We met at a country dance place in Champaign, circa January 1995. He was a friend of many friends, and somehow, we'd lived within a block of each other for an entire semester and never met. His name was John Spangler and he had beautiful dark hair. And he could dance. We discovered we'd both signed up for calf watch, but I had to work and missed the meeting where they told us what to do and stuff. John offered to go with me, if I'd like, since we were supposed to go in pairs anyway. Um, why yes, that would be lovely.
He picked me up and, as I came down the stairs at 4-H House, there he stood in boots, Wranglers, Carhartt and ball cap, looking every bit the part of a good Illinois farm boy. I was giddy. We climbed into his diesel pickup and we checked some calves. And we talked, a lot. And we laughed, a lot. And then he asked me out (for real), and I said yes.
I was a freshman then, and John was a senior. Within a few dates, we knew this was it. (Actually, he says he knew I was the one on that first night, when I wiped my boots off before I got in his pickup. I say I was just raised right.) We were engaged a year and a half later, and married another year and a half after that.
Today, nearly 16 years after that first calf watch and more than 12 years after our wedding, he still makes my heart flutter. He's the one I respect more than anyone else, whose opinion I can always count on to be firm, and whose advice is always rock solid. When I don't know what to do (which is a lot) he does. He's read everything I've ever written before it ever saw a printed page, and he gives me the cold, unvarnished truth. I can hardly express how grateful I am for that alone. We work so well together. He changes diapers. And, he cracks me up. Still.
And it's by his work that a whole lot of what I've given thanks for this month is even possible. Without him and his love for the farm, and his tireless devotion to getting up every day and working his tail off in sun, rain, snow and manure, we wouldn't be raising our kids on the farm. We wouldn't have an agricultural heritage to celebrate. We wouldn't have a little farm boy, or tractor rides or young farmer friends. We wouldn't have a lot of the things that make our life together so rich.
So today, on the last day of Thanks and Giving, he is what I'm thankful for.