I have spent more time leaning on a fence than most people. Last evening just before sunset we found some cooling breezes in Catawba at the Homeplace. It is one of our favorite spots, and last night's meal was a home run.
As we walked back to the car, I noticed the small herd of cattle grazing at the foot of the mountain. They could have been pulled out of our pasture in Tay Creek, New Brunswick when we first started farming.
There were Angus and what looked to be the distinctive Angus-Charolais crosses, a few of which were in our first herd. We eventually went all purebred Angus.
As I looked at the cattle, I had to wonder what had pulled me all the way from Mount Airy, NC to the wilds of eastern Canada and then back down the coast to Roanoke and eventually to Cape Carteret, NC.
In a sense it started because farmland even in the seventies was very expensive in Virginia and North Carolina. It was very cheap in Canada. Our first 140 acres with old house and barn cost under $7,000.
We got to be a relatively large operation for our area. With over 200 head of cattle on the farm most of the time, it was more than a full time job for me. Amazingly I was able to run the place by myself with the part time help of one person during haying season.
We gave up farming for a couple of reasons. One was that credit became too expensive and the other was that in eleven years, I had no vacation. I also couldn't be sick. If something happened, you just toughed it out. Northern New Brunswick was a challenging spot with temperatures as low as minus forty in the winter and as high the upper nineties in the summer.
When you factor in the black flies, I do have a hard time answering the question of just why I did go north and why do I do it for so long.
Still I wouldn't trade the experience for any other career. I learned early that people were far more important than money. There were plenty of times on the farm when money couldn't get you out of a jam, but your neighbors could.
Yet we left the farm in 1983, and I went to work for a Fortune 500 company, Apple Computer in 1984. There i learned a totally different culture.
Apple was a lesson in keeping your head down until you have to take a stand which usually ends up being like Custer's last stand.
We got back to the states with Apple and with that came the opportunity to live in Roanoke, Va. That's pretty close to the home stomping ground of Mt. Airy, NC.
As an aging techie, it becomes pretty clear from standing along the fence that technology companies would prefer to have younger people. Sometimes the company is like Apple which seems to have an extraordinary knack for finding sometime wrong with people when they turn 55 or often it is more subtle.
Lots of times I think young companies don't like older folks because they ask questions and challenge things because experience has shown them that some things work and other things have a hard time getting off the ground.
Young companies are a lot like the young adults that run them. They have to learn from their own mistakes even if it involves lots of pain.
Which brings me back to the wooden fence. When you get older, you have the patience and wisdom to stand along the fence to figure out how what you see fits with your life experiences.
While it means that you likely have far fewer opportunities, you also have a much greater chance for success.
You know how hard you can work. You know that you can learn, and you also know how to treat others so that you can work together productively. Most importantly you know what you stand for, so it is pretty easy to make most decisions.
You actually end up being a far more productive worker because you are pleased to have the opportunity and don't spend all of your time worrying about whether or not this is the best opportunity for you, It is often your only opportunity, and you know you need to make it work.
It's too bad so many companies ignore older workers or haven't a clue about how to tap their experience.
I guess they are on the wrong side of the fence.