The Planted Row: Watch carries lessons from a long life

Farm Forum

Almost 11 years ago, my wife gave me a watch for Christmas. It was our first Christmas together, and we didn’t have a lot of money, so it wasn’t an expensive watch. Still, I thought it looked nice, and I wore it proudly because my beautiful wife had given it to me.

Seven years ago, after my grandfather died, my grandmother gave his watch to my dad, and he sent it to me. It’s a little higher quality than my own, but I felt more sentimental about my wife’s first Christmas gift to me. So, I carefully stored my grandfather’s watch, planning to someday mount it in a display case.

Well, last week, the watch my wife gave me died and cannot be resuscitated. So I retrieved my grandfather’s watch from storage, had a battery placed in it, and it is sitting on my wrist as I write this column.

It’s an older style watch, a little formal. You can tell that it has been used. The crystal is scratched. The gold plating has been worn away in spots, and in a some places the metal of the case is even a little pitted. The backside has old dirt cemented into nooks and crannies. The technician who replaced the battery tried to clean it off, but she could only do so much. So, it has a certain smell if you bring it close enough to your face. You probably wouldn’t like it, but I don’t mind it. It’s like a mix of soil and aftershave. It smells like my grandfather.

The man had one watch, so he wore it to the field, to church, and everywhere in between. When he was turning a wrench to adjust a plow, it was on his wrist. When his arm was wrapped around my grandmother’s shoulder, it was on his wrist. When he was filleting catfish and slinging their heads and guts into a bucket, it was on his wrist. When he squeezed my arm in silent acknowledgement after a 14-hour day in the field, it was on his wrist. A small piece of every one of those moments and thousands like them is now on my wrist.

My grandfather lived to be 87 years old. In that time, he loved one woman, fought in a World War, grew a successful farm, ran a store, delivered mail for the Postal Service, raised six children and instilled in them a love of family and community service. Now that I’m wearing his watch, I feel a certain pressure to live up to live up to that kind of life. I’m reminded of him every time I look at my wrist. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s good to be reminded of the lessons he taught me in the field, in the fishing boat, or on a church pew.

Sure, my grandfather taught me how to drive a nail, how to use a welder, how to work a shovel, how to bait a hook, and plenty of other things, but the most important things were the messages behind those lessons. He taught me to take my time and do things right the first time, to be persistent, to work smarter, not harder, to enjoy the simple things in life, to be generous, to value and help the people around me. He tried to teach me patience, but I’m still working on that. Even though I’m no longer working on a farm, all of those lessons still have value.

Granddaddy, if you can read this, I remember everything you ever said to me. If I don’t always follow your advice, be patient. I’ll get there. Also, your watch still keeps pretty good time. I hope you don’t mind that I had to shorten the band.