Between the Rows: Just About Right

Subsisting on God’s tender mercies

Published online: Dec 29, 2017 Articles Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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This column appears in the January 2018 issue of Potato Grower.

It had been a long day. Not a miserable day, but one with about two zillion things to do and only enough time to get a zillion and a half of them done. I’m a bit lacking in the organizational skills department, so these days are not uncommon. But on this particular day, I was just plain tired and not in the best of moods.

As I left work and walked out to my car, I checked my watch—4:53, and the sun was already halfway below the horizon. I had seven minutes to make the 15-minute drive home before friends my wife and I had invited over for dinner arrived. To top it off, when I got in the car and flipped on the headlights, I realized the right one had burned out. I was probably going to get pulled over and given a ticket, costing me $75 and another 15 minutes I didn’t have. Great. Just great.

But then an ordinary little miracle happened. As I switched on the radio, out of the speakers wafted the honey-smooth, guitar-and-mandolin-infused harmonies of Blackhawk’s “That’s Just About Right.” In an instant, my mood changed from gloomy to downright bouncy, from Eeyore to Tigger. My day was instantaneously transformed from a grind-it-out, just-get-through-it, it’s-almost-over day into an awesome one. “That’s Just About Right” was released to country radio in 1995, and though Blackhawk is one of my all-time favorite bands, they’ve largely been forgotten, relegated to the music industry’s attic. But somehow, a DJ at KZBQ (93.9 on your FM dial in southeastern Idaho) knew someone needed some Blackhawk that afternoon, and I belted out the chorus as I started for home:

Your blue might be gray,

Your less might be more.

Your window to the world might be your own front door.

It’s amazing the effect a good song, especially one connected to some piece of nostalgia, can have on one’s outlook on life. Forgotten was the stress of the day’s checklists and deadlines. Getting home eight minutes late would still probably give me at least 10 to help out before our dinner guests actually arrived. And if I just switched on my high beams (which, between you and me, aren’t all that bright anyway), Bonneville County’s finest ought to leave me alone.

What’s even more amazing is the work the good Lord puts in to make sure His tender mercies make it to us. For the last few months, in an effort to be a more responsible and educated citizen, I’ve been listening to news radio on my drive to and from work. But that morning’s news, despite my attempts at maturity and the reporters’ solemn tones, couldn’t hold my interest. I simply didn’t want to hear about the president’s latest Twitter war or another Hollywood mogul’s sexual misconduct. So I had decided switched to country music, and KZBQ’s morning DJ seemed the least irritating in the moment when measured against his peers on the other stations. All that, combined with my poor scheduling skills, got me into the car just in time to hear Blackhawk that evening. You can’t tell me someone, somewhere, didn’t have all that planned out, just to take care of me.

Your shiniest day might come in the middle of the night.

That’s just about right.

This little story of mine might seem ridiculous to you, and that’s perfectly all right. The little things that keep me going each day are going to be different than yours. But heaven knows, a farmer needs more tender mercies—and a keen eye to spot them—than most.

Your tender mercy might come in the form of your teenage daughter needing to slide in under the tag to beat her curfew, but also spotting the cab light on in your pickup and turning it off before the battery dies.

It might be a phone call from a neighbor who just drove by your field and noticed a stream of water pouring out of one of your pivot hoses where a sprinkler head has worked itself loose.

Maybe you dropped your phone climbing out of the tractor, and as you bend over to pick it up, you spot your grandpa’s pocketknife on the ground, where you had dropped and been unable to find it last spring.

It might be an afternoon thunderstorm in August after nine weeks of zero precipitation. Or a blessed day of zero precipitation in early October after 8 inches over the previous six days.

Your tender mercy might be as simple as a perfectly made grilled cheese sandwich at the end of a long day that saw one digger and two trucks break down. As buttery crispness mingles with melty cheddar in your mouth, for a moment, all is right with the world.

In my case, it was a song from my youth coming over the airwaves, letting me know in spirit and word that I was doing okay.

You can go through life with the greatest intentions,

But you do what you do, what you just gotta do.

Nothing wrong with that message. It is, indeed, just about right.