Tuesday May 10 was a very special day for me. As a young boy, I used to dream of owning some land, having a home in the country, and having a few head of cattle. To most this would not be their dream but it was mine. It is so awesome to have your dreams come true! Most of you have given up on realizing your dreams. My question, why have you done this? I am here to tell you that regardless of your age, you can still make them happen. It may take longer than you hoped and a lot of work but there is nothing impossible. It just comes down to you making the right choice to not give up.
See as a young boy, my parents lived on a small farm northeast of Fillmore, Missouri. My Mother and Father raised corn, soybeans, cattle, hogs, and chickens. Our farm home was an old log cabin that had a large two story addition. Our home sat about a half mile down a long gravel driveway off an Andrew County road. We lived several miles from the town of Fillmore and Rosendale. Our neighbors were a few miles down the road. Unless we were close to the entrance of our driveway, we would not see any cars or trucks go by. The corn fields would block the view. I know my Mother would get very lonesome being there every day with Just us children and no adults to talk with. We only had one vehicle so trips to town or to go visit others were limited. My Father would be up early and stay out working until dark many days.
As a boy, I was very happy there. I could play outside with our two Collie dogs or play with my older sister. I loved being with my Dad when he was working with the livestock. At age 5, my Father gave me an old sow and pigs to feed, water, and take care of. I made this sow and pigs my pets. I could hardly wait until it was chore time. Dad would go take care of all the other livestock and I would head out to feed my pigs. My parents believed in teaching their children responsibility and making them accountable for daily tasks and chores. These chores consisted of home and farm chores. I am so thankful to them for teaching us the value of working hard. Mom and Dad, you made me who I am today!
I remember a funny experience that we had with two bottle lambs that my Grandpa Pittman gave us to take care of. These twin lambs needed to be bottle fed until they could survive on their own. One was white and the other was black. I loved these two lambs. The lambs were very playful and full of energy. The three of us would get into some trouble at times. I loved the rough housing and running in the yard around the house with them. Their names were Mutt and Jeff. These names fit them as well as my name Dennis. My Mother always told me she named me after Dennis the Menace. I am sure that most of you think that I was misnamed. Well, okay, I guess it fits!
One Sunday morning before going to church, I went outside to wait until the rest of the family were ready to go. It had rained the night before and there were mud puddles in the gravel driveway. The lambs were allowed to stay in the yard. My Mother told me not to get dirty. I was immediately drawn to one of the large puddles. I was bending down to pick up rocks to throw in the mud puddles. I was being very careful not to get dirty as my Mom ask. Then I bent over to get another rock to throw, the black lamb came a running and butted me head first into the puddle. I was covered in mud and water. To say the least, I was in huge trouble. The bad thing was my Mother told my Grandpa and he came an got Mutt and Jeff the next day. I was very sad and never saw them again. They thought that I would get hurt since the lambs were getting bad at butting us. It was the right decision, but they were my play mates. I would have loved to given Mutt and Jeff just one more chance.
A few months later, my parents decided to purchase a Hardware and Feed Store in Rosendale. This meant that we would be moving and selling all the farm equipment and livestock. We just rented the farm so we didn’t have that to sell. I was unsure of what this meant since this was the only life that I knew. My grandparents had also purchased a Café in Rosendale next to our hardware and feed store. My grandparents purchased a home in Rosendale and we were going to move into their home on their farm.
The day came when we had our farm sale. I was so sad to see our tractor and farming equipment, milk cows, cattle, hogs, and chickens all get sold. I remember having tears in my eyes as strangers loaded up our livestock into their trucks and drove down that long gravel driveway. One day we had so many animals to care for and the next they were all gone. The farm fields were so empty and quiet. I didn’t want this to happen! I just wanted to wake up and have this bad dream go away.
I dearly loved the farm life but knew that everything would work out as long as our family was together. Mom and Dad assured us that it was the right thing to do so that everyone would be happy. I learned that day that sometimes life isn’t fair and we must not be selfish and want only what we want. I told myself that it would be okay and it was the best for our family.
It was that day that I learned to focus on the desires of others more than myself. This was a huge change for me as a young child. That day, I pledged that I would move back to the country and raise cattle someday. That dream was planted in a young 5 year old boy’s mind and heart. See young children have dreams and thoughts of how their life will turn out when they grow up. Up until that time, I wanted to grow up on the farm and be just like my Dad and Grandpas. They were huge role models for me.
We moved from our farm to my Grandpa and Grandma’s farm. Well the adjustment was fairly easy since my Grandpa’s farm had cattle, milk cows, and chickens. We took our one dog with us and gave our stock dog to my Grandpa Atkins. I could run and play just like I did on our farm. Then six months later, my Grandpa Pittman sold his farm. We had to find a place to live. My Mother found a small house in Rosendale for us to buy. Off to town we went! I became a small town boy after that. I could walk up town and work at my Father’s Hardware and Feed Store daily. Living in the small town of Rosendale was a good place to live. I missed the country but this wasn’t bad.
I kept my close connection to the farm life by delivering feed to our farm customers. My Grandpa Atkins and Uncle Dale still had their farms that we went to visit frequently. My Dad and I would talk about how we would own a farm together and raise cattle someday. I loved to dream about this on rainy days and nights when I couldn’t sleep. As I grew older, the dream never changed. It became more vivid in my mind. How many of you have vivid dreams and desires of your own? If you do then don’t give up on them.
I went off to college and then started my work career. I would still dream about the day that I would purchase that land and buy some cattle. The more that my career developed it seemed like the dream was farther away from happening. I had a totally different dream than most of my friends and family. The majority of individuals were moving away from the country to the large cities and didn’t understand why I felt the way I did. . My Dad shared the same dream. When I would come home to visit, Dad and I would talk about owning that farm together. I always told him to watch for the right opportunity for us to buy that land. We would talk about living in the old log house, the long gravel driveway, and the things we did together on the farm. Even though I was only 5 years old when we moved from there, the memories are still very clear in my mind.
In April 1985, my Dad was diagnosed with melanoma cancer. The cancer was very aggressive and he died on November 15 that same year at age 56. My first thought after getting over the heartache of losing my Father was the sad thought of us never owning that farm together. For the next thirty years I still had the dream of buying that land and a few old cows. My thought was, someday, I would live this dream for both of us. I wanted to do this not only for myself but Dad as well. I just kept praying and dreaming about that day when I would move back to the country.
My dream became closer to reality when I moved to Viburnum. Getting a job working for Disabled Citizens Alliance For Independence was the first step. The first day when I spoke to the DCAI staff, I said that I was going to buy some land, build a home, and buy some cattle. Well it has been hard work to get to this point and many have questioned my decisions. Many individuals told me that I had no business living in the country or owning cattle. They said that I would get hurt and that a blind man should live in town. Well if I would have listened to everything that I was told, I would have not accomplished the majority of the things in my life that I have. There is no reason that a person with a disability can’t do what they want. I knew that I could do it but just might have to do it a different way than most.
I bought the land, built the house and buildings, built the fences, cleared the brush and trees, and then seeded and fertilized the pastures. It took 3 ½ years after moving to Viburnum, to get everything ready to accomplish my dad’s and my dream. It took 30 years, after my Dad died, for me to make our dream come true. I worked very hard earning and saving my money. I didn’t share our dream with many. I was just trusting in God that he would put everything into place. I told my Dad that, we have everything ready, a couple of months ago, when I was lying in bed praying. I said, Dad, we are ready to buy the cows!
That next day I contacted the Rushing’s to see about buying some heifers. I knew that Tom and Connie would pick me out some good and tame ones for me to buy. I started talking with Connie and planning when the best time would be to purchase 4 or 5. I knew that I didn’t have many acres to support a larger number. I bought 125 square bales of hay that I could carry out and feed if my grass gave out this summer. I purchased a 10 foot feed trough, a mineral/salt feeder, and cattle feed. Jennifer at work gave me two plastic tubs that I could put water in. I knew that I had two ponds but wanted to keep them in a smaller pasture until they were comfortable coming in for feed and being around me. I started asking questions from individuals about things that I needed to know about raising and caring for cattle. I wanted to start gaining some knowledge and advice on what to do. I was only 5 when our cows were sold and had very little experience or knowledge to draw from.
Tuesday May 10, 2016, Tom, Connie, and Wes drove down my concrete driveway at about 5:30PM with the 5 heifers in their stock trailer. I felt the tears forming in my eyes. I said to myself, Dad here they come! I had my Mother and Sister Rita there with me to experience the cows coming home. I knew that my Mom would remember the day in 1960 that everything was sold in our farm sale. Rita was just a baby at that time and would have no memory of that day.
Well, 56 years later the cows are home again. I envision my Dad looking down from heaven smiling while watching the cows eating in my pasture. The last two nights when sitting in my chair drinking coffee, I praised God for making my Dad’s and my dream come true. For the rest of my life, I will smile and shed a few tears when remembering this day.
Yes, I know that I have a lot to learn and it will be more difficult since I can’t see. I promise though, it is going to be okay. I am living the rest of my life independently and hoping to serve as a role model for others to pursue their dreams. I can finally say that I am a cattle man. I realize that I only have 5 head, but it doesn’t matter .
Dad, we did it. Hallelujah! The cows finally came home.