I am not a farmer. I am the son of a farmer, but know nothing about farming.
My sister, Audrey, told me her husband, Ray Pool, was to be honored March 6 as the Senior Farmer for 2014 in Madera County.
I don’t know why Ray was chosen for that honor. I always observed him, from a thousand miles away, and knew him more as a flyer and crop-duster. I was aware that over the years, he had planted almond orchards and grape vines.
One time up in the Pan Handle of Texas I was driving north toward Liberal, Kan., and saw a tractor in a field, but there was no driver! I panicked for a moment for I thought he might have fallen off and it had plowed him under…?
I mentioned this to my friends; they laughed and told me this farmer had rigged the tractor, set the throttle and plow depth to follow the furrow around the field in a circle until it ran out of gas — he went about his chores, milked the cows, slopped the hogs and took a nap!
The next day he would, again, put just enough fuel in the tractor to run for the day, set the throttle and plow depth and go to the house!
Now, that’s my kind of farmer.
Ray does, at times, look like a farmer. You see, he has this old hat that makes him look authentic; Audrey has thrown it away five or six times, but he keeps going out and retrieving it from the trash.
This man has not given in to adversity, obstacles, setbacks or handicaps sustained over the years. Rather, in spite of them he has “plowed” deep in his way of overcoming and succeeded in whatever he has attempted to do.
Losing an eye and a leg would have caused some men to sit back and let the world run over them. But Ray went on to get his commercial pilot’s license.
He developed his own crop-dusting business, modifying spraying and dusting equipment so airplanes could do a better and more efficient job over the standard and commonplace.
Ray did the same with the farms — always the innovator.
He is one with nature, the land and airplanes.
What I have observed from a distance of 1,000 miles has caused me to respect and appreciate Ray Pool for his personal integrity, his values, determination and work ethic.
These attributes make him stand tall in my eyes.
He has been, and still is, an inspiration to me and I am sure to all who know him better than I, even more so.
To all who come behind, who take the time to observe and get to know his story, will also look up and say, Thanks, Ray Pool!