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A Lost Friend

June 6, 2022

Carole Soule and husband Bruce Dawson hang out with Curious Bleu, the Learning Networks Foundation Scottish Highlander riding steer. The John Hersey Memorial which hangs in the Foundation's Barn at Miles Smith Farm watches over youth and adults learning to work with farm animals.

This year Memorial Day was hot and sunny – a perfect day to honor those who died for our country, and after memorial services, barbecue a hamburger or two. It was also the perfect day to do a somewhat unpleasant favor for my friends.

Diane and her son Terrence had recently purchased six piglets for their farm in Loudon, and two of the males had not been castrated, so she asked me to do the job. When we raised pigs, I got good at the operation and knew I could do it quickly and painlessly, so I went to their farm.

I met Diane years ago through her husband, John, who phoned wanting to buy a Highlander steer. I invited him to come to see my herd.

"Are you Carole? I'm John," said the 60-something, bearded man behind the wheel of a red pickup truck. "Sorry, I can't get out of my truck. I have a medical condition." We hadn't talked long before he took out his phone and showed me a picture, saying, "Here's me and JD, my Texas Longhorn steer. I used to ride him in the Merrimack Memorial Day parade."

Anyone who named and rode a Longhorn steer is an instant friend.

Why Three Trucks?

Since that day in 2015, John regularly visited, driving up the road in a pickup with Diane riding shotgun. John came to the rescue when our farm truck was in the shop for over a month. When we needed to shift our cattle from one pasture to another, John would bring one of his three pickups to pull our "cow taxi" trailer.

I asked Terrence, "Why does anyone need three pickups?".

"I don't know, but I have five. Maybe it's a farmer thing," he answered. 

One time, when my piglets escaped from their pen, John saw the open gate and decided to help get them back. He extracted himself from his truck, and leaning on his cane, he walked toward the pen. 

One pig ran in front, another behind and soon ten squealing pigs surrounded him. John lost his balance and ended up on the ground. While they were nudging him with their wet piggy noses, John crawled back to the truck and climbed into the cab.

Later, he told me this story, and we both laughed at the image of an elderly, slightly overweight man accosted by a herd of affectionate piglets. Did they think he was their mother?

When John died five years ago, I cried. He was sometimes grumpy, and our politics were poles apart, but he was always generous and a true friend. A life-long farmer, John helped found the Educational Farm at Joppa Hill in Bedford and was dedicated to teaching youngsters how to handle farm animals.

Learning Networks Foundation Barn

John's family sponsored a memorial sign that hangs in the new Learning Networks Foundation Barn located at Miles Smith Farm. His image watches over youngsters and adults as they learn the correct way to lead a calf; sit on Curious Bleu, our Scottish Highlander riding steer; or learn pig herding (but not castration).

The Hersey's piglets are "cut," and I'm looking forward to something much more fun – the Learning Networks Foundation Farm Summer Camp held in July at Miles Smith Farm. If you are interested in the camp for children ages 8-15, more information is here.

Carole Soule

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