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Life on the family farm under an open heaven: Grandpa and the smashed-up truck

Tom Heck for Progressive Dairyman Published on 11 September 2017
The Elbert family

My grandpa, George Elbert, was an extraordinary man who ruled his spirit and tongue like few people I’ve ever known. His life was not an easy one, but it certainly was a blessed one.

Farming during the Great Depression, in the 1930s, was very difficult, especially for my grandpa. Having a double mortgage on his 160-acre farm and having the bank nearly foreclose on him was not easy. Times were very hard for farmers, and money was almost nonexistent.



Grandpa, Grandma and their three children (Alice, George Jr. and Ruth) worked very hard to put food on the table and pay the bills. It was a real family farm with all of them working side by side. If they wouldn’t have worked that way, they would have never kept the farm.

Now, on Grandpa’s farm, they had a lot of livestock to take care of along with the crops. Besides raising corn and hay for their animals, they also raised one specialty crop which really helped pay the bills. That crop was peas for the canning company in Augusta.

Raising peas was a lot of hard work. Grandpa would till the fields with his team of horses in the spring and then go back over them with his horses and seeder planting the peas. Then, with warm weather and good rains, the peas would grow and come to harvest. That’s when the hard work and long hours came into play. It was real teamwork.

George Jr. would take a team of horses with a sickle mower and start to cut the pea vines off close to the ground. That might sound like an easy job, but it wasn’t.

The sickle and guards would continually plug up from the juicy, green vines. So it meant stopping the horses a lot and unplugging it. It could be very frustrating doing that all day long. But George was patient and did it.


Then Grandpa, along with Alice and Ruth, would take forks and pitch the vines on the back of a truck. Once they had a truck full, Grandpa would drive the truck into the canning factory. It would be quickly unloaded and reloaded with vines that already had the peas removed from them. Grandpa then brought the truck back home and fed them to his cattle. Nothing went to waste.

Needless to say, Grandpa didn’t own a truck. Most farmers back then couldn’t afford a truck of their own. So the canning company owned a bunch of old trucks they lent out to the farmers. Oftentimes, Alice would drive the truck in the field when it needed to be moved for loading the vines. One day, Alice and Ruth drove the truck out to the field to start loading peas while Grandpa finished up chores at home.

It was on a somewhat hilly field where Alice brought the truck to a stop. They got out and started to load vines when the truck started to roll downhill. Alice hadn’t left the truck in gear and had forgotten to set the parking brake. Now they watched in horror as the truck rapidly picked up speed heading downhill. There was a large old tree at the bottom end of the field; if the truck would just miss that, it could run into some level fields beyond that and come to a stop safely.

But that was not to be; it seems like that old tree had a big bulls-eye on it. The truck hit it head-on. The big old tree was hardly damaged, but the truck was smashed up badly. The girls stood there in dismay; what would their dad say when he came out to the field and saw what had happened?

Well, they soon found out. Grandpa came out to the field and went down and looked at the destroyed truck. He turned around and headed for town and never said a word. After a little while, he came back home with another old truck for them to load vines on. They finished the pea harvest, and a while later some men from the canning company came out and got the truck and took it back to town.

Grandpa loved God and his family. Grandpa never said a word to his kids about the smashed-up truck. He made it right with the canning company, though he never told his family what it cost him. He was a man of great character; he ruled his tongue.


How we need men and women like him today. The Bible says in Proverbs 16:32, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” So many people in today’s world lose their tempers so easily and give others, especially those they should love the most, “a piece of their mind.” And those words really hurt. It’s easy to let the tongue go instead of ruling it like Grandpa did.

If we will live godly lives and rule our tongues like Grandpa did, we too can have very blessed families and lives. Especially when things don’t go right, and there’s a smashed-up truck or something else in our day.  end mark

PHOTO: Grandpa, Grandma, George Jr., Alice and Ruth in 1939. Photo provided by Tom Heck.

Tom Heck, his wife, Joanne, and their two children own and operate a 35-cow dairy farm in Wisconsin. Email Tom Heck or order his book at Life on the Family Farm.