By Ken Trainor
Who'd have guessed that the late, great River Forester, Paul Harvey, would be the hit of this year's Super Bowl ads? A couple of years ago, it was Oak Park native (and nonagenarian) Betty White in the year's big commercial (playing football, no less) so Harvey is continuing our strong local connection.
A tape of Harvey's 1978 speech to the Future Farmers of America was used as a voiceover for a Dodge Ram truck commercial, which struck a chord in millions of viewers. Over 5 million hits on the YouTube version the following day attests to its impact.
Harvey was an immensely popular radio broadcaster whose short newscasts were syndicated nationwide for decades. Folksy and witty, he was a great defender of traditional American values and that was clearly in evidence in his rendition of "So God Made a Farmer," which someone had sent him anonymously and which he incorporated into the 1978 speech.
Here's the text:
And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker!" So God made a farmer.
God said, "I need somebody to get up before dawn and milk cows and work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board." So God made a farmer.
"I need somebody with strong arms. Strong enough to rustle a calf, yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry and have to wait for lunch until his wife is done feeding and visiting with the ladies and telling them to be sure to come back real soon ... and mean it." So, God made a farmer.
God said, "I need somebody who can shape an ax handle, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, make a harness out of hay wire, feed sacks, and shoe scraps. And ... who, at planting time and harvest season, will finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon. Then, pain'n from 'tractor back,' put in another 72 hours." So God made a farmer.
God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop midfield and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor's place. So God made a farmer.
God said, "I need somebody strong enough to clear trees, heave bails and yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink combed pullets ... and who will stop his mower for an hour to mend the broken leg of a meadowlark." So God made a farmer.
It had to be somebody who'd plow deep and straight ... and not cut corners. Somebody to seed and weed, feed and breed ... and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk. Somebody to replenish the self-feeder and then finish a hard day's work with a 5-mile drive to church. Somebody who'd bale a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing, who'd laugh and then sigh ... and then respond with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life 'doing what dad does.' So God made a farmer.
According to Wikipedia (which someone put up the following day), "The speech also ran in Paul Harvey's syndicated newspaper column in 1986. In an introduction, Harvey disclaimed authorship: 'This next arrived unsigned in my mailbag. I've tried but cannot trace its source. A farmer, perhaps; more likely a farmer's wife. I've embellished the essay in places and cropped it in others but I hope the sense of it remains intact.'"
You can see why Paul Harvey was popular.