Although we lived in a town (Logan, Utah), my father, L. Tom Perry, Sr., wanted his children to have the same kind of experiences that he’d had growing up on a farm. We had a large backyard, with an aunt living on one side of our house and my grandfather on the other side. The three backyards became our farm, which included a garden, a pasture, a barn, and alfalfa fields. We learned how to cut the alfalfa with a scythe, let it dry, then store it in the barn.
We planted a garden, weeded it, and irrigated it. Some of my choicest childhood experiences were irrigating with my father. Our turn began at 2:00 A.M., so Dad and I would pitch a tent in the yard and go to bed about 9:00 at night. We’d set the alarm clock and get up at 2:00 and turn the water in. Then we’d get up every half hour until 6:00 to change its flow. During all my growing-up years, Dad and I spent many nights irrigating side by side. It’s a great experience to be with your father like that.
I also have some great memories of taking care of the family cow with my dad. We cleaned the barn, fed the cow, and got her into her stall. Then I held her tail while Dad milked. There is great discipline in having a cow. It has to be milked every morning and every night. It has to be milked in the summer, winter, spring, and fall. I didn’t particularly like the cow sometimes, especially when caring for it interfered with something that I really wanted to do. But I developed a love for work and had some great conversations in the barn with Dad about baptism, priesthood ordinations, friends, and other important subjects when we were doing chores. I loved spending that time with my father. He is one of the men whom I most admire and respect.
Dad also taught us children at an early age to work for the Lord. I was six months old when he was called as the bishop, and he served as bishop for eighteen years. He involved us in his work at Church. I remember filling the stoker at the meetinghouse in the winter—shoveling snow too. Summers were spent cleaning the chapel ceilings and taking care of the yard.
When I was six or seven, Dad had me help my mother with some Church financial records. She would call out the numbers, and I’d punch them in on our old adding machine, pull the crank, and then proofread the figures back to her. I remember lugging that old machine back and forth between our home and the meetinghouse. In winter we hauled it on a sleigh; in the summer we used a wagon.
My father was not an emotional man. One of the few times that I ever saw him shed tears was when he was released as bishop. He loved serving the Lord, and he helped to develop in all his children a great satisfaction in helping other people. He made sure that his Church calling involved our whole family and brought us together.
Because of his example, I developed a great appreciation for working and for serving the Lord. I love my father and am deeply grateful for him and for the many things that he taught me through word and example.