Writing on these Sundays in July, I decided to go back to my childhood on an Iowa farm and all the treasures I learned from my parents.
When I was a child, Northwest Iowa had a plethora of Henry Blankespoors — Henry M., Henry J., Henry G, and Henry E. Each of them took the initials of his dad as part of his surname. All lived within 30 miles of each other.
My dad was Henry E. Blankespoor, the son of Evert, my grandfather. Grandpa’s brothers were Mass, Gys, and John. The Henry’s lived out in the country near Hull, Doon, and Inwood. Both my dad and Henry M. lived near Inwood. Casually, friends called the Henry’s “Hank,” but in business dealings, everyone said Henry.
When I was six, I remember the men visiting with my dad after church and laughing aloud when I ran up excitedly and told Dad, “Mom said we are going to Hank of Uncle Mass for coffee.” Most of the time having several Henry’s in the area posed no problems beyond occasional mix ups with mail and salesmen.
Then one summer day, a bigger event occurred. A thrifty farmer, Dad saved money whenever he could. We kids walked all of the corn every summer, going after weeds, particularly thistles, with powdered weed control and strong arms for buttonweeds. Dad sprayed for other weeds himself. He didn’t spring for professional weed control, certainly not the spendy crop dusting plane services some of his neighbors hired.
So you can imagine his surprise one summer day when he heard a low roar, looked up, and saw the local crop dusting plane sweeping over his stand of oats. He tried waving a warning, but the pilot was intent on doing his job efficiently and made pass after pass, treating all the field with a powerful chemical which settled on the weeds that could hinder maximum production.
After the pilot completed his job and the plane headed to another farm, Dad headed to the house for coffee. Later that day he made a phone call to Glenn, the manager of the crop dusting business and the pilot.
“Hi, Glenn,” Dad said. ”This is Henry E. Blankespoor.”
Glenn didn’t even need to hear more. “Oh, no,” he groaned. “We were supposed to spray at Henry M. You know, I thought that field looked pretty clean and wondered why you had me out.”
Dad had already thought through the ethics of this potentially costly error. His true colors came out loud and clear. If Dad wore faith claiming t-shirts, he would state Micah 6:8. “What does the Lord require of me? Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with my God.”
He didn’t want to embarrass Glenn, but he also wanted to be treated fairly. His goal was to live peaceably with others. Long before boundaries was a buzz word, Dad understood the concept.
“I needed to take care of the weeds so I will pay for the chemicals,” he said, “but I didn’t hire you to fly so I was wondering if maybe you could stand for that part.”
Glenn was relieved. He learned a few lessons that day. Multiple Henry’s can be confusing, but Henry E. was truly a farmer with integrity.