pulled the thick booklet labeled Form 1040 from the file cabinet underneath the desk in our all purpose kitchen.  I made another pot of coffee.

It was tax time.

Time to make an accounting of our year past.  Time to add the machinery and equipment purchases to the depreciation schedule....spread across 10 columns for the straight line years for grain bins and greenhouses, tractors and planters, three years if we had purchased a pickup.  The ledger sheet was the measure of the progress of our business:  not just capital but stuff you could touch, use, drive, park, and, of course, repair.  Those first ledgers were the baby steps of our farming career:  fences, corn cribs, share John Deere 4630, share disk, share plow.

Blake dumping a 1974 Ford

Ben, deduction year 1986, in the 1983 GMC white truck
Blake would painstakingly compile the sales and expenses of our rented farm operations, column by column, deposit by deposit....then spew out great long curls of adding machine tape checking and cross checking the columns and rows, erasing....smudging...and cursing, until we were reasonably confident the tax man wouldn't be coming to haul us off for an arithmetical error. The whole process would be repeated when it came time to copy the figures to the actual tax forms: he would fill out one form in pencil, then it would be my turn to be the scrivener and copy all the figures over with the care of a medieval monk illuminating a manuscript.

We ate off plates in the living room while the table was covered with taxes.  The kids thought it was great and offered company and moral support to their dad.

Lee, deduction year 1979 and Ann, 1980, help Blake with taxes
 Outside of one fat file a year, the physical accoutrements of tax time are all passe', gone the way of the passenger pigeon.The ritual has moved from the kitchen table to the office.  There's still plenty of drama, but it all happens online.  The stately accumulation of property has been replaced by section 179: under $500,000 and poof! Your major investment is magically transformed into an expense, here today and gone next year. TurboTax does all the adding and, in theory anyway, prods us when we make a mistake. Our ledger books are ancient history, gathering dust in a file box somewhere, as whimsically archaic as a black and white photo.....or a long ago scrapped Hurst farms John Deere.


  1. Oh, how I remember tax paperwork taking over the whole house. I am so thankful for QuickBooks! :) Love the old pictures!

  2. Thanks for writing this. It was so beautifully written out. Tax time is always a reflective time of year for me. I love looking back on what we have done and what we have spent and how that money created memories for our family. I think it has taken me a while to just except the expenses and not worry.

    Meghan Payne @ Denver Book Keeping Service