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Farmers make Christmas happen

By Ralph Hood

Farming communities — and farming people—are different. I wrote this on a flight returning from Pocatello, Idaho, where I spoke for the Idaho Farm Bureau. 

This trip marked my first time dealing with real snow that winter. The Weather Channel made it sound like a blizzard, so I could impress my friends at the coffee shop back in Alabama. I wore the big thick jacket that I bought in North Dakota and my insulated ski gloves. I felt like Nanook of the north but looked more like the Pillsbury Doughboy on steroids.

The biggest difference was the farming people of Idaho. They were down-to-earth people who like to laugh, Audiences like that are the real reason that speakers love their jobs.

Actually, though, it was what happened after my speech that was most interesting.

One of the families in their group — let’s call them the Smiths — had recently suffered catastrophic hospital bills, and the rest of the group decided to help them out. The family didn’t ask for help, but everybody wanted to help.

Some of the suppliers donated seven framed prints of pictures painted by a western artist, and these were auctioned off to the members. I thought that was a really nice gesture and figured they’d probably raise a thousand or so dollars for the Smiths.

Lord, was I surprised.

That auction raised over $7,000 for the Smiths. One farmer would bid a picture up and buy it for over $500. He would pay the $500, then donate the print back so it could be auctioned off again. Likely as not, the same fellow would then buy it again for even more money the second time around. Some of those pictures sold three times, with all of the money going straight to the Smiths.

They auctioned off one of my books, which I normally sold for $20. That night the book sold for $270! Mr. Smith was seated next to me at the head table, and tears rolled down his face. Mine too.

I feel truly honored to have been there. That was one time for sure that the people in the audience touched me far more than I touched them.

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Happy New Year!