Lessons I learned from my fa­ther

The Community Connection - - OPINION - By Ca­role Christ­man Koch Colum­nist Ca­role Christ­man Koch grew up in Berks County and has been pub­lished in nu­mer­ous publi­ca­tions. She has a pas­sion for writ­ing and has many sto­ries from grow­ing up on a farm to rais­ing chil­dren to hu­mor­ous sto­ries about he

My fa­ther, Herb Christ­man, was a farmer. Pop wasn’t demon­stra­tive or even talk­a­tive with his chil­dren, but his char­ac­ter was shown to us through his ac­tions.

Pop only had an eighth grade ed­u­ca­tion. Other than the news­pa­per, the only book I saw him read was the big fam­ily Bi­ble, on Sun­days. He’d take a chair from the house, sit it on the front lawn and read. (Mom told me he read the Bi­ble through six times.)

Pop also made sure his chil­dren at­tended both church and Sun­day School. Our church was lo­cated about one mile from our home; some­times we walked there. My fa­ther, in dif­fer­ent years, was both an el­der and dea­con. In this church, el­ders and dea­cons sat in the front row. Mom had the priv­i­lege of tend­ing to her chil­dren by her­self.

I must say Pop had a strict sense about what Sun­days meant to him. No chores were to be done on Sun­days, ex­cept nec­es­sary work, like feed­ing the an­i­mals or gath­er­ing eggs. Even be­fore Sun­day ar­rived, my four older broth­ers were to clean up the grounds around the barn and sheds. It had to look pre­sentable for Sun­day.

My sis­ter, Gla­dys, must have de­cided to find out how much Sun­day meant to Pop. Think­ing he was out of hear­ing range, she de­cided to sweep her bed­room floor. In no time Pop came fly­ing up the stairs, pulled the cord and rep­ri­manded her se­verely.

Yet, Pop had a fun side. He al­ways played Santa Claus. He’d ar­rive at the kitchen door, in his bor­rowed red suit, throw nuts and or­anges on the floor, and leave. Never sus­pect­ing Santa to be our fa­ther, we, the chil­dren scram­bled for our good­ies.

Pop al­ways knew right from wrong. Mom told us this story,

“In the early years of our mar­riage, Pop went with a neigh­bor to an auc­tion. On the way home the neigh­bor stopped at a ho­tel. Pop walked the six miles home.”

Another story comes from my older sis­ter, Anita,

“When a new road was built through some of our farm land, the work­men found In­dian graves and threw the bones on a pile. That didn’t sit well with Pop. He col­lected the bones and re­buried them on his land.”

My brother, David, told me, “Pop was a stick­ler if some­thing broke while in the field. You fix it be­fore you re­turn. Use wire, baler twine, or a bolt from some­where. You get the field fin­ished.”

As a young­ster, I’ve of­ten won­dered why Pop, af­ter har­vest­ing the corn, al­lowed the neigh­bors, from a nearby vil­lage, to glean the fields. I didn’t un­der­stand this shar­ing when he had to pro­vide for a wife and ten chil­dren. Through my Sun­day School lessons I be­came more knowl­edge­able. Maybe he re­mem­bered the Bi­ble story of Boaz, a wealthy farmer, upon see­ing Ruth glean­ing his field, told his reapers to leave grain for her to gather. The Old Tes­ta­ment law of the agri­cul­tural com­mu­nity was for them to leave the gleanings from pro­duce in the fields for the poor peo­ple. Pop prac­ticed that law.

As I stated be­fore, Pop wasn’t much of a talker. Dur­ing rain­storms, I of­ten sat with him on the glider on the front porch. This is where I learned the art of lis­ten­ing as the rain pelted on the tin roof above us and the light­ning crack­led around us. When the storm sub­sided and the you heard the birds chirp­ing, Pop got up and stood at the rail­ing,

“Ca­role, come here and see the rain­bow!” I trea­sured those times the most — me and Pop, just lis­ten­ing.

I al­ways knew my mother’s sib­lings at­tended a two-year col­lege and be­came teach­ers. What I didn’t know was that Mom was the in­sti­ga­tor of Pop be­com­ing a farmer. Dur­ing their court­ing days, she told Pop, “I want to be a farmer’s wife.” For the love of a woman, Pop learned the trade. He loved the sights, the sounds, the smells of farm­ing. To him, these were the best of the God­given things.

Ca­role Christ­man Koch Welcome To My World

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