Here & there: Raised on a farm

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FEATURE — My grandfather wanted a namesake so badly he bribed his progeny: $100 for an “Oscar.” That may not sound like much. And it never quite was enough to get one in his lifetime.

But for a farm boy from West Weber who lived through the Great Depression, that hundred-dollar promise was like a million bucks.

And for my middle boy who, seven years after my grandfather’s death, earned the name and the prize, it has always felt like that way, too.

Because his great-grandfather is an old-school legend.

The kind of man who worked his guts out, never quit when the odds were stacked against him (which they usually were) and loved his family something fierce.

And the kind of man who snored like a werewolf, couldn’t pronounce his German wife’s name properly and told terrible “dad jokes.” Before those were even a thing.

Grandpa Oscar would tell anyone who’d listen he’d been to the school of hard knocks; their colors were black and blue and their fight song was “ouch, ouch, ouch.”

That school was the farm.

He’d lament later to his children and grandchildren how he was never quite sure how anyone could be raised without that kind of education.

It taught you everything you needed to know.

Including how to wrangle a certain headstrong 4-year-old granddaughter who once broke into a neighbor’s home in search of candy and, upon finding none, ate hundreds of dollars-worth of brightly colored lipsticks.

But that’s a whole different story and probably would have never happened if that little girl had been raised on a farm. Because she would have been spending her days milking cows, mucking stalls and collecting chicken eggs instead of casing the neighborhood on her Big Wheel.

Which is why, this summer, we sent my grandfather’s namesake to the closest thing we could find to the old family farm: the Birch Creek Service Ranch.

As the name suggests, the participants are required to do a significant amount of organized service at the ranch; they are up at 6:30 a.m. each day to chop wood, bail hay, dig ditches and pull weeds for local farmers and ranchers in the surrounding community.

Then, on the weekends, they backpack in the mountains. And, of course, there are talent shows, feats of strength and regular runs to Maverik to stockpile their favorite candy. Because horseplay is important, too

But there are no electronics allowed, including phones. And participants have to come ready to contribute to the ranch community, not just take from it.

Even though there is a lot to take. Even though there is a lot to learn.

The Camp Creed lists a dozen things the boys can learn from the ranch. Like learning to like what doesn’t cost much. And learning to like work and enjoy the satisfaction of doing your job as well as it can be done.

On his three Sunday calls home, our boy reported on the work projects he did, the snakes he caught, the hills he climbed and the stars he counted in the sky each night (in all seriousness he said there had to be at least seven hundred.)

And since returning home, he seems taller and older and wiser. He seems more of himself than he has ever been.

He cooked for the family twice today and served the food in actual tin cans because “we have to recycle things.” He begged to sleep under the stars on our front lawn last night. And he took himself to a Fourth of July church breakfast at a congregation we aren’t even a part of because the sign said everyone was welcome.

At their final bonfire at the Ranch, the question was posed: what does it mean to succeed? My boy answered this: “Success is getting yourself back up and trying again after you fail.”

I think Grandpa Oscar would approve of that definition. And of my boy’s summer education.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

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Twitter: @STGnews

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