Still on the farm

Songwriting tools.

My songwriting tools.

“I took a bull to the sale barn today and ‘bull’ is what they offered me. But sometimes you just have to take what they’ll pay and pray it gets better, you see.”

That’s almost a direct quote from a conversation I had years ago with my cousin Jim Starks in Louisville, Mississippi. It’s also a line from a song I wrote called Still on the Farm, inspired by the conversation Jim and I were having when he said those words. He was married to my mother’s first cousin, Jane. With their sons Jim and Michael, Jim and Jane lived on land that included a pecan orchard and some cattle.

Jim was talking from the perspective of an agricultural businessman. What he said speaks to anyone in any kind of business they pursue, come hell or high water, because they love it. A performing songwriter like me, a pharmacy owner, a freelance writer or computer consultant can relate. Any sole proprietor determined to make a go of it understands exactly what Jim said.

For several years in the 1990s, about the time Jim and I had that conversation, I wrote articles for Tennessee Cattle Business magazine. I literally interviewed farmers “out standing in their fields,” pastures, barns or farm houses to learn about learn about them, why they liked a certain breed and what they wanted to share with other cattlemen about methods that worked for them. One breathtakingly hot summer day in West Tennessee I drove up a dirt road and stopped between a farmer’s barn and his house. My interview subject, wearing jeans and a sweat-soaked plaid shirt with sleeves rolled up to his elbows, met me at my car and led me over to his cattle so I could photograph them for my story.

“How’s the cattle business?” I cheerfully asked.                                                                     “We’re workin’ too hard to still be so hungry,” he laughed. “But we still work, no matter what.”

They say songwriters and reporters are never off-duty. When you have the habits of both, sometimes you find yourself working two jobs at the same time. This man’s dedication and reply stuck with me, as Jim Starks’ words did, and I realized a song was coming along. “Hungry” was awkward for me to rhyme so I took the cattleman’s reply to my question and put my own brand on it. It came out: “We’re working too hard to be this close to broke but I’m thankful we’re still on the farm.”

Jim and Jane are no longer alive but I think about them often. I think about that farmer, too, and hope he doesn’t still feel unduly hungry for the amount of work, sweat and belief he and his family must have put into their farm in the twenty years that have passed since I talked to him in the broiling Tennessee heat. One thing he and Jim both understood was that they were responsible for their own success and it was up to them to find a way to make it work.

If you toil in a field you love, as I do, I hope you are still on the farm.

Click here to listen to Still on the Farm from Les Kerr’s Bay Street album.

Still on the Farm

Kudzu

Kudzu

If kudzu could somehow become a cash crop
If cotton brought ten bucks a pound
And, Lord, if this dry spell ever would stop
We might turn this old farm around

I took a bull to the sale barn today
And “bull” is what they offered me
But sometimes, you just have to take what they’ll pay
And pray it gets better, you see

I’ve got a good wife and a good family
And the Good Lord to keep us from harm
We’re working too hard to be this close to broke
But I’m thankful we’re still on the farm
One more year, we’re still on the farm

I saw a friend at the co-op today
Who told me he’s selling his place
He said those old taxes were too hard to pay
And a teardrop rolled right down his face

Sometimes, I wonder why I’m hanging on
As shaky as this life can be
But what would I do if this old farm was gone?
No, that’s not an option for me

The fair-market price for a labor of love
Is not paid in money, it seems
You reap your reward when the going gets rough
And you don’t give up on your dreams

I’ve got a good wife and a good family
And the Good Lord to keep us from harm
We’re working too hard to be this close to broke
But I’m thankful we’re still on the farm
One more year, we’re still on the farm
One more year, we still own this farm

Words and music copyright 2002 by Les Kerr Publisher: O.N.U. Music (ASCAP)

Click to order Les Kerr's 2016 Bay Street CD. Also available on ITunes, Amazon and other online outlets.

Click to order Les Kerr’s 2016 Bay Street CD. Also available on ITunes, Amazon and other online outlets.

Text and photos copyright 2016 by Les Kerr.

 

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About Les Kerr

Les Kerr is a songwriter, recording artist, journalist and author originally from the Gulf Coast now based in Nashville, Tennessee. Learn More about Les at www.leskerr.com
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2 Responses to Still on the farm

  1. Dan Davidson says:

    Very nice, Les!

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