The headlights of the pickup seemed eerie as they illuminated the stretch of road ahead at 4:30 a.m. The stretch was short a half-mile between home and the farms base of operations. The darkness of night, the hour and stillness of the world probably created that eeriness. The sights, sounds and smells are seared into my memory, even though they happened nearly 30 years ago. Looking back, they are some of my best memories, and they offered lessons about work ethic and trust.
I was up and at em at that hour, a teenager helping my dad on the farm. My job was spraying pesticide application if you want to get technical.
After the short drive in the darkness, my dad would position the pickup so the headlights shined on the water truck. While dad set off with his to-do list, my tasks were to fill the 500-gallon tank on the truck with water, check the oil in the small pump engine and fill it with gas.
Those early mornings working in the beams of headlights taught this farm kid from Idaho a number of things. I cant imagine trading the lessons for a snooze button or sleeping in.
First, I was trusted. Dad took the time to explain the job and why each step was important. You dont want to drive six miles to the field in a big water truck to have a pump that is out of oil or gas. We have to make use of the time, spraying in the still coolness of the early morning for the spray to do its job. The pesticide in those jugs and bottles is extremely expensive and must be applied precisely. Theres no room for error. A breakdown in equipment or process isnt good. Once shown how to do the job, I was trusted to do it, step by step.
Then I was trusted to drive the truck, following dad on the tractor.
Then I learned the value of hard work. The work we did in the early mornings was quickly evident. A trip back to the field a day, week and month later showed the difference we made. Our early morning foray kept bugs at bay, stopped disease and helped those hop vines climb up that 18-foot length of coarse coconut fiber twine that was anchored in the ground and reached high to a wire above.
Now, as a father of two, I find myself constantly looking for opportunities and ways to give my kids life lessons of earning trust, realizing the satisfaction of a job well done and learning a work ethic. Providing those life lessons is more challenging off the farm.
Even now, theres something enchanting about the sight of headlights illuminating the road ahead in the early morning darkness. I might not have enjoyed it as a 14-year old, but I cherish the memory and lessons of trust and work ethic now.
DALE DIXON is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Southwest Idaho and eastern Oregon. 342-4649, firstname.lastname@example.org.