John Phipps: Thankful for the Reliable, Predictable, Unexciting Things


This has been a year of excitement and surprises for many of us on the farm. While we all expect unusual weather from time to time, record cold, heat, rainfall and drought in the same season are certainly noteworthy. This pattern of constant unanticipated events was certainly in play with our corn crop. Yields, which we can now watch in real-time swung from the unbelievably good to the unexplainably bad – in the same pass. Too much water on our heavy ground, combined with who knows what other factors made yield maps look like abstract art. Opening the news each morning seems like the same experience, unprecedented and unpredicted events and actions by business and government leaders upend my expectations and confound my careful plans.

So when I reflect on those things in my life that I’m thankful for this year, it boils down to the reliable, predictable, unexciting things that mean so much. In fact, people I used to think of as kind of boring now strike me as solid and easy to be around. It also triggers a memory for me of how much we depend of those predictable things and people in our lives.

One year during harvest, I was in line at the elevator late one evening when I got a call from not just my bank, but my banker’s personal phone. In the decades we had worked together through some tricky financial situations, she had never called outside business hours or not used her business phone. It had not been a prosperous year, and under the stress of the moment, I could only assume the worst. Our solemn promise over those years was “no surprises”. I kept her informed of my actions and intentions and she did the same for me. It was boring and profitable.

While I could not immediately put my finger on a possible problem, I was sure it not good news. It turned out my local bank had been sold, and she wanted to be sure I heard it from her first. Even thoughtful surprises can be stressful sometimes.

So this year, I am thankful for a reliable combine that did nothing surprising all harvest. For an elevator that somehow kept going and got the numbers right. For members who showed up at meetings and voted. For friends and family who supported me predictably and dependably. For all those moments I had without adrenaline surges. For viewers who watched and commented. For all the wonderful time between those many moments of agitation. And the next time I say “I’m bored”, I hope those around me just reply, “You’re welcome.”

John Phipps: Thankful for the Reliable, Predictable, Unexciting Things