A Life in Pocket Notebooks

The parents of a young farmer — who died much too soon — told me how hard it was to go over and collect his things.

I asked if he had kept any journals.

No, they said; but he always had a pocket notebook.

What did he write about? I asked.

And they both started talking at once.

He loved the farm so much. His heart was in that farm. As he worked the farm each day, he’d take out his pocket notebook and jot things down. Notes about cattle, equipment, repairs.

So these were like log books, I said.

Yes, they said. He was so conscientious, they said.

They told me about how, when he hired equipment, he took care of it like it was his own. They told me about his system for tagging the cattle. They told me how good he was with the business aspect. How he noted it all down. Livestock. Machinery. Commitments to others. All in the notebooks.

As they reminisced, they even began to smile a little, telling me the stories that emerged from those paper notebooks, reliving the times they saw him stop to jot something down.

As I listened, I began to see him better in my own mind.

I had only met him in passing; but his paper notebooks held a kind of self-portrait, touchable records of what was on his mind. Like a piece of clothing or jewelry from someone you love, those physical objects created a fragile bridge beyond death for his family.

His hand and mind had touched those books.

He’d carried those notebooks around on his person.

And he wrote about what he loved.

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