“Well life on the farm is kinda laid back
Ain’t much an old country boy like me can’t hack”
Irwin Kirk (Grandpa) Naylor
98 years, 7 months, 25 days
When it comes Grandpa Naylor, my favorite farmer, the quote from John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” brings up a flood of memories. I never really knew any farmers that were laid back, but I guess it depends on the definition. If you mean by laid back that a person doesn’t let things he can’t control get to him, then that is true of Grandpa Naylor. Moreover, there was nothing that Grandpa Naylor could not “hack.”
Grandpa was born a farmer, to a farming family, near Buffalo, Oklahoma (the Paruna community to be exact). He told me that his parents met while his father, William Christopher Naylor, was on a harvesting crew and his mother, Estella Warren, was preparing meals for the crew. As a child he witnessed the death of his older brother who fell from the horse on which they were riding. Later, as a young man Grandpa and another brother drove their tractor from the Buffalo area to the Balko community, some 80 miles, by sharing the driving time. One would drive the car several miles ahead and sleep while the other would catch up in the tractor, then they would switch, with the other driving head in the car to wait. This lasted all night long.
Then, of course, there was the drought and the depression. Grandpa was forced to join the Civilian Conservation Corps. He worked at the Boiling Springs camp. While there he sold his tobacco pipe to another man, never to smoke again. He remembered the camp being run by military men, in a military fashion — barely enough time to wake up, wash your face, wipe your whiskers, and “wee.” [my words not his] He was thankful his time there was limited to six months.
The drought broke around 1938, and Grandpa married his sweetheart, Mary Ellen Wood, whom he had met at the Balko Baptist Church. Like so many others of the time, he bought a half-section of land that had seen tough times during the drought. The Little Valley Farm, as it came to be known was home to Grandpa and Grandma’s farm and dairy. Two daughters were raised there and the grandchildren, including myself, called the farm their sanctuary.
Grandpa could fix or build anything. If grandpa thought he might have to buy a part, he would first try to fix the old part, or make a part from scrap iron lying around in the scrap heap. Like most farmers, he was a mechanic, welder, engineer, and surveyor all rolled into one.
At one point in his life, Grandpa was working on the windmill, the ladder gave way, and Grandpa jumped. He hit the ground hard and compressed his spine. He crawled around looking for his glasses, got to his vehicle, and drove home. Once there, Grandma had to drive him the seventeen miles to the hospital. Probably the roughest, most painful ride in his life. He spent quite a bit of time in a brace. He also lost parts of two fingers to a feed grinder. It seems a bolt came loose and dropped in. On reaction, Grandpa reached for the bolt – bad idea! The toil of farm and dairy life were evident on Grandpa in his later years: stooped and arthritic; he never complained. Grandpa’s mood was always positive and grateful.
His positive attitude transferred to his dealings with others. Grandpa was never a man to get angry at another or use any distasteful language. I remember the first time I heard him cuss. He was working on a tractor, the wrench slipped, and he busted his knuckle. I think I was around 15 or 16, so I knew swear words, I just never heard them from Grandpa. Those words from his mouth were extremely rare.
As I observed, his anger was limited to his milk cows who would sometimes become ornery and ill-mannered in the milk barn. Needless to say, some of them were not “barn broke.” Then the day came when Grandpa and Grandma decided to quit the milk business and sell the cows. I think Grandpa might have cried over loosing those ill-mannered critters.
Grandpa kept farming into his ninety’s. He even rolled his belly mowing tractor when he was in his mid ninety’s. He survived the broken ribs, punctured lung, and many bruises. However the accident probably kept him from reaching his goal of living to 100.
Grandpa Naylor was active in his church and was an avid Bible reader ’til the end. Many will remember my Grandpa as a supporter of the community school, community activities, as well as the Church. Many, many youth in the Balko community were recipients of Grandpa’s (and Grandma’s) generosity during their time in the Balko community.
If I can only be half the man Grandpa was, I will have accomplished something. Grandpa trusted and had faith in God. His faith was evident in his life. I believe he would tell you today that the only reason there “ain’t much an old country boy like me can’t hack” is a faith in God.
Faith, family, and friends are the things that mattered to Grandpa. If Grandpa mattered to you or if you have special remembrances of Grandpa Naylor, please share them in the comments.