by Ted Edinger
I grew up in a small North Dakota town back in the 50s and 60s. My brother-in-law was a farmer, so we kids were taught at an early age to drive tractors and other vehicles. I started driving tractor for my brother-in-law during the summer I was 11.
One summer day, my dad’s pickup needed to be moved, so he told me to back it up. Unfortunately, I backed into our swing set, bending the A-frame but not damaging the pickup. I was scared because I wasn’t sure how Dad would react. Dad wasn’t mad, but came over and moved the pickup himself.
As a teenager, I worked for Jim Seitz during the summer on his farm. Jim had a self-propelled windrower that we used for cutting hay during the summer and grain during fall harvest. I loved to drive the windrower that cut the grain and laid it in rows so the combine could come along to pick it up and harvest the grain.
One day, I drove the windrower to get gas from the big farmyard fuel tank. The fuel tank was mounted on a big metal frame 12 feet high. I ran into the frame, breaking one of the machine’s wooden slats.
I stopped the machine and got off. I assumed Jim would back it up for me, as my father had. To my surprise, Jim said, “Get back up on that machine — you can do it.” And I did! Talk about a confidence builder — my self-confidence went sky high that day.
During harvest, Jim had me do custom windrowing with that same machine, which pushed my confidence level up several more notches. I would take off the drive chains, bolt on a special hitch, hitch it to a pickup truck, and pull the windrower backward down country roads to whatever fields needed to be cut that day.
Many other little gestures of confidence — plus the “can do” attitude Jim had toward me — carried me through some hard times.
In particular, he helped me get through my Army basic training. One day my actions weren’t to our drill sergeant’s satisfaction. He made me stand next to a wall and beat my head against it while repeating, “I’m a dud, I’m a dud, I’m a dud.” While I was doing this, the image of that summer day on the farm and Jim telling me “Get back up there, you can do it!” came flooding back to my mind. I knew the words the sergeant was making me say weren’t true; he didn’t break my spirit!
Jim’s “can do” attitude helped me through basic training, advanced individual training, and jump school. From that training, I became an airborne military policeman with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It just goes to show what a huge impact can be created by small gestures of faith and confidence in a person.