Neighbor

Marty Baker is a few years younger than me. We’d pass each other in the halls now and then as students at Del-Val. Being in a different class creates at least a perceptible degree of separation. You know how that is when you’re in high school.

There was another degree of separation when we were growing up. It was a fence; a fence on the surveyor’s line that separated his Dad’s farm and my Dad’s farm. Beyond that we were both farm boys milking cows in the morning and milking again at night. Summers were wrought with the fevered pitch of stacking hay. All of that left no degree of separation. It was just gut-wrenching work, no matter which farm.

Time marched on. Marty’s Dad found a more conducive farm to do the dairying, way up in north-central Pennsylvania, Tioga County that is. The Bakers joined the legions of Hunterdon dairy farmers who left the county for “greener pastures”. We would no longer hear through the woods the sound of Bakers calling their cows in to the barn at milking time. We were doing the same. It was the end of a mini-era.

Draw any line you might, Marty’s departure was emblematic of the churning change unfolding in Hunterdon’s agricultural makeup. However, don’t assume that the boys on those farms don’t still sense the draw of farming that kept their feet planted to the ground, even when they were youngsters.

Witness that the phone rang today. It was Marty. He was looking to wish us well and just check in. We chatted, talked farming for a while. Marty’s had his share of maladies. So have we all.

But as we de-coupled from our conversation, I felt good. Our chat had been born of a bunch of good years, fertilized on our farms. Life is good. God is grand. Thanks for the call, neighbor.

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