In my opinion, the New Year’s celebration comes at the wrong time of year. Instead of January – at a time when it seems as if the entire planet is locked in frozen darkness – the passing of the old year into the new should be commemorated in the spring.     
    Spring is a season when the world renews itself as it awakens from its long winter slumber. The birds are nesting, the kids are beginning to look forward to long, lazy summer afternoons, and we farmers lose ourselves in the urgent business of tilling and planting.     
    Spring was also when the hammock began to mock me.     
    Some years ago, I received a hammock as a Father’s Day present from our two young sons. I smiled a fatherly smile as I opened the package. Our boys looked on anxiously, eager for my approval.
    “How nice,” I said, trying my best to sound convincing. “A hammock! Just what I always wanted.”
    In truth, I thought a hammock would be about as practical as a necktie – another thing I likely would not use.     
    At our sons’ insistence, we hung the hammock at once. We discovered it fit nicely between a pair of towering cottonwood trees that stand guard beside our driveway.     
    The boys insisted I be the first one to try the hammock. I dutifully climbed aboard the conglomeration of nylon netting, lay in it for a moment and declared it magnificent. I thanked our sons for the gift, but said I had to go as there was a field of alfalfa that needed to be cut. Disappointment darkened their faces, but I thought they have to realize that such things cannot wait, that making hay was more important than lollygagging in a hammock.     
    And so, the hammock hung, unused except by our boys, for the course of the season. Many summer evenings I would return home after yet another hard day and pass the hammock on my weary trudge to our farmhouse. The hammock seemed to chide me, asking how much of myself I had to sell that day and what meager crumbs the world had given in return.     
    Then the day came when I could not stand looking at the hammock any longer. It had become a painful reminder of my chronic lack of leisure. Besides, I told myself, winter was fast approaching, and it would not be long before lying outdoors would be made extremely uncomfortable by the cold and the snow.     
    No one was looking, so I clambered into the hammock and allowed my back to be molded by its forgiving netting. In the warm sunshine, suspended between heaven and earth, I began to truly relax for the first time in eons. The cottonwoods’ leaves muttered softly in a gentle breeze as I swayed pleasantly in the nylon cocoon.    
    I was suddenly no longer a harried dairyman who was constantly running from before dawn until long after dusk. I did not have any worries about making payments; I forgot about all the difficulties we were having with our beat-up old farm machinery.     
    I was Tom Sawyer, drifting down the mighty Mississippi on a wooden raft with my pal, Huckleberry Finn. Huck and I had decided to become pirates and were scouting the river for tall ships that we could plunder. We were close to the bank now, slipping through the dappled shade of these giant cottonwoods, silent, stealthy, very pirate-like.     
    I awoke with a start. I quickly glanced around, sheepishly wondering if anyone had seen me, half thinking that Huck might be nearby. I was quite alone.     
    I often pondered that experience as the years marched on. I thought about the astonishing speed at which our boys grew into men. I wondered if anyone would care 100 years from now how much land I had farmed or how many cows I milked. I wondered if they ever carve on a farmer’s tombstone, “He always had his corn planted by May 10.” And if they do, I wonder who, besides me, would care.     
    I have concluded that the only true legacy we leave is our family; in the end, they are the only thing that counts. And in the end, a pauper winds up with the same amount of real estate as a billionaire.     
    So, this spring, this new year, I made a resolution: I will expend more energy on family and less on worry. We will go to the lake more often and skip more stones and catch more water bugs and chase more fireflies than we have in the past.     
    And whenever I hear Huck calling me, I will answer.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, S.D. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.