Numbers of history: 100, 108, 129

100, 108, 129

Three numbers, close in range, though not necessarily linked together, other than in a moment in time.

100
Nov. 4, 2016, would have been the 100th birthday of Walter Leland Cronkite, who came into Americans’ homes as the anchorman of the CBS Evening News, a spot he held for 19 years, 1962-81. Prior to being anchor, he was a reporter bringing the news of major events — World War II bombings, the Nuremberg trials, the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Iran Hostage Crisis, as well as the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.

Cronkite actually dropped out of college in his junior year at the University of Texas, so that he could focus on a career in journalism. That focus took him through the ranks as a radio announcer to in-the-field television reporter to a man who had come to earn the label of “most trusted man in America” as the long-running CBS news anchor.

A lot of young journalists were lured into the journalism profession by the credibility that Cronkite portrayed to the country. Back then, journalists were trusted, and we trusted Cronkite enough to allow him to bring us the news every night, hanging on his words. The same cannot be said of today’s 24-hour, can’t-escape-it news cycle. I have a feeling Cronkite, who passed away in 2009, would not like what he sees in today’s media coverage.

He reported the news; I don’t recall him trying to influence it.

Those who grew up with Cronkite on the evening news remember his trademark signoff — “And that’s the way it is.”

A simple statement from a simpler time.

108
This past week brought the completion of major league baseball’s fall classic, the World Series, and what a classic it was. This year’s version brought together two lonesome losers in the Cleveland Indians (last winning the World Series in 1948) and the Chicago Cubs (last Series title in 1908).

Something had to give; one of these two teams would finally have to win the title. Cleveland took 3 games to one lead in the best-of-seven series, and it looked as though the long-standing “Curse of the Billy Goat” would live on. (This “curse” originated from the 1945 World Series when a gentleman bought two box seat tickets for Game 4 in the Cubs home stadium — one seat for him, and one for his goat. He and his goat stuck around for a few innings before being asked to leave due to the odor of the goat. Infuriated, the gentleman allegedly said, “The Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” The Cubs lost that game, lost the ’45 series, and never made it back to the World Series until this year.)

The Cubs did win Game 5 in Chicago but then had to head to Cleveland for games 6 and 7, with the improbable task of beating the home team twice. The Cubs did just that, outdueling the Indians in a 10-inning rain-delayed Game 7 by a score of 8-7. The lonesome losers from the Windy City were no more, the curse of the Billy goat can finally be laid to rest. The city of close to 3 million gained quite a few honorary residents (this writer included) as this year’s Cubs made history, or erased a history of losing.

129
One hundred years is a long time for anything, an eternity for some. In this throw-away world we live in, nothing lasts. Even though you expect some things to endure – if it makes it 100 years, maybe it has become eternal.

Long before the Cubs last won a World Series and before Walter Cronkite was born, my great-great grandparents settled in southern Minnesota and started farming. That’s all they’ve done; that’s all we’ve known. The family operation evolved over time. Horses were replaced by Case, Allis and Moline, and ultimately Deere. A menagerie of chickens, hogs, cows was replaced by hogs only. As the farm evolved, it also grew, but never beyond the comfort level of what my dad and older brother could handle.

This writing brother kept waiting for the “right year” to work into the farming life. Back in the mid-‘80s I had finished up at a two-year tech school and planned to return to the farm. Those of us old enough to remember, that was not a good time to welcome another leg into a farming operation. My dad suggested that I continue on to get a college degree, get something to fall back on, and if the time was right, they could find room for me.

Well, that time never came.

Raising hogs was phased out of the operation about a decade ago. Within the next week, Mother Nature willing, my dad will turn his last round of a corn harvest. Next spring, someone other than a Schulz will be farming the ground. The first time in 129 years that a Schulz will be on the sidelines.

There are a number of factors at play as to why my brother and dad will be renting out their land. The land they rented will be someone else’s worries come 2017. As is the case with a lot farm operations across the Heartland, there is no one to take over. My brother was blessed with three daughters, myself with two. None of them are destined for taking over the family farm. It’s a good decision, right for the times.

It will be strange, more so for my dad, as winter turns into spring, watching neighbors till, plant and reap the bounty from land that had been nourished and cared for by my family since the late-1880s. That land provided food, clothes and shelter for our generations. But more than that, it provided us all with the background and the backbone of a rural upbringing. That land was where I first learned to drive a tractor, picked rock, walked beans, baled straw, ran grain cart and tilled the ground. It’s where I learned to work hard, and for that i am grateful. It has been a good run, but as we all learn — nothing lasts forever.

And, that’s the way it is.

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