As a small boy the entrepreneur in me enjoyed playing Monopoly with my sister, always hoping for the card that instructed me to go directly to Park Place. Much to my disdain, rarely did I receive that wish. Instead, my journey around the gameboard was a series of setbacks, time in jail, and the need to pay exorbitant rent to hotels.
Ones that life seemed to gift to her. Little did I know that the innocence of those youthful times would become a metaphor for my life, preparing me for the days ahead.
About thirty years ago, the singer Neil Diamond, recorded a hauntingly beautiful and poignant love song, “The Story of My Life”. The lyrics speak about how life begins and ends with that special someone; a gift from our Lord that most seek but sadly not everyone finds.
I was blessed to discover that special person in my eternal wife and best friend, Charlotte. A woman that is truly the love of my life.
But my road to her side was not straight. It was littered with plans that did not unfold and lonely patches of time that were thrown together like clouds across an endless but majestic, western Nebraska sky. The other story of my life, my career, was filled with a seemingly random but juxtaposed journey, working from an unseen master plan. I was caught between two worlds: my love and passion for agriculture and anything mechanical, especially engines and cars.
The dreams of a farm boy never need to concern themselves with details, since the heart knows no boundaries. Thus, my plan was to become a mechanical engineer with an emphasis on engines, landing a job with one of the Detroit auto companies while still running our small family farm. Development engineer by day, farmer by night and weekend.
It made no difference that Detroit is 650 miles from our farm in New Jersey. A detail that I trusted life would somehow work out. I was always one to have a Plan B though. A family friend that worked for McAllister Towing, a tug boat company in New York City, introduced me to that world. I spent a day in New York Harbor on the Helen McAllister, a sea-going tug.
I can remember as if it were yesterday when the tug’s engineer took my father and me down to the engine room. It was love at first sight. The huge locomotive-inspired EMD diesel beguiled my young mind but instantly caused confusion: Should my life be in Detroit or now on the river? This was getting complicated. Little did I know as a climbed down the Helen’s staircase, that a monkey wrench would be thrown into the perfect plan I had.
While in college I took a job in a Buick dealership as a mechanic, working on driveability issues with the then new electronic carburetors and early fuel injection systems. I took advantage of every class General Motors offered, many times having to take a day off without pay, since the dealership put little value on education.
But once again life resembled the pitfalls of the Monopoly board I was so familiar with. My father was involved in a life-threatening automobile accident on Interstate 80, causing me to be let go from the dealership.
In a split second on a cold and damp February day, I was unemployed and the dreams of the river or Detroit ended abruptly, with my dad’s life dangling in the balance. Fate made the decision for me. I was the only son and my family needed me for us to keep the farm. I could continue my education but home needed to be on Cat Swamp Road, the then dirt lane that bisected our land.
When finished with school I took a job with Allen Test Products, an oscilloscope and emissions analyzer company as a technical demonstrator and training instructor. All of my efforts and formal education were now paying off. I humbly state that I was considered by many, including the Ford Motor Company, to be one of the top diagnosticians in the country and at the time, the youngest to receive the recognition.
That soon morphed into a drag race engine building business. During that time, I wrote a letter to the editor about a technically incorrect magazine article about piston chamfer. The unseen hand of God delivered a phone call from the publisher, inviting me to write technical articles for them, a company that had seven other automotive titles. I was first published in 1993 and was quickly featured in all eight of their magazines.
A few years later, I was blessed with the opportunity to contract with BMW of North America as a test driver in the engineering department, evaluating engine and transmission calibration on the 3 Series sedan and X5 SUV. I did that for two years.
As of today, I have more than 3,000 published technical magazine articles, have contributed to forty-four different magazine titles, have authored three books, and delivered countless training seminars to both the automotive and agriculture industries.
I am also the Engine Man in the “Successful Farming” magazine and on their TV show.
To bring the story full-circle I need to share my favorite Bible verse with you, one that I live-out through necessity and often desperation.
It is Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will guide thy path.
I now understand that the whisper to my soul was not to be in the auto industry but to support my truest passion, agriculture. My destiny is finally clear. I never made it to Detroit or the river. I am where I belong. I now see the journey the Lord took me on had purpose; while I traveled it, I was filled with confusion, doubt, and often discouragement though.
My podcast “Idle Chatter”, begins with the statement that agriculture runs on passion, sweat, tears, and machinery. I share your passion, sweat and sadly, sometimes tears. The Farm Machinery Digest was born of that.
The Scriptures tell us, freely you have received; freely you will give. For this reason, everything on my website is free, along with my upcoming workshops.
I humbly invite you to partake in the information that I am so honored to provide. It is my sincerest prayer that I can help the American farmer to prosper.
May our Lord bless and keep you, your farm, and my beloved America.