Week 18 – Ed Kinney liked me.

To summarize my experience to date with the MKMMA journey – I am happy. I have always been a positive sort of guy (OK – always is a stretch, but you get the idea) but I feel happier, more “tuned into” my surroundings, paying more attention to feelings than I did before this class. A day doesn’t go by that my wife & I make comments like:

Are you asking my expert opinion? (accompanied with some chuckling)

That was kind… (of you, or them).

That is OK, they are where they are supposed to be in their life.

Being content, happy with what happens. Happy knowing the outcome will be OK.

Last week we were to read an obituary or two each day. Presumedly to get us thinking in terms of our legacy, something I have never done much of. Then last Friday I awoke with this week’s blog in my head. I had not started thinking of what to blog, this was just “given” to me. Funny that I had written “Ed Kinney liked me” on a gratitude card a month ago, maybe Ed is reminding me that an important part of our legacy is the memories we leave with others. Memories of him certainly came back to me after all these years……

Ed Kinney was a farmer in central Nebraska. I met him when I was a young boy at my father’s gas station. Dad’s gas station was located on the edge of a town of maybe 130 people surrounded by corn farmers with a few raising cattle or hogs. The spot where everyone went to get their gasoline back in the days where we washed the windows & checked the oil and tires for free, when gas cost 28 cents a gallon. Ed was a life-long bachelor, lived in a run-down single wide trailer house and drove his tractor everywhere he wanted to go. Ed was no more than 5′ 6″ tall and kind of scrawny with the skin of his arms and face tanned dark brown from years under the Nebraska sun.

Ed was a hoot. His volume levels were either whisper or shout and he was exuberant about life. When you spoke with Ed he looked you in the eyes, fully connected to every word you spoke. Although he never finished school (he may never have attended any for all I knew, his signature was limited to a crude “X”) he was masterful of his crops and the weather. Oh, and of his tractor.

JD2020

John Deere 2020, or as Ed would say “trinny – trinny”. The one possession of value held by Ed. He drove it everywhere. His trips were timed to fit into his farming and the destination determined by the week’s needs, and they were day trips, meaning he spent most of the day at the lucky location. He would arrive at the gas station when the tractor needed some attention or he needed to pay his bill (this was the age when people got gas or an oil change or a tire repair, and left, with us attendants recording the transactions, no signature needed). His arrival was announced by much shouting and hollering and laughing, and usually some jumping or shoving for good measure. Although he didn’t have much, he lived a full life with many friends. Some people didn’t much care for this old man wearing bib overalls having spots of dirt or grime, old round-toe boots, unkempt hair and skin with the powdery Nebraska soil ground into the pores of his face. But Ed liked everybody.

He would be sitting in the shop listening to the other farmers bitching about corn prices or the weather or the latest government official, and when it got quiet for too long Ed would spring to his feet and holler “I’M GONNA KICK THE BUCKET!”, which was always followed by “tch, tch” a sound he made not unlike what a rancher uses when coaxing a horse out of the barn. Ed could jump up, land on his knees on the concrete and bounce back on his feet, then run up to you, usually much closer than most people are comfortable with, look you deep in the eyes and whisper, “how do I look, do you think I’m gonna make it?”. I cannot remember a day when Ed arrived and didn’t announce to everyone that he was gonna kick the bucket. If the group of farmers which we there when he arrived left, to be replaced by others, he made sure they knew as well.

I don’t remember when, but someone started a game we played with Ed, much to his despair. Since we knew he would be at the shop for the day we started hiding his tractor when he wasn’t paying attention. Out behind one of the buildings, or sometimes wedged between two pickups where he couldn’t get it out by himself. Ed would moan and holler and plead, all the while laughing or trying to shove someone against the wall as if this little man could strongarm them into releasing his prized tractor. Then one of us would take Ed to the local grocery store to help him pick up some essentials for the week (usually limited to canned goods and a loaf of bread).

Ed was the poorest person I have ever known, poor in the sense of not having any material things beyond his beloved tractor. He always wore bib overalls and boots, he was always dirty and lived in a trailer house that should have been burned to the ground. I remember one blustery winter day when he arrived and I thought he was going to loose his ears from frostbite as he only had a seed corn cap on his head (for those unfamiliar, the seed corn companies always gave baseball-style caps having their logo on them to the farmers as a way to advertise. Usually thin to keep one’s head cool in the summer sun). I had one of these stupid hats that was ugly green, quite heavy, fur lined & had earflaps. I gave it to Ed and you would have thought I was a long lost brother. He wore that hat every winter thereafter.

Then, when I was in high school, Ed kicked the bucket.

I don’t remember much about that spring, I suppose due to being too involved with school and more “important” things to worry much about than this farmer who wasn’t going to get to plant another crop. I stayed at the gas station the Saturday of his funeral to allow the older guys to attend. It turns out there wasn’t anyone who could remember a funeral in Wood River Nebraska with half as many people in attendance. It would seem that Ed spent his free days at other gas stations, other grain elevators, other shops, hollering and laughing and entertaining everyone. Jumping up and shouting  “I’M GONNA KICK THE BUCKET! tch, tch”. He had LOTS of friends.

It took a few years to sink in, but I think Ed taught me a few things. Not to say I am good at them, but I’m working on them.

          Look people in the eye when you talk with them.

          Everyone likes laughter. Make them happy.

          Be happy with what you have.

          Take good care of your tractor, it may be the only one you get.

Thank you Ed.

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17 thoughts on “Week 18 – Ed Kinney liked me.

  1. Daniel Hanscom

    Rex, that was FANTASTIC! I feel, in some small way, that I know Ed. He would be pleased, I’m sure, that memories of the way he lived brought smiles to faces of people that he never even met. Thank you for sharing this. Extremely well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Week-18 The gifts we leave behind | Keith McCauley- Master Key Lessons

  3. Milton, A.

    Thank you for sharing such a personal story. I like that saying “take care of your tractor, it may be the only one you get”. I think I saved my tractor from the brink of breakdown.

    Deepest gratitude.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  4. dbernstrom

    Love the story of Ed. It reminds me of my friend who passed a few years ago, Paul MacArthur. He was one 3 marines at Iwo Jima left from his company which was I think over 200 men. He was also one of those who was there at the real flag raising. He was always calm and witty. He always had a cigar stub in his mouth, never smoked them. When my Dad passed I was 16. Paul brought over a D-8 dozer so I could push out 4 acres of orange trees on our property. He showed me how to run it, left and when he came back, I had em all in a pile, cut them up and sold for firewood and planted 900 tomato plants. I still keep a picture of the flag raising on my wall, even though it’s not the real one…We are truly blessed to have known people like Ed and Paul. Thanks for a heart felt story Rex:)

    Liked by 1 person

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      1. 52grossmasterkey

        Rex, you and your wife sound like my husband and I. You brought me back to my childhood ( it sounds like we are around the same age- I remember gas for 28 cants a gallon) Looking back on memories from Ed is priceless. there are people in our lives that only come once and who would know what an impression they would make on our lives decades later

        Liked by 1 person

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