top of page


You want to hear how hard my life is?

When I use the remote start on my pickup, it starts the engine but DOES NOT fire up the heated seats. I either need to walk down the ramp to the garage, put the key in the ignition and push two separate buttons, or else climb into a pickup with cold seats when it’s time to go.

Yeah, I know. Brutal choice. But at times I sense we live in an imperfect world. Sometimes you must make your way as best as you can.

I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for how hard our lives are compared to our ancestors. A family story I’ve heard over the years is how twelve decades ago, my great-grandfather walked thirty miles in the middle of winter carrying a 50-pound bag of flour, and maybe some yeast, just because his children wanted to eat. Big deal. This week I ordered some spices for my new Mediterranean diet, and I found out this morning the shipment has been delayed two more days. I’m going to have to make it through the weekend with stale cumin, and no sumac with thyme and sesame.

It gets worse. My great uncle, the man who lived on our farm before we did, was all set to get his electric power in the early ‘40s. The lines reached his neighbor half a mile away and then WWII started. All construction stopped for five years. Uncle Carl had to milk cows by hand with the light of a kerosene lamp, while Thomsons across the slough were living like New York aristocrats, with running water, lights, and all the other luxuries. You might be thinking, boohoo Uncle Carl, but this morning there was something funky with our router and my laptop dropped offline three separate times, once for almost a minute. I had to reboot twice.


That wasn’t as bad as yesterday, though. We had a big snowstorm last week and once the wind died down, I went out to clean up the mess. I got high-centered on something and as a result, the Bobcat became immoveable, like a turtle on its back. When I tried to start the tractor, the battery was dead. So, while it was charging, I took the walk-behind snowblower to clean off the sidewalk and ran into a metal post we used to protect the peonies and had to replace two shear pins. Three snowblowers and for thirty minutes, not one was functional. I bet it took me almost two hours to clear away a foot of snow from the yard and driveway. My dad never had problems like that. No malfunctioning snowblowers at all, just a scoop shovel and a 1954 Minneapolis Moline Z with a Farmhand loader. It was no problem to start on a cold day – just soak a corn cob in gasoline, light it on fire and hold it under the carburetor for a couple minutes. Then if the battery was dead, you just pulled the hand crank out of its socket on the side of the transmission and cranked away. If you remembered to tuck your thumb out of the way and avoid a concussion by leaning into the path of the crank, you could start things up no matter what. You could steer with your right hand, run the controls with your left, and work the hand clutch with your knee, and if you got rolling at daylight everything would be cleaned out in plenty of time to start evening chores.

My dad had other advantages in life. You know how some young people get a gap year – taking a year off between high school and college to travel the world? I never got a gap year, but my father did.

Of course, he called his gap year WWII, but even so, he did get to see a big chunk of Europe.

Man, compared to my ancestors, I’ve had it tough.

Copyright 2023 Brent Olson

bottom of page