Wednesday, September 14, 2022

The Souvenir

After we wed nine years ago, many evenings were spent in our small home on the edge of town trying to stuff all his Kansas/Angus/ranch memorabilia into an Indiana/Shorthorn/farm house I’d lived in alone for five years. Our styles were so similar: rich in history and stories of days and people gone by. What I didn’t consider was what it might be like to marry a fellow collector.

Too late now.  

Nearly a decade later and we’re still passionate about what does and does not belong around our farm. Does it have a story? Does it belong in the family? Was it once living? All questions we ask ourselves as we continue to make this homestead our own.

So you can imagine my surprise when I came home from work to find a five foot headstone erected in our front yard a couple weeks ago. 

While most families return home from vacations with sunburns, t-shirts and keychains, we came home from our trip to Kansas City with a headstone that boldly displays someone else’s initials.

It was an honor for husband Cody to be asked to judge the Bred & Owned (bred and raised on your farm, home grown, not purchased from anyone else) show at the National Junior Angus Show in Kansas City. To add extra sweetness, he was able to ask his father to be his associate judge.

The entry way to the prestigious show ring was flanked with two tall flint rock monuments commemorating the event. Throughout the few days we were at the show while Cody judged, I did notice him study the monuments. He touched them. Tried to rock them. Mentally judged their weight. Studied how they were free-standing. Never in my right mind did I think we’d haul one home.

Finally, it was time to pack the four of us back into the truck and head east to Wayne County. Cody walked over while I was saying goodbye to Missouri friends, “Did you see those stones by the ring?”

“How could I miss them? It’s like the Kansas Stonehenge.” He didn’t appreciate my joke.

“Well, they put them up on the silent auction for folks to bid on throughout the week…” he continued like a kid about to explain how he ended up in the Principal’s office.

“You didn’t. Please. Please tell me you did not bid on those,” I pleaded.

“Well just once or so and turns out no one else wanted them!” by his excitement I knew how this story was going to end. “I only bought one. The other will go the to Angus Hall of Fame.”

“Of course no one wanted them! They look like headstones!” I was not believing my ears.

Cody was so excited about this souvenir to commemorate the opportunity to judge the bred & owned cattle with his dad, that he didn’t even sense my frustration. “Did you bring the joint check book?” he asked with a pep in his step, as though he’d won the grandest prize of all.

“No way, pal, this is coming from your personal savings. Buying your headstone was not in the budget this year with the home renovation. Wait. Doesn’t it have words on it?”

“Letters. NJAS ’22. National Junior Angus Show 2022. It’s a souvenir. The year I judged with Dad,” he remarked.

Ugh. Now he was tugging at my heartstrings. “I thought they gave you coolers as keepsakes. Couldn’t we have stuck with the coolers?” I asked as he walked in the opposite direction.

One pallet, two skid steers, three state lines and four weeks later the rock (headstone) landed outside beautiful Economy, Indiana. He organized a team to help him place it on our farm before I got home. Not his first rodeo.

For four weeks now I’ve mowed around the headstone and roll my eyes each time. What a souvenir we’ll have to will off to our kids. I just hope Cyrus one day marries someone more patient that his own mother who can appreciate the free standing family headstone.

Last weekend we sat outside admiring the freshly mown yard, an Indiana sunset and American flags blowing in the breeze. Life is good in rural Wayne County.

“I just have one regret,” he said. Of course, my ears perked up.

“I wish I would have bought both of those stones. To balance things out around the milkhouse.”

Friends, if you drive by our farm and see fresh dirt under the NJAS ’22 souvenir, think nothing of it.