For Russell


Some of my favorite people are farmers.  They are practical, resilient, smart, deeply committed to their work, and graced with a sense of humor, if only for longevity’s sake.  A few weeks ago a cattle farmer named Russell Christensen died.  He was a dedicated father and grandfather, a wise leader in his church and community, a fun-loving storyteller, and a key player in the growth of the cattle industry in Iowa.  It was a privilege to know him.  

Solid as a tree he was

at least by all appearances.

He had his soft spots.

Mary knew them best.


Roots deep in the soil,

stories reaching through time,

pulling nutrients from the memories.

Riches no farm report could touch.


Shade for the cattle,

lumbering beasts graced with his care.


Branches extended

across acres and country and continents,

wood grained with faith and love

in equal measure.

Now felled, lives on

in each new sapling.


Grow tall and strong,

for him.