The other day, I lost more than a grandpa – I lost a mentor, friend, hunting partner and co-worker.
I was blessed to call Dale Casson “grandpa” for 33 years. His strong work ethic and good nature sets the perfect example for anyone. Grandpa loved life on the farm and wouldn’t have had it any other way. His ditches and yard were perfectly mowed, his crops always looked great and he was so proud of his rural Fairbury farmstead.
I was lucky enough to work alongside Grandpa in the family farming operation for the past several years. During this time, he passed along many tips, jokes and stories. If the day wasn’t going so great, Grandpa always somehow managed to bring a smile to my face. I’ll always remember his large thermos of coffee, Twinkies, Snickers bars, and Pepsi in the cab and his daily delivery of freshly baked donuts from Casey’s each morning.
When Grandpa and Dad were each driving a tractor in the field, all of the grandkids wanted to ride with Grandpa since he had all of the sweets. I remember riding with him in the cab of that old Massey combine many times. The smell of moth balls filled the air and that back ledge by the window was full of stuff.
Grandpa did his best to adapt to the changing farm technology. I remember him being a little nervous the first year we had auto-steer in the tractor but after that first year, he was enjoying it as he would take his Pantagraph with him to the field and pour another cup of coffee while going down the row. It was hard to get that man to leave the tractor after this technology was adopted.
Grandpa was a seasoned veteran when it came to farming. I got the planter hung up in a wet spot the first year I ran it and Grandpa came right out and got it out, making it look easy saying, “it will usually make it out if you have some weight on it and drive right through it.”
In the more recent years, Grandpa gave me the task of getting fish to stock his pond from the spring fish sale in Pontiac. This was neat to do since it is something I remember doing as a boy. I shared this tradition with Kasen just last spring. We drove to Grandpa’s house afterward to tell him all about it. That’s when Grandpa gave Kasen a tractor book and it meant the world to the little guy. He still has that book in his room today not far from his bed.
Fear was something Grandpa didn’t have much of. This became apparent to me after a story he shared just last fall. When a story starts with “I probably shouldn’t tell anybody this…” you know it is going to be good. Grandpa apparently got his pickup truck speedometer up over 100 miles per hour on a mile stretch of country road. He was very proud of this and I got a kick out of hearing it.
Deer hunting won’t be the same without our “fearless leader” heading out to the timber each morning with us. Grandpa made shooting a deer look extremely easy – that is something I’m still trying to work on. He always said I had to buy the steaks if I got a deer. In fact, he often teased my brother and me that the only reason we go deer hunting at Macomb is to eat the ugly steak at the Red Ox restaurant. That could be part of it but the real reason was the time we got to spend with our grandpa.
We all love you, Grandpa and until we meet again rest in peace.