By Daris Howard

Milton spoke sharply to his family. "We will not stop for anything except another equipment breakdown!"

Milton was a tough, old farmer, known for a no-nonsense attitude and for running a tight ship, and that spring hadn't started out well. Just when it was time to start planting potatoes, the rains came and threw everything a couple of weeks behind. In addition, they were having a lot of mechanical trouble. Their equipment was getting old, and they had only begun planting potatoes when the chain on the planter broke. It took almost an hour to fix it. They started again but hadn't made even one time up the field when one of the furrowers snapped. That didn't take too long to fix, but they had again just started when one of the tires on the planter went flat.

Milton's children knew the best thing to do at this point was to just try avoiding their dad. He was in a sour mood. The oldest son, David, was happy to have the assignment of taking the tire to the repair shop. That kept him away from his father for a short time.

Though it wasn't close to noon yet, Milton told everyone to get some lunch and be prepared to work steadily until after dark because once they got going, they weren't going to stop. Everyone scattered before he could change his mind. But as soon as David brought the tire back, everyone was summoned, and the planting began again.

They planted for a while and then went back to load the planter. They had just started when the belt on the machine filling the planter popped loose.

Milton was not about to let it stop them. He turned to David. "Get the potato fork and start filling the planter by hand while I get the tools to fix the belt."

Thinking of the back-breaking work forking potatoes was almost more than David could bear, but he was not about to argue. He shoveled until the sweat poured down his face, and he finished about the same time Milton completed the repair on the belt.

They were soon planting again, but it wasn't long before something else broke down. That was how things went all day. They would make some progress only to have something else break, and though Milton was keeping his frustration under control, everyone could tell that he was reaching the boiling point.

When it came time for dinner, he told everyone to grab a bite to eat whenever they could because they weren't stopping. They continued on through the evening, and as the sun was just going down, Milton suddenly brought the equipment to a halt. An audible groan could be heard from everyone, sure that there was another breakdown. Milton wouldn't stop for anything else.

Milton yelled to David, "Get me a shovel!"

The only thing David could think of that required a shovel was the potatoes getting jammed up in the planter mechanism. He was sure it would be his own miserable job to dig them out. He ran across the field to the pickup, grabbed a shovel, and ran back.

Milton took the shovel and walked around in front of the tractor. When he did, a mother and father killdeer, birds that nest on the ground, started going crazy, trying to draw him away. But Milton was undeterred.

Then everyone watched something they would never forget. This rough, old farmer scooped up the little killdeer nest onto the shovel and carried it over to the ditch bank at the end of the field. He gently set the nest down, came back to his tractor, and climbed aboard. Away they went again at a furious pace.

Everyone there smiled in disbelief because, for the first time in their lives, they had seen something besides a breakdown that Milton would stop for.

Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at daris@darishoward.com; or visit his website at http://www.darishoward.com, to buy his books.

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