“I’ve been doing genial labor all of my life.”
    That statement jumped off of the application for the work of milking cows and scraping manure at our farm. It was written by an 18-year-old we recently hired.
    I thought about the genial labor description about work experience that would make him a good candidate for the job. Curious, I found the dictionary definition, “ge.ni.al, adjective, friendly and cheerful.”
    At first, I thought he meant to write menial labor. When I looked again, I decided he may have meant general labor. But, I like the original descriptor of genial labor. After all, that is what a lot of dairy farming, or any type of farming, is all about day in and day out – doing hard work in an amiable fashion.
    I have been thinking about the labor we do and also what every parent, aunt and uncle before us has done to get us to the place where we are now on our operation. I think about the work handled every day by the people whom we work with side by side, and I wonder sometimes what drives us to do it. The days are long and the work is tough and wearing on bodies and minds.  
    My pondering during November leads me to think of relatives and friends who have served or are serving in the U.S. military. We will soon observe Veterans Day when we honor those who served in every facet of the U.S. military in countless wars and in countless ways. I appreciate all they have done to insure our freedom.
    In our families, both my father, Richard, and Rolf’s father, Carl, served in World War II. They were young men from farms, in the middle of college, trained in the Navy and sent off to the Pacific and Atlantic. What must that have been like? What did their days hold? How different would their lives have been from what they were accustomed to growing up on a farm? I have often wondered about those things. Sadly, neither can be asked now, but they did leave some of their thoughts behind.
    Here is what was published in a book about Norseland’s history taken from an interview with Carl in 2008.
    “Carl’s experience was joining the Navy and enrolling in the U-12 program (Navy Officer Training) in 1943. Carl was sent to Pearl Harbor in November of 1944 and assigned to LST 446, which was part of a flotilla assigned to carry the Marines on their initial landing on Iwo Jima in February and Okinawa in April. Heading west from Pearl Harbor in total black-out at night and radio silence by day, Carl pulled watch on the ‘bridge’ and it gave him ample time to think about home.”
    He recalls, “In the very tense hours prior to the landing, I began to wonder what I was doing here. I volunteered for this. Tasks at home that I had hated seemed very pleasant – vaccinating pigs in a hot, dusty hog pen, cleaning the chicken house on a day when the wind was from the south, splitting wood in below zero weather, cleaning calf pens. But here I was, surrounded by people as frightened as I was, still all alone. And if I could describe the fear as the kamikaze approached (it appeared we were a split second from eternity), I would, but words to describe it were not in my vocabulary.”    
    Those words my father-in-law spoke are memorable. They are especially poignant because my own father’s aircraft carrier, the U.S. Ticonderoga, was hit by kamikaze planes, killing 300 on board when he was out flying missions. His roommate was killed as he slept.
    My father had enlisted in the Navy Air Corps, trained in Pensacola, Fla., flying OS2U seaplanes patrolling for German submarines, then continued flying in a fighter squadron, flying F4Us and F6Fs in missions in the Philippines.     
    After WWII ended, Richard finished college at the University of Minnesota, worked as a bacteriologist for the Minnesota State Dairy and Food Department, and eventually returned to his home to farm, raising dairy, hogs and chickens and growing crops.
    Carl returned to his family’s farm and eventually moved to our present farm where he and my mother-in-law began to dairy farm.     
    Our fathers came back from their wartime duty and gladly worked on their farms without complaining. Maybe it was the way they were raised or their personalities, but no doubt part of their dedication and enjoyment was because of their U.S. Navy experiences. They gained perspective and an appreciation for the farm life and work.
    It is important to reflect on their experiences and to express gratitude and appreciation for what all people in military service did for this county and are doing yet today. It is good to pause and think about this as we go about our genial labor.
    Jean dairy farms with her husband, Rolf, and brother-in-law, Mike, and children Emily, Matthias and Leif. They farm near St. Peter, in Norseland, where she is still trying to fit in with the Norwegians and Swedes. They milk 200 cows and farm 650 acres. She can be reached at jeanannexstad@gmail.com.