When I was a kid growing up on the farm in southern Illinois, we didn't do much for Father's Day. Partly it was the timing – we were either cutting wheat or baling straw – but mostly it was because Dad said not to worry about it and we didn't need to do anything. And also, maybe he'd rather be baling straw because technically that was a family affair.
But I've found myself thinking more about it this year. About the impact my husband has on our kids as he gently corrects/yells as, you know, the situation requires. As he gets them to do more and be more simply by expecting it of them. As he shows up every day, dirty and hot and tired at the end of the day, and still spending time in the barn with them…eating with them…putting them to bed. I've thought a lot, too, about the impact my dad has, and about my first little office.
So it was that earlier this month, I asked readers here to share their favorite farm dad photos, and did you ever. Photos have come in from every generation, in every size and shape and format, and I've loved them all. I've especially loved the stories and "dad advice" that's come in.
So without further ado, here are the farm dads and kids and advice that represent the very best of American agriculture!
Marilyn Cummins and her dad, Richard Cummins
This is my favorite Dad farm photo: Dad taking time out from chores to say "Hi" in the barnyard where I would later do chores and work in the shop and ride horses, learning from him and my grandpa. Love his smile, and mine. Grandpa, Dad and the barnyard are all gone now, but this photo and lots of happy memories remain.
Zac McCullough and his daughter
I wasn't in the picture, but I was taking this picture of my soon to be two-year-old daughter. She's lovin' the cows here in Ohio, and just being there was a great memory for me.
Robert Teel, sent in by his daughter, Catherine Teel
My dad, Robert Teel, in probably 1949 or 1950, is wearing his tux on this fancy orange Allis Chalmers! Dad grew up as a child of the Depression on a farm in Schuyler County, Illinois. His father was the last farmer in the county to give up his beloved team of horses for more mechanized farming. My dad came home from serving in WWII and enrolled in the school of agriculture at the University of Illinois. There he met my mom, a city girl named Ruth. He won her heart by giving her a necklace made of corn for the Farmhouse Fraternity's Plowboy Ball! After installing indoor plumbing so she wouldn't have to use an outhouse, they spent 63 wonderful years together. Although Dad passed in August 2013, I feel his constant presence. He was truly a steward of the earth, and he left us with a deep reverence and respect for the soil and many gifts of the land.
John Jensen and granddaughter Addy Morgan, sent in by his daughter, Dena Morgan
When I went off to college, I couldn't wait to explore this new found independence. My dad wisely told me that it didn't matter that I was now living 3 hours away, he and mom would always know what I was up to! Words to scare a freshman for sure, but I was undeterred. My eyes were opened when Mom and Dad came to the first football game of the year and we decided to meet up at my sorority and go to the game from there. Mom and Dad walked in the door and immediately one of the other parents shouted "John and Pat! What are you doing here?" Turns out that my sorority sister's mom went to college with my mom and dad and had since been on a cattlemen's board with my dad. It was a good lesson to learn early in my independent life: parents really can find out everything about you (and indeed the world can be a very small place after all)!
John Robert Martin, sent in by daughter Alice Martin
My father, John Robert Martin, always wanted to be a farmer. He farmed with Percherons before Pearl Harbor with his father, Robert Caldwell Martin, one mile south of Watson, Ill. He quickly became a staff sergeant training troops in Texas, and then applied for Officer Candidate School. Upon graduation, he immediately shipped for Germany. He crossed the Rhine at a bridge called Remagen in March 1945. The bridge collapsed, trapping his company between the Germans and the Rhine. His company had taken a German foxhole reinforced with railroad ties which seemed a luxury until a direct hit into that foxhole. The railroad ties broke my father's back. Shrapnel shattered his leg and landed in his lungs. His sergeant crawled six miles with my father on his back to get to a First Aid station. His company of 108 had 8 survivors. My father spent six months in English hospitals before they dared to ship him back to the U.S., where he was in and out of hospitals for six years. I figured out a long time ago that I was a hospital leave baby.
This was the picture taken when my father was a freshly minted Second Lieutenant in 1945. It was the picture of him that I stared at when he was gone to Korea and is on my dresser today. When he was finally released from the Army Medical Services in 1951, he decided he would stay in the Army as a career. He did not believe he was physically capable of farming as he had known farming before the war. He was not able to return to that farm until he retired in 1963. Then he raised horses and cattle and worked with his cousins who did the crop farming. He was home and farming again at last.
Will and Daisy Stevens, submitted by his wife Shayna Stevens
Our daughter Daisy is now 3 and loves the farm in Barre, Massachusetts, as much as we do! My husband Will's advice to her and our son, Delmar, is "to work hard, but play harder, once all the work is done of course!"
Donald Mackinson and Danza the cow, sent in by daughter Mary Mackinson Faber
This is a photo of my Dad walking Danza down to my parent's house at Pontiac, Ill., for our engagement pictures. My Dad is one of the hardest working people I know and will do anything for anyone. I don't think "no" is in his vocabulary. (Unless it was when I asked for a horse growing up.)
Kenny Bangert and his great-grandkids, submitted by granddaughter Lindsay Mitchell
My grandpa once told my uncle never to get upset at the lack of rain and the dying crops. "Kent, we obviously don't need rain yet. When we need it, the good Lord will send it." It's a great lesson about everything that's important: don't worry, rely on God, enjoy the life you're given and play the hand you're dealt.
He also used to always tell me that every spring he still felt a fire in his belly that he couldn't wait to get into the field and he couldn't wait to see what the year would hold, in terms of crops and yields. He said when that feeling was gone, he supposed he'd know he was dead.
Grandpa died in December 2014. This was our first spring without him. I know for a fact that that he never had to go one single spring without that feeling and that makes me happy. Can you imagine living a life where you were literally elated to go to work every day, for every day of your life? That's a life well lived.
His faith was first and foremost - and the fact that all of his kids and grandkids are Christians is really the legacy he leaves behind. He was baptized, confirmed, married, and buried in the same little country church, which is really just an amazing story of his faith and community.
Tyler and Scarlett Radke, submitted by his wife Amanda Radke
Tyler's advice to little Scarlett, on their South Dakota ranch: Always be brave and try new things. Be confident in yourself and always "cowgirl up!"
Leon Harris, sent in by daughter Debbie Fearn
I love the smile on my dad's face in this picture. This was probably the first new tractor he ever bought! His words of wisdom included some we as kids wanted to hear…and some we didn't want to hear. But what I really remember were great conversations over the dinner table, the time spent together talking over politics and eating great meals. I remember farm hands and Dad talking and planning the rest of the day. But most of all, learning the love of farming and the great way of life!
Mark Nagele with his son, Nick Nagele
This is my dad and me 32 years ago in his 4230, at Sheldon, Ill. I'm proud to say that we both can still squeeze in that cab! Dad's a lifelong farmer who, after the last few days, is currently considering a career change to fishing.
Steve Baum with his daughter, Rachel Baum Torbert
This is my dad, Steve, and me, circa 1988 or '89. He passed away when I was a senior in high school. He wasn't necessarily the farmer in the family, but he certainly put up with his fair share of cattle and horse shows. As for advice, I don't remember any particular saying because he was a less words, more doing kind of guy. He always set an excellent example of the value of hard work and proved the importance of family for my sister Janell and me. And, I guess, of being present. As a car dealer, when it was time to put a toy - any toy - away, the phrase was always, "Girls, it's time to park it!"
Lynn, Andrew and Ryker Bowman, submitted by Karlie Elliott Bowman
This is a photo of generations 5, 6 and 7. They focus on teaching and on creating a willingness for the next generation to want to return to the farm. Pictured here from left to right is my little guy Ryker Bowman, my father-in-law Lynn Bowman and my husband Andrew Bowman, all from Oneida, Ill. They were just wrapping up planting for the day and strategizing about the next day.