Not to be Understood

Written by Ian Cummings

A few trees had already turned into fiery colours on the slopes of the Adirondacks, but one doubts the uniformed, stony-faced prison guards lining the church steps and out along the walkway, in this beautiful part of New York, had noticed. For today is not a day of noticing beauty, or for the trivial, for these men. One of their own is no longer with them, leaving a devastated widow and three young children.

The farmers seated in the packed church also had lost one of their own, a man and his family who not only dairy farmed, but did it exceptionally well on a newly leased facility. The supreme grand cow over at Plattsburg, the junior and grand champion winners at Malone only weeks before.

They had tied just down the line from me at Malone, this family with the school teacher mother and oh so great kids, 16 head in all. Presenting everyone to the ring in perfection. One had seen how keen they were with 4-H calves at our farm a couple of years ago, the trip the oldest boy took down to help with our string at the Big E at Springfield Mass. at our request. Hence the move several months ago by these incredible parents to purchase a top herd and milk it on a leased facility, while keeping their full-time professions. Their boy beamed in pride several weeks ago as he won junior champion with a June calf that he had spotted in a hutch in Maryland last summer, which my son and he brought home in the back of my Vibe car, sitting with the lad as best a gangly calf can, getting exercised at gas stations.

We never did get the smell out of that car. Nor the magic of that trip, for that little boy. "Thanks for trucking it home," yelled the father down the fair barn aisle, grinning from ear to ear, as I congratulated the son for following his eye and his instinct. Plus developing the calf into the big time beast it had become. Yet that same grinning father left a voice message for his wife the other night that only she and God will know, walked into the woods behind their place with his rifle and ended his life.

The night before his car totally missed a curve and went plunging down a ravine, but he walked away without a scratch. The car was totally wrecked.

We don't write about such things and only talk about it in sugar coated code. Yet instantly, it seems, the inner fears vent forth to self explain why.

Yes, he was a tough man with an edge. One couldn't have gone to work, for the over two decades that he did to those thick cement walls and razor wire on top, housing the worst of the worst from society in a maximum security prison, without being tough. Some say that snapped him.

Others say it was the added pressure of starting a dairy farm, while admitting there was no financial hardship, the only borrowing being for the herd, which could have been easily dispersed for what was invested in them. "Only God knows and he knows," the priest told us at the funeral.

So one does what one can. My son went and sat with them the night after their husband and dad did what he did. But there was no customary wrestling with the kids. There were tears.

Perhaps there is no fixing and understanding this. One has seen deeply religious teenaged boys from wealthy families, incredible parents, form a pact to do this. On this date, this way. And did it.

The lone youth entering his barn late at night, his life in front of him. One of the best cattle breeders and showman ever, so many more shows to go to, so many great cattle left to breed. A youth in his dairy barn when the ice storm devastation was winding down.

To get to a place that is that dark, that hopeless, yet those of us interacting as friends, not realizing. Families interacting, maybe seeing bad days or moments, but never, ever suspecting this. "What have I done?" sobbed the widow to my son. "Nothing," he replied.

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