Roots of a humble man

Jul. 25, 2013 @ 11:08 AM

The notecard, affixed to the backing of the frame, opposite the side from where the Silver Star is affixed, reads, “I had arrived safely at my destination.” It was 1941 and this was the only correspondence Aubrey Ivey’s family received, letting them know he had arrived to boot camp for the Army.
Born in the Antioch community, with a dozen other siblings and his parents, Ivey was raised a farmer. “We raised cotton and tobacco,” Ivey said from his home in the Orange Grove community of Orange County.
At the age of 94, Ivey is a relic of the past in a world that is slowly forgetting the contributions by both veterans of war and veteran farmers, alike. Ivey served his four years, from 1941 to 1945, in the South Pacific. He was in theater of war as a machine gunner, where he kept the Japanese at bay and was one of the lucky souls who fought and came home, in one piece.
“I was drafted. I did not want to go, but I did,” Ivey said. He was in the Infantry of the 37th Division, 145 Regimen, 2nd Platoon, and Company D, of Ohio. Ivey is crisp with his recollection of where he was and yet he is also humble and notably hushed when discussion sways from his passion to his role in the U.S. Army. “I just did my job and came home. There was no correspondence letting my family know where I was, the Army censored everything,” Ivey said.
Ironically, the Army could not censor crossed-paths like it could the stroke of a pen. One of Ivey’s sisters was in Newport News, Va., and had picked up a recently discharged soldier, on his way to Camp Butner.
In the course of conversation they learned of a connection they had, as this soldier had served alongside and slept in the same tent as Ivey had. The Silver Star he earned is matted on the wall and there is a young Aubrey Ivey, in full uniform, smiling against a staged-scene.
One wonders how this soldier who grew up a farmer and was being shipped to the South Pacific managed to smile and earn his badge of honor. Ivey does not offer a reason or cause for either.
When he returned from war, he returned to the dirt of southern Orange County. In the 1960s, Ivey married his now-deceased wife, Alice. Ivey began his operation as a dairy farmer and his wife became a housewife, farm-style. “She did all the hard work around the house and took care of everything,” Ivey said of her.
Like the smile and the Silver Star, he doesn’t talk much about her death, which was from cancer, except to speak of her respectfully and humbly.
Outside the home, a farmer within the community is tending the pastures and fields, where Ivey once worked. He recalls the mules that worked the ground with him, and how the M-tractor and the Farmall 140, were instrumental tractors that helped shape agriculture practices. Beyond the home, the milk barn stands and it must serve to Ivey as a sacred reminder to the labor and effort he placed in the dairy cows that passed through these stalls. The work of a dairy farmer is constant and relentless. The cows must be milked, and the weather and health or illness must always come second to the milk.
During his tenure as a famer and through his intimate connection with the earth, Ivey allows that his passion used to be the dozens of beagles he maintained. He recalls his best dog ever, Jed, and says that the rabbits have everything going against them, hawks, fox, coyotes, and farming practices; and these factors contributed to their decline.
Inside the main room of his house, two calendars are displayed on the wall, both years older than this current calendar year and both with pictures of beagles. One can appreciate that at the age of 94, Ivey may just be able, albeit in his mind, to hold time and remember when life was younger.
To date, Ivey has never used a computer and he does not own a cellular telephone. He is self-sufficient and has survived medical illnesses. He spends his days tending the yard, mowing it when he can.
A simple man, in a complex world, then and now, Ivey found motivation in his passion for hard work and producing for the greater good. Like each of us, our time on this earth is not without limitations. When he was drafted and then returned to what would be his home, Ivey found his roots had stretched from this community to the South Pacific and then back to Orange Grove. Along the way, the depths of his roots were unknown. Yet, eventually, he returned home and he farmed and the cows were milked and now, he looks humbly upon his life, an occasion he sees a calendar that is many years old.

Have a feature of story idea for Jason Hawkins? Contact him at hawkinsoutdoors@msn.com.