I grew up in southeast Minnesota outside a small farming town called Harmony. We lived ten miles outside of town on our own small dairy farm, and ever since I can remember, I worked on the farm helping Dad with whatever needed to be done. There was always one job I had that I didn’t complain about, and that was holding the gate open for Dad.
I can remember the first time holding the gate open for him. All he said was, “Make sure the cows don’t get out.” Simple enough I figured. At this point I was around six, and I understood the concept. He drove the tractor through the gate opening and took a bale of hay to the feeder. Once there, he stopped the tractor, lifted the bale, took the wrap off of the bale, got back into the tractor, and dropped the bale into the feeder. Then he drove the tractor back through the gate.
I tried shutting the gate by myself, but the rusty red metal gate, which was ten times bigger than I was, was too heavy. So Dad dismounted the tractor and shut the gate for me. I latched the chain securely until next time.
As I grew older and held the gate for Dad, there was always something running through my mind, whether it was sports, the landscape, or just watching Dad feeding hay to the cows. Sometimes I would piss and moan about watching the gate, but the job kept growing on me. I was able to eliminate everything in the world and just think.
I stood there by the gate admiring the corn field that lay just behind our fence.
I stood thinking about the critters I knew were lurking in the waterways.
I stood looking at the stunning view to the south where our neighbors, Amish, led their lives in such a different way.
Once in a while I’d get back to reality, just to make sure the cows weren’t making a run for the fence. But who was I kidding? When someone was standing in the middle of the opening, they weren’t coming close to the gate, so I’d stand, letting myself think of the future and where I’d be years from now. Then I’d hear the roar of the tractor and let my dad go by. As I grew older, I was able to shut the gate by myself.
Looking back, I realize that watching the gate cleared my mind. It gave me a sense of importance on the farm. It brought me closer to Dad.
One day came my dad came up to me. “I’ll watch the gate,” he said. “Go give’em a bale of hay.”
Cody Hendrickson is a small town guy with big-time dreams. He enjoys sports, especially baseball, and time with friends. He is a sport management major at BSU who enjoys writing about events on the farm in southeast Minnesota that shaped him into who he is today.