My Generation

30 Days of Farms & Families: The Hinderliters

A preview and a kickoff! It's a whole month of paying attention to what's great in agriculture.

To tell the story of how I know this family would be rather lengthy, so I'll get to the point: they are my family!

My brother and his wife, Doug and Katie Hinderliter, farm just south of Albion with my folks, Wayne and Susan Hinderliter. After college, Doug spent a few years working on various cattle operations before returning home to raise corn, beans, wheat, hay and cattle with my Dad. He and Katie – a farm girl herself, from the northern end of the county – married last year.

And here we all are, in a shot from this past spring.

The story of my family's operation can't really be told without fully sharing about the cattle operation. Dad got into the Shorthorn business some 50 years ago, starting out with horned (also known back then as scotch) Shorthorns. Dad showed cattle for many of those years and has some great stories about making the southern swing with his buddies back in the '60s and '70s, down through Nashville, Knoxville, Jacksonville and more, all out of a turquoise Chevy straight truck, with Sunnyland Farms painted on the door.

As kids, we showed at county fairs all across southern Illinois. Dad believed in roughing it; when we got the trailer unloaded, he washed it out until it shone and we set up cots and spent the night right there. I have a very vivid memory of listening to Michael Damian sing "Rock On" at the Illinois State Fair, from my cot on the straw rack above the trailer. Weird. But fun.

Dad also believed in equality in farm chores. Or in other words, he figured girls could stack hay just as high as boys, so there was no reason I shouldn't bale, too. He was right. It was good for me. We spent a lot of summers that way; Mom, Dad, Doug and me, baling hay and straw and showing cows, with nary a hired hand along the way. Dad didn't seem to believe in that.

But there's more to the story; our family is going through a hard time right now. My mom was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer last spring, just as the corn was going in the ground. It was out of the blue. But maybe those things always are. She is in the final stages now, though she rallied during harvest and has had a good fall, all things considered. I can only say, at this point, that hospice nurses are gifts from Above. That somehow earlier this fall as the Farm Progress Show rolled on and I stood there in their kitchen with Dad, I listened as those nurses found just the exact words to very gently say the things no one wants to hear but that we very certainly needed to hear.

And somehow, we managed to balance a life this fall between small school children here and Mom and their needs there, and two families trying to bring in a harvest on opposite ends of the state as our worlds slowly came undone.

I have seen Dad care for Mom in ways I never would have imagined. He patted her leg earlier this fall and told her she was the best patient he'd ever had. Mom harrumphed and told him she was the only patient he'd ever had. Dad laughed and said that wasn't true; it's just that most of his patients were four-legged. Mom smiled then, too, because she's a farmer's wife and she knows.

Farmers are the ultimate caretakers.

And so we covet your prayers. We know God is still God, and God is still good, regardless of our circumstances. When our world is shifting, He is not. And His mercies are new every morning. Mom has been very lucid, her pain has been manageable, we have had good talks, we sat around the Thanksgiving table together and they have been blessed by more cards, letters, phone calls and visits than we would have imagined.

Like one Sunday afternoon this fall, when some old Shorthorn friends popped in – from two states away – to visit. The cattle community is a good one. The farm community is a good one.

Really, those communities are family and we're blessed to be a part of them.

30 Days of Farm & Families
Day 1: The Webels
Day 2: The Mies Family
Day 3: The Thomases
Day 4: The Stewarts
Day 5: The Weavers
Day 6: The Hawkinsons
Day 7: The Kortes
Day 8: The Walters
Day 9: The Schillings
Day 10: The Martins
Day 11: The Pratts
Day 12: The Bowmans
Day 13: The Pollards
Day 14: The Wachtels
Day 15: The Strodes
Day 16: The Buntings
Day 17: The Andras Family
Day 18: The Liefers
Day 19: The Purvis Family
Day 20: The Jones Family
Day 21: The Smith Family
Day 22: The Buhrows
Day 23: The Elmores
Day 24: The O'Briens
Day 25: Sean Arians
Day 26: The Bremmers
Day 27: The Halpins
Day 28: The Ropps
Day 29: The Currys
Day 30: The Hinderliters

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