It does seem to run in families. If my son called from his senior year at Cornell and announced, “Dad, don’t be shocked. I know you hoped I’d be a writer. But I’ve made up my mind: I want to be a farmer.” After recovering from my surprise (we never had a farmer in the family), I’d be so impressed by my son’s choice. It’s ahard life; it takes physical strength and discipline, but what a brave and worthy choice. To make things grow, to bring order to the apparent chaos of nature, to be the source for wheat, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, strawberries, whatever the earth is willing to give in exchange for the farmer’s hard work and ingenuity, what a contribution to society this is. Not a profession for the procrastinator. Nature doesn’t wait. And humans cannot wait for their food when hunger strikes.
During World War II in France, farms were our centers of hope. We spent those years in Quimper, Brittany. As a child, I was expected to go get the milk at a small farm a couple of miles away from our house. I’d arrive with my empty milk container at the farm, dogs barking, chickens running freely in the courtyard. The farmer’s daughter would sit on a stool and milk one of the cows, the warm milk squirting directly into my metal container. I would carry home one generous liter of this nourishing food, whistling and kicking stones on the way. It happened, too, that I might bring back a stray dog and negotiate a deal with my mother to feed the dog for a while. Forever, I’d hope.
If I was lucky, fresh butter from the farm was an extra treat. Or you’d have to wait for your ration to arrive. Rations for everything, it seemed.
Many years ago at Latham’s farm stand in Orient I got to know Pat Latham, daughter of Ed Latham. This turned into a friendship and I visited Pat at her parents’ house at the end of a long driveway off Main Road. I remember so clearly my fi rst visit at the house. I was warmly welcomed by her parents. I felt privileged to enter the elegant home and the life of a farmer’s family. This was the creative life of making things happen when they had to. Good things. There’d be no restaurants without farmers, no sparkling salads or baked potatoes on our tables.
As I picked strawberries in the Lathams’ fields to bring home, I learned from Pat that there were many different kinds of strawberries, some sweeter than others, all with different names and origins. Pat was a wonderful pianist, an art she pursued in college. Once, she came to my family’s house on King Street in Orient to play the piano for my mother, a pianist herself. I even wrote a poem for Pat, about strawberries , of course. Farms seem to me like ships at sea, a captain at the helm, strong and independent with a certain serenity in the middle of so many decisions to be made. Isn’t that Ed Latham? Oh, if I had a son, how proud I would be of “my son, the farmer.”
For more than 20 years I’ve known veterinarians at North Fork Animal Hospital in Southold — Drs. Zitek, Pisciotta, Mullady, Cabral. How many times they healed our dogs, how often they gave us hope when we felt hopeless. How caring and gentle with our nervous pets and with us, the anxious owners. A truly inspiring profession. Nothing could make me more proud than a daughter deciding that’s what she wants to do: heal animals, whether they be pets or horses, cows, goat, seagulls … To get a call and hear, “I saved a dog today, Dad. The surgery went well, the owners so happy.” To save lives, be they human or the lives of our animal friends.
It’s not easy to get into veterinary school. To become a vet is a decision of the heart. I wish it had been my profession.
Nurses and nurse practitioners play such a crucial role in saving lives and giving doctors support without which they could not do their jobs. I’d be proud of a daughter or son who would undertake the intensive studies required in this fi eld. It is hard, rewarding work. I remember how Liz, a daughter of my companion Rita Martinsen, would leave Orient at dawn before breakfast to drive to her nursing school, west of Riverhead.
Without nurses there’d be no way to recovery. A nurse can brighten the room and spirit of a patient and the family. The profession calls not only for medical knowledge but as much for a generous and joyful personality. Nursing, like farming, is not for procrastinators.
In a future column I’ll write about other professions I admire — and about those I don’t like so much. I can tell you right now that if a child of mine wanted to be a Wall Street trader and make a lot of money it would be sad news to me. Let me embrace the nurses, the farmers, the veterinarians. I’ll stay away from the Wall Street jungle where money, money, money is the only calling.
A few more words about the deer in Southold Town. Webster’s New World Dictionary says, “Hunt: to go out to kill or catch (game) for food or sport.” Although I don’t hunt myself, I respect the right of others to do so. This includes friends and neighbors. Yes, some of my friends are hunters. And there are plenty of people who don’t hunt who are not my friends at all.
Many of us on the North and South forks do not object to hunting. We simply cannot accept the hiring of sharpshooters because they don’t come to hunt. They come to lure, trap and kill hundreds of deer in a most cruel way. Our hope is that deer population control can be achieved over time by combining hunting by our local skilled hunters with humane methods that will not inflict suffering on these beautiful and defenseless animals. Hunting and slaughtering are two tragically different activities. Let’s try to resolve the deer population problem by drawing on our local resources and not allowing anonymous strangers invade our land in the night. For more information, search for “change.org Suffolk deer” on your computer.
Pierre Gazarian is a poet and a writer of one-act plays. He can be reached at [email protected].