We cannot tell the precise moment a friendship was formed. It’s like filling a vase drop by drop, until at last one drop makes the vase overflow.
A series of kindnesses will also at last make the heart run over and you suddenly are aware of your friendship.
Such is the case with a neighboring cattleman. I’m not sure when we first met, nor do I remember when he stopped being just “one of my husband’s” friends, but somehow he made his way into my life, my cellphone and quite often into my kitchen – the effects of several of his visits still fill my pantry.
“Hey kid,” he asked one day, “Ya like onions?” Hardly did I know that my yes was going to result in a half a bin of onions on my porch the next day. I dried, froze and ate onions on everything for weeks.
Being that my husband hates onions, I think he was less than appreciative that Jim’s generosity gave me onion breath. To which Jim laughed “He’s the only vegetarian I know that won’t eat vegetables.” Jim often brought us homemade pickles, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, but his generosity extended far past garden produce – he was generous with his time. That doesn’t happen often in this day and age; maybe it never did. There are never enough hours in the day, especially in agriculture. Work is forever calling – but Jim always took the time to answer a call from friends and neighbors.
And call they did. Sick, dead, or dying animals, he would be there. Often he’d bring his wife and whatever supplies he thought you might need. Morning, afternoon, night, even on holidays – it didn’t matter, friends knew that Jim was just a phone call away.
Thanksgiving Day we found ourselves with new baby lambs and no trailer to bring the sheep home. Not a problem. Jim and his wife left their turkey to help us herd sheep in the dark, all the while smiling and teasing. He’d never begrudge you his help, or make you feel obligated to him. He may cuss at you, but never without a smirk and maybe a wink. The minutes passed quickly when Jim was around. He’d been around the world and it was always fun to compare places we’d been and the different experiences we’d had. We always had a good time BSing with each other. We’d tell jokes, talk religion, politics, guns, agriculture, wolves; he had an opinion or story about them all, and before we’d know it, minutes would often turn to hours. But at least we had solved the world’s problems in the meantime. He had the vocabulary of a sailor, the wardrobe of a redneck, and a heart to rival any saint. As I stood watching the pallbearers lay down their boutonnières on his casket, I felt a deep aching in my heart. They just don’t make people like him very often. Looking around the tissue-clad attendees, I think the community must have agreed. The tears continued to fall, and probably will at unexpected moments, but missing someone gets easier every day. Because even though it’s one day further from the last time you saw each other, it’s one day closer to the next time you will. And until that day, may we take a lesson from Jim: take time for the people that matter, and in so doing, we’ll spread our own drops of kindness.
Brianna Walker contributes columns on the Farmer’s Fate occasionally in the Blue Mountain Eagle.