The Heart of A Rural Sister: Sandy
Here Sandy is pictured with all of her grandchildren. Photo credit to Crystal Laumeyer.
This interview was written for the September edition of Farm and Ranch
This last month I had the privilege of interviewing Sandy Laumeyer! She spent many years as a farm and ranch wife, raised four children and her experiences have given her so much wisdom to pass on!
Here is her story and some of the wisdom that she shared during our time together:
Sandy grew up in a small agriculture-based town in South East Iowa. She didn't ever think that she wanted to become a farmwife. She wanted to be a teacher! Her experience with farming was at her Uncle’s farm where she experienced the joy of hard work. But Sandy was never one to shirk from hard work and she took her father's words of wisdom to heart and always willingly and consistently pursued learning new things and treating others with kindness.
Before Sandy met her husband, Francis, she worked at the John Deere Company in Iowa in the hay division. Francis’ brother worked with her and so when Francis came out to visit, they met, dated and after a short time visiting via phone they wed. Not only did Sandi take on a role that she never thought she would, but she left family behind and moved several states away.
Francis and Sandy had four children. They farmed and ranched north of Nashua for many years. When I asked Sandy about her role in their operation she said she did whatever needed to be done, when it needed to be done. She did the books, she raised the kids, she clean the house, she welcomed neighbors for get togethers, she ran meals out to the field, she helped fix equipment, she ran to town for parts, she knew their equipment because she made herself familiar with the parts manuals, she pulled calves, fed cows, and worked in town when things got tough. They grew wheat, oats and barley, as well as other crops such as mustard, safflower, Spelts, millet. They also raised a variety of cows including registered polled Herefords and several other breeds that were considered "exotic" at the time.
Sandy's Take on a Woman's Role in The Family Operation
When I asked her what she considered the title for her role in their operation she said she preferred "domestic goddess" but that she felt her role couldn't be summed up in one title.
She had many stories to share but one that really stood out to me was the winter of 1978 to 1979. She said it started snowing on November 9 and they still had lots of snow covering the ground in May. It was one tough calving year. She said they were doctoring so many calves and had to bring many into the house. She said she couldn't tell at times whether the house smelled more like Lysol or sick calves. I think that story demonstrates the determination and “will do whatever is necessary” that Sandy still possesses today!
Sandy and I talked for quite a while about the resilience, strength and creativity that is necessary for any woman in agriculture. She said it's not easy being a Farm Wife as sometimes you can be met with a condescending attitude. But she didn't let that slow her down and she really impressed upon me that no matter what people think, keep moving forward and be confident in what you know!
Her best tips especially when filling the role of a "go-fer” for parts was to #1 get a parts manual for each of your pieces of equipment. #2 have your husband show you the parts that he is wanting in the book. #3 make him show you where the parts are on the piece of equipment. and #4 don't take any guff when you get to town. She said as a farm wife you are a built in hired hand. You better be willing to ask lots of questions before starting new ventures and be willing to learn! Get a book and read up on it! She always so highly recommended learning your husband's cap or hand signals! She and I had quite a laugh over this as she recounted the story of her first time pulling her husband and his tractor out of the corrals with a standard transmission pick up. I think every farm wife can relate to that. I often figure my farmer's hand signals are a completely different language and I'm always offered "practice" reading them during stressful situations! Maybe someday I'll write a book on how to learn your husband's hand signals. Lol
Sandy's Thoughts on Feelings of Isolation and Loneliness in today's Woman in Ag
I asked Sandy specifically about the social opportunities that she experienced when they were farming. I often hear of and have experienced feeling a bit isolated and lonely. Sandy agreed that there were many opportunities for socializing back when they were farming. There were many times that neighbors gathered together to help each other when times got hard. The women also had birthday parties for each other where they would take a break around lunchtime, each would bring a food item and go to the house of the birthday girl and celebrate her birthday with her for an hour or two. She spoke of playing cards and simply taking time to visit together as family or with friends, because there's always work to be done “so you just have to take the time to have fun and visit”. Her tips for farm wives today is to simply take the time to socialize and if there aren't already opportunities to do so, then create something. She said all it takes is two people. She also encouraged us to let go of the perceived necessities of having the perfect setting, food or situation such as a perfectly clean house. She said nobody cares, so move past it.
Sandy and I could have talked for hours! This only skimmed the surface of this great lady!
Here are some final thoughts from Sandy,
When you've reached your limit say, “I've done everything I can do, now it's up to You (God)!”
“When you don't have anything left, you will always have your faith!”
“Set the world aside. Community, family and friends are important!”
Thank you so much Sandy for visiting with me and sharing such wonderful words of wisdom with us!
If you'd like to read the last Heart of A Rural Sister Interview, click here!