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We buried my cousin Jimmy today. He was 82. He was the stereotypical southern farmer; a big, lumbering man whose wardrobe consisted almost entirely of plaid and denim overalls. I have fond memories of sitting on his lap as a boy as we rode around in his combine.
I never heard him cuss, but when he got mad he’d yell “cat hair” and spit. And the places where he spat never yielded vegetation again.
When he was voted “Arkansas Farmer of the Year” in 2014 he simply said, “Ain’t hard. Just gotta break your back a few dozen times a day.”
He used to drive an old Ford F-150 with terminally brown windows. There was enough dirt caked on the windshield that he could’ve planted a bumper crop of taters in it. When I was 13, He had me bush hogging a field when suddenly that John Deere kicked up a rock, shattering the driver’s side window of that old pick up.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “That’s what we buy insurance for.”
But he wasn’t used to having a window that he could see through. A couple nights after he had it repaired, he was riding around the farm checking for varmints. He espied a coyote horning in on his new calves so he decided to shoot it. Which he did. Right through that window.
He looked good today. Still a giant of a man at 82, decked out in his Sunday Best—steam-pressed plaid and a pair of well-starched Liberty overalls. He had been sick for a while so I didn’t expect to get emotional. But when I saw one of the great grandsons put a little green toy tractor in his coffin I nearly embarrassed myself with crocodile tears in front of a house full of stoic farmers and rock-ribbed Free Will Baptists.
His son, also a farmer and also a James (my family finds one name and sticks with it), told us at the graveside, “Daddy’s last lucid words weren’t surprising, ‘I hear tell Heaven is mostly garden. I hope they have tomaters.’”
Rest In Peace, Jimmy. Today the Good Lord did a little farming too. Sown in weakness to be raised in power