There’s something about a farmer’s hands

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Farm Forum

Growing up I never wanted to marry a farmer. They worked the hardest during the best times of the year. They had bright red forearms, stark white biceps, bad backs and crooked limbs. They had no fashion sense. They spent a lot of money yet they never seemed to have any money. And they smelled bad.

I envisioned myself with a tan-legged, clean-handed, cologne-wearing man with a high paying office job and decent clothes. I imagined we’d enjoy leisurely picnics on the weekends and take expensive family vacations in the summertime.

But love, when it strikes, negates all the promises you once made to yourself.

My farmer and I have eaten many ‘picnic’ meals over my trunk. However, dining el fresco just for fun doesn’t happen often. He’d rather eat indoors without the bugs and dirt.

His ruddy complexion, from a lifetime of outdoor work, lasts all winter long. So I really like his farmer’s tan. He looks healthy and vibrant.

We often run errands together at the end of a long work day. He might change into a clean shirt; but he usually forgets about his plier’s holder. There’s something appealing about a man, with a pair of pliers on his belt, pushing a shopping cart full of cereal, toilet paper, and lettuce.

Speaking of his fashion sense, I’m glad he doesn’t have one. The kind of man who cares too much about his appearance is no longer attractive to me.

I also enjoy the smell he brings into the house. It is a combination of the earth on his skin, the wind, the sun, and the green cotyledons he examined that morning. The faint trace of sweat that wafts to my nose tells its own story about what went wrong, and right, in the past twelve hours.

In my childhood I also noticed that a farmer’s hands, or what was left of them, were covered in callouses, grease stains, and deep cracks. Since I didn’t like their crooked walks and farmer’s tans, dirty hands with slow-to-heal-cuts should have had the same effect on me. But even as a kid, I admired the hands of the working men around me.

My dad’s hands were big but not too big. They were dark brown all year long. The skin was thick on the underside and on the top side strong blue veins bulged, showing the power those hands were capable of yielding. Grandpa’s hands were even more beautiful: cleaner and a little crooked, but they still told the story of his life.

To this day, when I meet a man, I notice their hands. Therein I know what kind of childhood they had; what kind of work now fills their days.

I also learned in childhood that if you wanted some work done around the home in the spring, you were probably going to have to do that without the help of a farmer. So I almost didn’t even ask for help a few days ago when I decided it was time to get some of the garden in. But while the garden was workable, I knew it was still too wet in the fields and the guys would all be at the shop. It was nine am and the rain was supposed to hit before noon—it was wise of me to call and ask for reinforcements.

We’ve been married a long time. Twenty years next week. I understood his terse response, and just channeled my frustration into the hoe.

The rain held off until the potatoes were finished. I made a few onion rows as it sprinkled. It started to really pour as I was on my knees, putting the last onion in the ground, then quickly covering it up with a swipe of my arms through the dirt. I jumped up and turned around. There he was, his face turned sideways, his blue eyes squinting at me through the raindrops.

“I came as soon as I could!” he laughed, “I’m glad someone got something planted today though!” I just shook my head and ran toward the house. Once inside I pulled off my gloves. There were two big blisters just above the fold on each one of my thumbs. “Ouch!”

Dennis responded by showing me his own hands, “Oh boy. I should have helped. That doesn’t happen to me. I have callouses.”

The fact that he tried, that he showed up at the end with a smile while squinting-through-the-rain, hadn’t been enough. But when he showed me the oil-stained underside of those perfectly rough, thick-fingered, suntanned hands of his, it was all over for me. I had to laugh and let it go. Because, (just in case you still don’t get my point), there’s something endearing about a farmer’s hands.

Andrea Beyers lives in Roscoe. Contact her at rocktuff@venturecomm.net.