By Dick Hagen of Olivia
Monday, Sept 21, started routinely for my wife and myself as we motored from a hotel in Ankeny, Iowa, enroute to a welcome a six-day mini break in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. It was 9 a.m., blue skies, 61 degree temps, we stretched our hands upward and thankfully expressed, “All is well with the Lord.” And away we motored to the fabled hills, valleys and waters of Lake of the Ozarks.
Stops along the way were necessary... and usually rewarding for curiosity seekers like we two highway travelers. Just outside Carrolton, Missouri, my sharp-eyed bride noted a billboard reading ‘River’s Bottom Brewery’ sporting both great beer and tasty pizza. Just like that we both hungered for a taste of each. Peanut Butter Bacon Jelly was a pizza choice. It was delicious. Equally tasty was their freshly-brewed beer.
Sitting off to my right was a guy with what appeared to me to be artificial limbs. I asked if I might chat with him for a few minutes before we continued on our way. He agreed; His name was Greg Flick and he lived in Tina, Missouri. He’s 57 and he farms. Now the rest of the story...
I somewhat gasped, “You can’t farm…you don’t have any arms, and it looks to me like only one leg.” He smiled back to me, “Oh, I do a lot of farming… been at it for a long time, too.”
I continued, “Now you tell me you were born this way, virtually without your arms and legs. How did you have the ambition and fortitude to get on with your life despite these obvious limitations?”
“Early in my life my parents told me ‘if you want to make something of your life you have to get out and work for it.’ So that’s what I’ve always done,” he responded.
Now I was really intrigued. “Can you really do everything, or how much help do you need?” He casually admitted, “Oh I need a little help now and then. Hooking up equipment is easier if you have another person to assist.”
That means Greg drives his tractor, runs his combine and pretty much all the other tasks of farming. Which prompted this obvious question from me, “How many times did you hurt yourself because you couldn’t get out of the way?” This was his amazing response: “Never! I ain’t saying I haven’t gotten banged up a bit, because bumps and bruises do happen in this farming work.”
“All this and you are a corn, soybean and hay making farmer?” I asked.
“Yeah, we used to do a lot of hay work but we’re out of livestock now. We used to raise a lot of cattle. Back in those days quite a few hogs too.”
I countered “How in heck could you do cattle and calf rearing work?”
Greg perhaps backed off just a bit saying, “I was the feeder calf man… not much bending and lifting in that work. And working with the hogs…well, some things I best not say. But there’s really not a whole lot that I cannot do.”
“And you want to keep on farming?” “Yes, I’m young enough and still like farming,” he said.
I couldn’t resist another question: What’s the color of your equipment, red or green? Mostly orange he responded saying, “Allis Chalmers is what I grew up running. And as my dad reminded me, “If it ain’t broke, don’t go about changing it. First tractor I ever run was a D-14 Allis; now I’m running a WD and its okay too!
“In the late 70s we bought an International 186 Hydrostat; years later we traded for a 7040 Allis power shift. The only modification I added was a lift to help me get in and out of the cabs. The combine I’ve been running is a New Holland; before that it was Gleaners. This year we’re getting a newer International because the New Holland now has over 5,000 hours.”
My curiosity persisted… “Were you born without arm and legs?”
“On the left side, from the hip down I have a prosthesis,” he said. “Also on the right side, just below the knee.”
To his female companion at the table, I couldn’t resist… “Is this guy even good at dancing?”
She responded, “I’ve never seen him dance.”
To which Greg chuckled, “I used to be.”
“And how much help from your farming associates?” I asked.
“My local elevator is very good about spraying and fertilizing my fields. For the acres I run, they can do it when I’m just thinking about it. My 300 acres are small. My dad is 89 and he still helps me some.”
So one more question… “Did your Dad discourage you from wanting to farm?”
“No, he never discouraged me from farming.”
“Well then, Greg, how many of your neighbors told you, ‘You’re crazy?’”
“None, because I was born and raised around all of these people. I went to the same school for 12 years, so they simply accepted me the way I was… no fussing about this or that. Any assist I needed, they were there. Nope, I wasn’t a good student. I was bored with school. I hated school, so thinking about a college didn’t even enter my thinking.”
“You’re 57 now… so when you going to retire from farming?”
“When I have too,” was his forthright comment, adding ‘my own body will let me know’. “Back in the late 80s and early 90s I drove a truck in the winter to make ends meet. I hauled livestock all over the Midwest; then in the early 1990s I had my own small trucking company. But I got out of that because I got tired of having to put up with my employees. Come this next March I will have 20 years as a volunteer for our Tina Fire Department.”
There you have it… the rest of the story from a ‘beer stop’ in Carrolton, Missouri.