What a time to be alive, am I right? If I’m being honest, I was planning on writing this column about the struggles we face as an agriculture industry as a whole after the last shaky few years we’ve endured followed by what’s shaping up to be another rough, wet planting season. However, considering everything that’s currently going on in the world (I think we all know which pandemic I’m referring to), I decided the last thing anyone needs is to read an article that might not end up being the most positive reading material out there. Instead, I thought I’d write about the one thing every single small town community in the country has.

You may assume I’m talking about the local diner or the gas station on the corner or maybe even the candy bucket that every single fertilizer plant seems to have sitting on their counter, but you’d be wrong. No, I’m talking about everyone’s favorite farmer, the good ole boy down the road who not a person in town says a single thing against. Every town’s got one, and my hometown of Dana, Indiana, is no different.

Steve Drake: local comedian, the man who always had time to hand out advice, and my dad’s best friend. He was the kind of guy who could get away with saying something that would get any other farmer slapped across the face at the diner just because everyone loved him that much. The man could spin a story like no other person I’ve ever met, and noon dinners at the restaurant were usually stretched a little longer solely for the entertainment.

The setup Steve had in his front yard which happened to be right on the highway in front of the local elevator. (Courtesy photo)
The setup Steve had in his front yard which happened to be right on the highway in front of the local elevator. (Courtesy photo)

Some of my best summer memories are sitting on the porch swing with him eating Push-ups ice cream bars, talking about everything under the sun, and listening to his words of wisdom (some of which I should’ve taken a little more seriously, but hey, hindsight’s 20/20). Unfortunately, Steve passed away four years ago this month, which was much too soon. However, I think the entire town of Dana (all 400 of us) can agree that we’re all better for knowing him and getting to spend the time with him that we were blessed with.

There are a lot of things we can learn from Steve, especially in a time like the one we’re in now.

He was one of the most giving and community-minded people I’ve ever known even if he wasn’t obvious about it. He was never the one who wanted his picture front and center in the paper, but he was at every town fish fry, always donated items for the local festival’s merchandise wagon, and never missed any community event.

He never spoke badly about anyone. He joked about people, but they were never cruel or at anyone’s expense.

He was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my entire life. The man could light up any room with his jokes and perfect timing. You could be having the absolute worst day, and it would be completely turned around within 20 minutes of being around Steve.

He was truly one of the kindest human beings I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. The proof of this being a common sentiment in the area came when he was unable to harvest his crops one year due to health reasons. Folks from all over came to help get his corn and soybeans out, and they did it all in one day. All of those people stopped harvesting their own crops to come together to help their neighbor because they knew if the tables were turned that he would’ve been the first one there to help them.

I’m sure your local community has a favorite person, man or woman, who lights up the room as soon as they walk in, the person everyone wants to talk to and sit down next to them, and I’m sure they share a lot of the same qualities Steve had.

In the world we live in today, I think we should all try to be a little bit more like those people in our communities and spread a little more kindness in the world while we’re here.