Farm Industry News Blog

Step right up, up and away!

Iowa farmer Jeff Ryan takes a well-planned summer break to take an adventure of a lifetime in a tiny plane in Alaska.

Some things in life should not go unrecognized.  Whether it be the little things or the big ones, paying attention is a good thing.  For instance, my folks will be celebrating 60 years of marriage this summer.  Just think, sixty years together… and not even all of it with me! 

Rather than doing a traditional party where they'd assemble a ton of friends and relatives in a couple hours and then write detailed thank you notes for five days afterward for all the stuff they got (and didn't need, because they already have 80+ years worth accumulated), they decided they would prefer to do some traveling. Both of them are still in good shape, so it wasn't a big deal to take them somewhere. We did a little of that earlier in the year with a trip to Florida. That one went over quite well, but what they both really wanted to do was take another trip to Alaska. 

Here's why:

One of Dad's younger sisters lived in Alaska for 40 years or so. My folks visited her and her husband back in 1989 and got to see a bunch of the state with experienced tour guides. My mom used to arrange group tours for a local bank where she was a director. It was a program primarily for their senior bank customers.  They're the ones who typically have all the money and the free time to travel. Mom took two different groups to Alaska in the 1990's. Dad went along because he was the experienced one, and not just from their 1989 trip. You see, Uncle Sam sent him a special invitation back in the 1950's to see the world and all it had to offer. His invitation was for an extended tour package. It was not only non-refundable, it was a felony to say no, thank you. He was drafted into the Army and ended up getting sent to Alaska after basic training. He was one of about four out of a hundred or more who got sent there. Incidentally, one of the guys he met during his induction process in Des Moines was a young guy from central Iowa. His name was Earl and he was heading to the same vacation package that The Chairman Emeritus was. Earl's family had come to Des Moines to see him off. One of those family members was his sister. That would be my mother, Elsie. That's how my folks met. Sixty-some years later, they both still love each other and Alaska, too.

The original plan was to have as many of us kids and spouses hit the road and go along as we could. Reality soon set in and we narrowed the list down to those who were able to get time off to make the trip. Past Alaska trips had always been in the middle of June. That enables you to be there during the summer solstice when there is no shortage of daylight. Unfortunately, that was not a date that worked for a lot of us. We ended up with my parents; one sister, Jean; her 12-year-old daughter, Sara; and me. Sherill couldn't get ten to fourteen days off in the middle of summer, but she insisted that I go without her. Keep in mind, we did all the planning for this back in March. At that point, it sure looked like it would be no problem to get all the crops planted and get first-crop hay made by the middle of June. Thanks to the brilliance of Dr. Daryl Strohbehn and others at Iowa State University who developed the Estrus Synchronization Planner, I could do a few clicks on my computer and play with different dates and protocols for A.I. and decide which method would work the best for my combination of dates and desires. I quickly figured out a system that would allow me to be gone for ten or twelve days and not miss a step in the critical process to get my heifers bred once I returned. That would spare my staff the pain of having to do anything with the herd at any specific time. 

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The Farm Industry News Blog features commentary from Willie Vogt, Jodie Wehrspann, Kathy Huting, Lynn Grooms, Daryl Bridenbaugh and Jeff Ryan.

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