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Thankful Farm Boy

I grew up as an only child on a farm in Minnesota where I could freely explore the world. My father taught me early on how to use tools, wrenches, and pitchforks, how to drive a tractor, shoot a rifle, and so much more. My mother loved me in spite of my being hard-to-please with her cooking. She did cook well, I just complained readily. I think I as spoiled.

When I was five years old, we often sat by the battery-powered radio to listen to “The FBI in Peace and War” or the “Green Hornet.” Lighting was provided by kerosene lamps. There was a hand pump in the kitchen which brought up soft water from an underground cistern that captured rainwater from the house roof. By the time I started school, we had electricity installed and we had a simple form of running water, no real bathroom. But a flush toilet was installed inside my parent’s small clothing closet. It was a great improvement over the outhouse next to the granary. I was a thankful farm boy.

Dad would often drive me to school a couple miles away in the town. Sometimes I rode the school bus, but it stopped a half-mile from our house, since we were on a dead-end road, and in those years, school buses never went down a dead end road. In good weather, I walked the half-mile to the bus. My first-grade teacher was an exciting and demanding woman. Once when she was disappointed in me, she took my shoulders and shook me until my teeth rattled.

My mother made shirts for me from feed sacks which were printed with patterns and designed for sewing. It was not uncommon. But I was jolted when in seventh grade, a girl asked me why I always wore the same two shirts. I went home and told Mom I needed some new shirts, from a store this time.

School was always interesting to me. Somehow I got to be good at math and science. My math teacher was a serious religious woman, and she taught every class including algebra, geometry and trigonometry, but in alternating years. In my senior year, three of us were recruited to teach a semester of geometry for a student who transferred in midyear, since he was in the middle of the course, but that year it was not being taught at our school. Chemistry and physics were taught by the superintendent in alternating years. He loved it and so did I.

From my earliest years I read Popular Mechanics and technology magazines. In my early teens, my model airplanes flew high and fast and crashed spectacularly when pushed beyond their limits. Dad was sorry to see that happen, but each time I knew I could build another one. In my senior year, I told my math teacher I wanted to go to a tech school for electronics. She said, “No, Stan, you need to go to the University.” I had never thought of that. She also advised me to avoid being too amorous with my girlfriend, and spoil my chances at an education.

During my first year at the university I had a spiritual crisis. I decided to leave after two quarters and study the Bible. My atheist college senior friend, who I described in an earlier blog, counseled me not to go to a sectarian college in California, which I was considering, but rather to find one related to my family’s church. Good advice. My summertime railroad job provided enough income for me to transfer to Hope College. There I met many great teachers and fellow students.

With no career goal in mind, I just soaked it up, and after graduating, went on to the seminary across the street where another banquet of challenges and profound spiritual mentors shaped my faith. I could add so much more. Perhaps I will in my next blog. I am thankful for each turn in my lifetime where I was helped by people God placed in my life. They cared enough to engage me and call me into the next chapter, each one a challenge and a blessing that shaped me to be a man, still always flawed, but hopeful. I learned to trust God.


© 2023 Stanley Hagemeyer

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