(Thoughts I shared at my dad's given funeral today.)
The greatest compliment I ever received was, “You look just like your dad.” And the greatest compliment of my dad that I’ve ever heard, I heard last night at the viewing from Jim Young when he said, “Keith was my best friend.” I think there are a number of people who would say the same.
I want to begin with the most important thing about Dad. It’s what makes him my hero. It’s what makes me want to be more like him in my life.
Dad was born the youngest boy of 8 children. He has one younger sister. His father suffered from allergies, so dad did all the farm work as a teenager. His father also struggled with alcoholism and was not often a kind or tender man. Dad’s parents were divorced because of this after all the kids had left home.
We all know that the cycle of abuse often goes from generation to generation. But Dad broke that cycle. Neighbors would take him to church where he learned to love the Lord and formed a desire to serve Him all his life.
Dad’s testimony of Jesus Christ and the Atonement is deep and profound. He worked all his life to emulate the Savior, loving everyone and taking every opportunity to serve them. He was kind, gentle and patient with his family and neighbors. They saw in him a spiritual power that exceeded his tremendous physical strength.
I never saw him raise his voice or a hand to anyone. He was never vengeful, nor did he demand payment for hay that others had taken on credit. As a child, I could not understand that. Eventually I came to understand it. Truly he lived the phrase, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
Dad taught me many things that have served me well in my life.
He taught me to be inventive. Our first bale wagon had two rod levers to control hydraulic operations. The furrows in the fields often tipped bales flat, so they needed to be turned up on their edge before the bale wagon could pick them up.
I would ride on the tractor wheel fender and jump off to run ahead and turn the flat bales. That was not particularly safe or efficient, so Dad got inventive. He selected an old steel seat, probably from a horse drawn hay rake—you never knew when something like that was going to come in handy, he’d say.
With the seat welded to the side of the bale loader, we went back to work. I would sit there and jump off and run ahead to turn the flat bales and wait for the seat to catch up to me. The only trouble was that the bale loader needed to be raised just an inch or two at the end of the field to turn around without gouging the hay with the skid.
Dad would pull on the lever that operated the chain on the bale loader a little further and raise it up just a little with me riding on that seat. On one of those turns, the lever got stuck. The bale loader launched me up and over to the other side of the wagon. Dad stopped hauling and we went straight to the shop where he promptly cut off the seat.
And that is how we got our first motorcycle. Todd and I would take turns riding that Kawasaki up and down the furrow rutted hay fields turning the fallen bales up on their side. It was great fun.
Dad taught me to embrace change. He installed pressurized irrigation and bought wheel lines and hand lines. He improved and upgraded his equipment lineup from time to time. He reclaimed ground that had been overwhelmed with salt grass and alkali. We chained two tractors together to plow that sod. He loved John Deere but wasn’t afraid to use something else when it made sense—which was not that often. Just get the job done. That was the important thing.
Dad taught me to read scripture. He would often gather the family at 6 a.m. to read the Book of Mormon. Each member of the family took turns reading. Dad would correct our pronunciation and prompt us if we got stuck. Whenever I hear someone struggle with reading scripture, I remember Dad’s love for scripture. They were sacred and we ought to read them properly.
Dad taught me to work. Once or twice, up and down the field, and he’d put me in the driver’s seat. Another round while he watched and corrected me when I messed up. Then he would go work on something else until I was done, broke down, or hungry. Later in my teen years, sometimes a friend would ride along with me as I worked. They were always amazed that I was able to operate machinery. I took great pride in that as a kid. Thanks, Dad.
Dad taught us to love the Lord. He would bear his testimony to us. He would have us all kneel in family prayer. He never shirked his duties in the Church. He read his scriptures nearly every day. He sat us down to watch General Conference every six months. He gave wise counsel and never had an unkind word for anyone.
Dad taught me to serve others. When it would snow heavily, he would send me with the old John Deere 3020 and blade to LaMar Sherman’s place to plow the snow all the way up the hill to his house. Doing that small act of kindness always made me feel warmer inside.
Dad taught me to solve problems with what I had. There was not always time to go to town to get a new part, so he would weld a fix and we would get back to work. I became an expert welders helper and I learned the fine art of holding a flashlight to help him work in the dark to get a machine fixed and running again. And that is a rare skill.
Dad taught me that you go to the house and eat dinner ONLY when the work is done. And perhaps that was the most important lesson.
I testify that God lives and loves us. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that He suffered and died for our sins that we might be made pure and worthy to live with Him and the Father forever. All we need to do is have faith in Him, keep His commandments, make and keep covenants, and most importantly endure to the end.
That’s what he taught me. And Dad did all of that. He loved his sons for the work they did on the farm, but he might have appreciated the hard work that my sisters did even more. He told Mom that the boys worked hard in the fields until they got hungry and then they’d come looking for something to eat. But the girls would stay out on the tractor all day until the job was done.
Even when Alzheimer’s was robbing him of his memories, he would put on his coat, hat and gloves and go feed the cows and horses twice a day, every day. After years of doing that, he had worn a deep trail from the house to the corrals under the red rock bench in Ioka.
Last summer when Mom wasn’t able to care for Dad, he spent the very last of his energies in mortality lifting the spirits of his new neighbors at the care center. He would go from room to room, shake everyone’s hand and tell them how glad he was to see them. He did not need to remember them. He knew they were his brothers and sisters.
Yes, Dad taught us all to stay until the job is done. He taught us to endure to the end. This lesson defines his life. He learned it at an early age and continued doing it until the very end.
Perhaps his headstone could read, “He stayed until the job was done.”