By Keith Hanson
I remind myself daily that the path I chose for my life’s work was paved by generations before me.
My father and grandfather were two of the hardest working men I will ever know. While growing up on a dairy farm, I had to be working if I wanted to spend time with them. I remember people talking about their 40-hour weeks, and I would just laugh! My Dad and Grandpa could work 40 hours in only three days! I never appreciated just how hard they worked until my adolescent years as I started to work those 100-hour weeks with them. They made hard work and long hours look easy and enjoyable. Working with them on the farm became my way of life. It slowly became who I am.
From the age of 10, I spent my free time working in the dairy barn or the feed room. I hated that I had to work while my friends were on vacations, but as an adult, I understand that the lessons learned during these “vacations” are invaluable. We never had time to talk about sports, movies or all the other fun things. We only spoke about what we had to do tomorrow, and tomorrow was always busier than today.
While working with Dad and Grandpa, I was getting an education in life lessons. I did not realize at the time that I was being taught about hard work, responsibility, self-reliance and telling the truth.
There are always things that come to my mind when I talk about the fathers in my life. The first is love—that goes without saying. The other, and most valuable, is respect. I was always told that you must earn respect, but how? I never saw my Dad or Grandpa disrespected by anyone in my life.
How did they earn it? What I learned through the years is their work ethic and their word earned them the respect that people still show many years later. Earning their respect was one of the hardest things for me to do. It took moving away, being on my own and going to school to finally be respected as a man in our family. I am proud of every second I spent earning the respect of my Father and Grandfather. It means a great deal to me. I now realize the value it added to my life and the man that I have become because of it.
I am now blessed with a family of my own and have taken over the farm that my father and grandfather worked so hard to create. I am proud to use all of the things I learned on the farm in my everyday life. The things I once hated are things I could not imagine doing without. It has become routine to check the cattle, worry about the rain and open and close gates every day. Working those long hours and trying to have more success than failure on the farm is my life. And yes, I will have some failures, but I have learned why my Grandpa and Dad worked so hard. They were trying to be successful and trying not to falter. They succeeded!
This summer my son (Hayden, age 11) has started to work with me on the farm. I am very excited that he is there, but at the same time, I am concerned that I will not be as great at teaching him those valuable life lessons as my Dad and Grandpa before me. I know nothing will make me more proud than to see my son carry on what the generations before me created. Just to see him grow up into a man with values, ethics and respect will make me so proud.
Great men came before me in my family, and I hope to succeed in passing on the life lessons I have learned to the next generation.
Keith Hanson is a dairy farmer and represents District 8 on the Texas Young Farmer & Rancher Advisory Committee.