The goal of every parent should be to teach your children how to survive in this world and along the way prepare them for the next. The world we live in has always been challenging but filled with countless rewards. Someone once told me if everything were easy anyone could do it. Life has a strange way of teaching us lessons when we least expect it. It is human nature to look at the big awards, big trophies and the highest honors and to forget all the small steps along the way up. The real teachable moments in life are not big events or occasions, but the countless small ones and constant nurturing.
    In rural Minnesota, people are more aware of the steps along the way. I read a quote once that said, “Work like there is no tomorrow, but pray that there is.” Many of my neighbors, fellow dairymen and many from my community come to mind. Most of the above mentioned are of the German descent. Common sense and hard work seem to sum up this group. At least that is what I have been told for many years by my relatives. Teaching your children a good work ethic, showing compassion and sharing your talents with others are qualities that will never go out of style.
    No matter how blessed we are academically, once we leave the nest the basic necessities of life – washing clothes, cooking and cleaning – must be done with our hands. I have always appreciated those who were not afraid to get dirty. Teaching children these values by example leaves a lasting impression. The benefits of working hard develop not only responsibility but also a feeling of self-worth and accomplishment. A little sweat with grease or dirt on your hands at the end of the day is something to be proud of. The harder one works, the better he or she sleeps. As a parent, there is a priceless feeling seeing your children embrace these values by putting the farm, their job or others ahead of themselves.
    As our children are moving on in life there is a constant need to find good, honest, reliable help so our operation can succeed into the future. Help generally needs to be trained with patience. Once in a while, God sends an employee who adjusts so well to our operation that you hope they will never leave.
    Kaleb Fischer was one such employee. Kaleb was a classmate of my youngest son. He was built like a brick but had the heart of a lamb. He played as a lineman in football and was proud of his strong arms that resembled telephone poles. Numerous times in the last four years I would challenge him in arm wrestling to see how much stronger he had become. Most would have considered him quiet and reserved, but once he knew you his comebacks were second to none. He prided himself on arriving on time, getting his chores done well before we were finished milking and then reminding me of being old and slow. Feeling sorry, he would always find or create something to do. Disappearing to the shop he would adjust, repair or grease whatever needed attention at the moment. Kaleb was in his second year of college working towards becoming an electrician. He was my weekend warrior and when texting him if he could work, his reply was always, “Yeah.” For over three years, Kaleb had helped us and never once did I consider worrying if the job would be done right.
    On Oct. 17, Kaleb was pinned under a manure spreader while repairing it at his grandfather’s farm. He was airlifted to the Twin Cities and attempts to save his life were not successful. Oxygen had been deprived from his brain too long and only a machine kept him alive long enough to donate his heart, kidney, liver, pancreas and eyes to someone in need. Less than 24 hours earlier, he had helped us with morning chores and hauled five loads with our spreader. I have replayed his last days over and over trying to see if God had given any warning signs. His last conversation with me, he jokingly stated that we better fix that bale chopper or he was not coming back. I took it more seriously, and Greg and I repaired it before Kaleb left that day. I wish he could see it throw straw now. We also sat down in our office to enjoy a bowl of cereal after milking. It had become our custom to watch Viking highlights online the day after. However, this was Tuesday and we were watching Green Bay Packer highlights since they had played and won on Monday. Kaleb hated the Packers, but I was working on converting him.
    Kaleb’s nickname was Fish, and his younger brother Kyle was Minnow. Kaleb’s jersey number in football was 55, and in his honor Kyle wore No. 55 for the playoff game. After a pregame tribute to Kaleb and his family, Kaleb’s mother Nikki hugged every player on the field. A very touching moment when a small community loses one of its own. The show of support for the family overshadowed any of the action on the field. In a very unlikely way, the final score was 33-22, when added together makes 55. Yeah.
    In the Bible, there is the verse, “This is my body which will be given up for you.” Kaleb’s donation of his major organs gave new meaning to this passage. At the young age of 19, Kaleb had already given over a gallon of blood, fulfilling the passage, “This is my blood…”. My words do not even come close to doing justice to Kaleb. The fact that he had already worked on at least six dairies in our county speaks volumes for his drive and generosity. Though his nature was more reserved, his example affected many. The overwhelming turnout for his wake, the size of his funeral and his procession to the cemetery are proof of his generous spirit in this life. His parents did their job well, teaching Kaleb how to work in this world and prepared him very well for the next.
    John Rosenhammer farms with his daughter, Laura Scholtz, and brother Greg, on Roseview Dairy near Sleepy Eye, Minn. They milk 200 Holsteins and run 580 acres of cropland.