My Tossed-Salad Summer


I was 14 years old that summer when my father came in for the noon meal one day and announced that he needed someone to go up to the field and rake a little patch of hay. My parents were blessed with five daughters but only one son, and we all helped with the work on our farm in Idaho. For days it had fallen to me to do housework, and I wanted a change. Although my father had taught my twin sister, but not me, how to properly rake the hay, I felt I could easily do it. How hard can it be? I reasoned. The chore would be a welcome change from the drab stuffiness of the farmhouse kitchen.

With a feeling of great confidence and carefree abandon, I drove the tractor and rake up the little lane leading to the field. When I stopped at the top of the rise and looked out over the hayfield, my confidence wavered slightly. It’s probably a lot like sweeping the floor, I thought.

I started carefully around the outside edge, raking the hay away from the ditch bank. Then I turned back the other way. No, I thought, it doesn’t look right. I tried again. Maybe I should cross the field, I said to myself. My confidence was slipping fast. The harder I worked to get the hay to lie in smooth, even rows, the worse it looked.

I worked hard all afternoon, and the setting sun found me still trying to rake the hay into rows, but with little success. In the shadowy twilight I pulled the tractor and rake to the top of the rise and surveyed the damage. I seemed to have created a giant tossed salad! Hay was lying in every possible direction. It was a hopeless mess. The chill of the early evening cloaked my drooping shoulders and numbed my humbled heart.

I spent a near-sleepless night and awoke the next morning to find my father standing over my bed. He wanted to know why I had made such a mess of the hay field. I burst into tears and told him the whole story—how I’d pretended to know how to rake hay and how hard I’d tried to do it right but just didn’t know how.

My father took me back to the field. The early morning sun painfully illuminated the full extent of the mess I’d made the day before. After studying the field a moment, my father showed me where to start. He told me what I had done wrong, and kindly pointed out anything I’d done right. In an hour the entire hayfield was rearranged into nice, neat rows.

I’ve always been grateful that my father let me fix my mistake.

In the years since, I’ve sometimes made a tossed salad out of other areas of my life. Only now I turn to my Heavenly Father to help me fix what I can.

One day my eldest daughter came home after playing with friends and used some newly learned but inappropriate language. With all the ineptness of the young girl on the tractor years ago, I scolded her until tears coursed down her little cheeks. Suddenly I felt myself back on the rise above the field surveying the damage. I went to my knees and asked Heavenly Father how to fix my mess.

Later, a younger child came home with some of the same words, but I remembered lessons learned. I took this child in my arms, snuggled up in a soft chair, and quietly talked about words Jesus would have us use. Thanks to a loving and patient Father, another field had been put in order.

Life is full of fields that look like tossed salad. Each is different, with new challenges. The only certainty is that a kind Father in Heaven is always ready to stay with us for as long as it takes to help us learn our lessons.

Today the old hay rake stands rusted and covered with weeds in an abandoned corner of the field, left behind by time and technology. But I’ll always be thankful for the lesson learned that summer from a kind and patient father. And with continued guidance from a loving Heavenly Father, I hope at last to stand on a small rise at the final sunset and survey all the fields of my life and find most of them in good order.

[illustration] Illustrated by Steve Kropp

Kay Singleton White is the Primary nursery leader in the Syracuse Second Ward, Syracuse Utah South Stake.