Pause for Thought – a five minute read – 6

Luke 15 v 1 – 7/ Psalm 116 v 1 – 7

I don’t want to undermine the serious nature of the present situation and I know that people losing their lives is not in any way funny, but sometimes a little gentle humour can relieve the tension of the moment.

With that in mind, and the fact that I have written 5 Pause for Thoughts and never mentioned a tractor once, I will share a couple of Yorkshire stories with you.

The first is about a young recently married couple from Birmingham who bought a small farm in a very remote area of Swaledale in the Yorkshire  Dales. In order to avoid the delays in conveyancing due to the Coronavirus, they rushed the purchase through and moved in prematurely. This resulted in many possessions being left in Birmingham including their motor car. They had food but after three weeks they were running out and the twelve mile walk to the nearest shop seemed inevitable

A neighbouring farmer heard of their plight and offered, if they made a list, to deliver food to them on his tractor (good man). They eagerly made a list of the food they needed and telephoned it through to the farmer, but to their disappointment he returned their call to say ‘If you take my advice forget the fresh stuff and concentrate on tins and sealed packets’. The couple responded by assuring him that their freezer was state of the art and brand new so there was no problem with storing fresh food. He replied that the tractor delivering the food would do so while muck spreading 5,000 litres of ——– on its way, so he could not guarantee the freshness of the fresh food. The couple changed their list to tins and sealed packets.

The second story comes from a village school in the same area. As the farmers were still working the school teacher volunteered to teach their offspring in the village school. She had a group of half a dozen boys all from farming families.

She decided to teach them on the Bible and chose the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15 v 1 – 7) After reading it she selected at random one of the boys and asked him why the shepherd was so concerned about the one lost sheep.

The boy thought for a short time and then his face lit up and he said proudly, ‘ cos it cud ave bin Tup miss’, All the rest of the boys nodded in agreement and uttered, ‘that’s reet miss’.

The teacher tried to explain that it made no difference if it was the Tup (Ram) or any other of the sheep, the shepherd would be concerned.

‘Ahbut’ replied the lad, ‘If Tups gone theers no sheep cum spring miss,’ All the other lads nodded and muttered ‘that’s reet miss’. 

The teacher moved on the parable of the sower.

The point is that social separation impacts differently depending on where we live, work, and the environment that surrounds us. In towns and suburban areas access to shops is reasonably easy and the availability of food is plentiful if we act responsibly. In contrast the situation in remote rural areas can be more difficult and challenging. The same relates to working arrangements, the cows still produce milk and need milking, the pigs and sheep still need feeding, and the lost Tup still needs rescuing and guiding back to the flock.

I read a book (yes another book that’s two now), – this one is called ‘Hannah’ and it’s a book that came from a TV documentary some years ago about a farmer in a very remote and isolated part of the Yorkshire Dales. Her name was Hannah Hauxwell. She was born in 1926 and lived all her life in the same hamlet and on the same farm, initially belonging to her uncle and then to her after his death.

The farm had no piped water, the river was about half a mile away and in the winter she had to break the ice to get her bucket into the water. She had no gas, or electricity and her heating was by a fire place in the kitchen. She burnt logs and tree branches that she collected off the moor. She had one cow which was periodically serviced by the neighbour’s bull to enable Hannah to have milk and an occasional calf that she could sell. She claims that the coat she wore to protect from the bitter winter winds was forty years old and she still kept repairing it when became torn.

Despite all these hardships every day she thanked God for everything that she had, her freedom, the roof over her head, the Dales outside her door, and her way of life that she was able to enjoy. Eventually she had to leave her farm and move into a nursing home where she died in 2018 aged 92.

I suppose it’s a matter of priorities, God provides everything that we need and we add on to his list with our own ‘luxuries’. Sometimes in our eyes our luxuries become necessities and our priorities become misguided. I’m sure that as this Coronavirus crisis continues we will find that some of our ‘luxuries’ will become more difficult to maintain and our priorities will be tested even further.

One thing is certain, like Hannah, every day we will be able to thank God for everything that he provides because God is good and gives us everything that we need.

Derek T.