By Pettus Read
Well, I’m finally going to do it. With the prospects of it happening, there were those who suggested it, others greeted it with happiness, and even a few tears were shed by some, but I’m going to hang up my Farm Bureau keys. After 44 years and five months of being a paid employee of Farm Bureau, as of Dec. 31 I turned out the lights in my office that afternoon for the last time. My office Mac computer will become someone else’s tool to create with, and I will be spending my days on the Read farmstead, enjoying less responsibility as a farmer than as a departmental administrator. The past years for this old farm boy have been something that I could have only dreamed of as a child but have been much more than I expected as an adult.
I’ll miss those who have worked alongside me. Many of them I saw more often than my own family, but I’m starting a new chapter in my life. The column will continue to be written from my farm office at Read All About It Farm in Versailles at the foot of the Versailles Knob, so that will be around for a little longer. But my presence will no longer be needed at an office, an event or whatever else requires a clock for employment.
When you have been in the same office for almost twenty years, you do collect a lot of things. As I write this column I’m in the process of moving, cleaning out and boxing up an accumulation of items that ought to have been thrown away to begin with at the time they were placed in the drawer of my desk.
There are photographs of me with the famous and the infamous that go back for years. One is of me with Louise Mandrell at a performance somewhere. Being in communications I often got to meet a lot of people backstage during Farm Bureau events. There is the one of me as a fairly young guy with Paul Harvey, which I’ll always keep. He was one of my favorites and his visit was very special.
Among all of the papers are also letters from congressmen, senators and even a letter to me from President Ronald Reagan. I’ve had the chance to make a lot of famous folks’ pictures, but most of all to find out that they were pretty much just like us.
Going through all of my stuff brought back a lot of memories from what I have accomplished over the years here at the Bureau. Most of all, I accomplished meeting a lot of great rural people and farmers who have been the mortar that has been responsible for holding this country together. They have made me who I have become. I have seen young farmers become middle-aged farmers with young farmers of their own, which I feel is good.
As I have rambled through my office over the closing days of my tenure, as the walls take on the look of an apartment after the renters have moved out, I have developed that feeling of melancholy that you get when something comes to an end. All around my desk are boxes containing years of memories that I will remove from my office at the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. I’ll soon load into my car each box containing years of sharing with my farming families the hours of the days not given to my family at the farmstead.
As the New Year will begin, I also will begin a new part of my life. I will become a retired granddaddy with too much to do and hopefully spend a lot of days on Read All About It Farm. As I said, the column will be coming regularly, and Uncle Sid along with Aunt Sadie will also stop by for a visit every now and then. I also plan to keep informed on the issues of agriculture, as well as bring stories for you to learn more about our state’s number one industry.
For 2014, I make the following wishes for each of you:
May all of your seed catalogs arrive on the gloomiest day of January. May those catalogs cause each of us to plan and hope for an early spring and give us the energy to follow through on our planting of some of the most beautiful gardens ever. This year I’m going to try again to have a few raised beds with seedless tomatoes for my friends with stomach problems.
This year, join me to watch an afternoon snowfall with our grandchildren, and to make snow cream without worrying about what is in the snow, other than sugar, vanilla and cream.
May we all have a chance to take our shoes off and walk in freshly plowed soil just as spring begins and feel it push up between our toes. May that soil be the beginning of this year’s crops, which will allow us to see one of the best production years yet, and not too much rain and no drought.
And maybe this Fourth of July will be without rain and we will get the chance to have homemade ice cream with family and friends. And then that evening enjoy a community band playing in the park some of those great patriotic tunes that go well with late evening fireworks.
And may my retirement move as slow as I want it to and as fast as I need. May God bless you all.
Pettus L. Read, now retired, is formerly the editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.