I was boggled to realize that the team I have always rooted for had won the Super Bowl.
I speak of farm families and of the dominant commercial during the annual football and advertising championships.
I was boggled because farmers are a tiny percentage of the population today. So how could a simple tribute to farmers score such a huge (7.5 million and counting) YouTube Internet audience in the days since the Super Bowl? That Dodge Ram Truck ad was popular with a mostly urban audience.
Perhaps it is because so many of us are still farmers at heart or in part. When I was born in 1937, 40 percent of Americans were on the farm. Today, the figure is approximately 2 percent. I was part of that massive migration away from farming.
I don’t regret leaving the farm at age 8, losing my chance to slop the hogs, feed the chickens, milk the cows and work like a slave morning, noon and night in all kinds of weather. There is something about a city job inside with central heating that appeals to a pampered generation like mine.
Nonetheless, we still have throbbing farmer genes. We still harbor an urge to plant each spring. We get an itch to nurture tomatoes, carrots, beans, state legislators – any kind of vegetable.
Today, we get our physical exercise more at play than at work. But most of us have parents and grandparents who were farmers. And deserve it or not, we were one of their favorites crops.
Consequently, the popular Super Bowl commercial resonated in tender ways with many of us who can hardly believe how hard our ancestors worked on those farms of yesteryear, what long, hot days hired farm hands endured in their part of the profession.
That Super Bowl commercial on the super beings who farm struck a nerve. The words came from one of the great radio story tellers of all time – Paul Harvey. He had an audience of millions over the years before dying at 90.
He was part sanctimonious conservative but mostly a master of simple down-to-earth stories free of politics and full of enough heartstrings to build a harp for an angel. He had the phrasing of a great orator and one of those resonant baritones like the voice of God in the movies.
Some years ago, Harvey read one of my columns – with full credit – on his mid-day broadcast. I have never had more feedback on anything I wrote. As I walked along Main Street that day, people rolled down their car windows and yelled, “I just heard you on Paul Harvey!”
The aunt I hadn’t talked with in 20 years called from North Dakota to congratulate me on finally amounting to something.
I thought she was dead. I’m not sure she wasn’t. It was a very special call.
I thought of her and of other farm folk as I watched that commercial filled with pictures of rural America. One line in that tribute got to me:
It had God speaking in a Paul-Harvey voice, saying, “I need somebody to get up before dawn and milk cows and work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.
“So God made a farmer!” Harvey declared.
I am the son of that farmer and of his wife. They labored night and day. And yes, my father was on the board of a small Idaho school district.
That was appropriate because farmers were teachers of a different sort. They taught us all with the tenacity of their labor how to lead honest, productive and useful lives.Bill Hall can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501