This past weekend we celebrated my parents’ 60th anniversary. Neighbors were invited over for food and drinks, and before we cut the cake, we toasted them. I started. “To Mom and Dad, Orie and Donna. Thank you for making me the woman I am.” I would have said more, but was overcome by tears, grateful just to have been able to say that much.
My parents taught me that if I would just keep on I could do almost anything. My earliest memory of this is from kindergarten. I didn’t want to leave home to spend a half day with a bunch of strangers, so they told me that if I went, I would learn to read. Learning to read was the holy grail for me back then, so I agreed. A week later, I told them I wasn’t going back because they hadn’t started teaching me to read. They convinced me to try again, and that’s what I’ve done ever since.
Mom and Dad encouraged curiosity about how things work with trips to factories to see things being created – flour and sugar into Twinkies, sugar beets into sugar, fresh green beans into canned green beans, cattle in the Monfort feedlots growing into beef for the table – and Dad, a mechanical engineer, described how how the milk went from the cow to the milk tank, and how engines worked, later showing me how to rebuild the carburetor and water pump on my ’72 Dodge Dart, so that when I left home I could do it on my own and keep the old thing running.
They taught me to be thoughtful and kind. From Trick or Treating for Unicef, to doing my first 20-mile walk to raise funds for the hungry before there were food banks in our area, to helping neighbors with chores, to joining the Mennonite Disaster Service after floods, shoveling mud out of houses and riding on the back of garbage trucks to clean up whole towns, I learned that even when the work was stinky or painful, nothing could beat the feeling of having done something helpful for someone else.
Most of all they created a home where I could be anything I wanted to be no matter how many different things I tried or became. It was ok to be a Russian language student with a Masters in International Management who worked for the Kodiak Police Department in Alaska, who became the public information officer for the Bureau of Land Management, and who raised a herd of goats to study fire danger reduction through grazing. They’ve cheered me on through it all, attending events to celebrate the opening of the 150-mile mountain bike trail I helped build, traveling for dance performances, and picking weeds and building fence when I was teaching cows to eat weeds.
You are reading On Pasture today, in part, because of Orie and Donna Voth and all the things they’ve taught me over the last 58 years. It combines all the lessons I’ve learned, from stick-to-it-iveness, to digging in to figure out how things work, to sharing with others, and exploring becoming something new – the publisher and editor of a weekly grazing magazine.
There’s one more thing I’ve learned from my parents: Surrounding yourself with good people helps everyone grow and succeed. So thank you to everyone in the On Pasture Community for helping both Rachel and me do a better job every day.
Thank you for reading!
Kathy and Rachel