Way of Life

I never met Jim Mader, but I knew the man.

Wholly without benevolence aforethought, Jim’s generation created a rural culture.

Heart and intellect. Hands-on work ethic and common sense.

Jackie met Jim’s youngest son, Tracy, and his wife, Stacey, in college. This week, we were privileged to celebrate Jim’s life. One of the things I’ve learned from my wife is that friends go to the funerals when parents die.

Jim's of a generation who came of age during the Dust Bowl/Great Depression and learned from their parents’ mistakes.

Who used their head for something besides a hat rack.

Who fought and won a World War, came home and never talked about it.

Rural culture stained glass. St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church, Hoxie, KS.

A generation who served on the church board, the school board and found it hard to say, “no.” The altar girls at Jim’s funeral mass were the last of a long line of youngsters who Jim mentored on 4H show livestock.

Jim was buried in the heart of the High Plains, north of Hoxie, the seat of Sheridan County. It’s not the exact point in western Kansas where folks tend to skew Denver rather than Kansas City, but you can throw a rock from there and hit it. 

Vacation? What’s that? Maybe a couple of days at the Farm Bureau or Livestock Association annual meeting in the winter. But not much more. Oh, he trusts the neighbor kid who’s looking after the farm, but it’s his farm.

A generation whose business acumen was rooted in relationships and honesty. Here’s the business plan to buy a piece of ground or secure an operating loan:

I.

Look you in the eye.

II.

Firm handshake. 

The generation of men who married the women who raised the kids and mastered the artistry of the green bean casserole and cutting on the bias.  

With faith in a God who provides.

The generation of knee and hip replacements and double bypasses.

This generation can’t share a file to the cloud, but they can share. And they can look at the clouds and tell you how much rain’s on the way.

They’ll be polite, but honestly, they’ve not much interest in their daughter-in-law’s haute cuisine. Pot roast, mashed potatoes and apple pie’ll (with a slice of cheese) do just fine, thank you very much. 

The generation who taught their children to hope for much. Knowing they will sometimes fall short of the mark. And that it is within the falling short where life’s real meaning is found.

A cycle of life that became more important with each passing year. The concept of “retirement,” foreign.

Calves out to pasture in the spring. Cuttin’ wheat in the summer. Pickin’ corn in the fall. Fixin’ things in the winter. And at the end of this cycle, salvation. For the next world, after a lifetime of doing the next right thing in this one.

The time for Jim Mader’s generation has drawn nigh. This culture they wrought and wrestled to the ground... will it fade away with them?

I hope not.

Times change, places change. Values transcend.  

I never met Jim Mader. But I’m so grateful that he lived.