He was born April 29, 1927 in Carlock, Illinois when Normal Illinois was mostly farmland. He had it in his heart to become a Catholic priest and attended Glenmary missionaries in Cincinnati for a time. When he was 27, his Dad died and the breadwinning for eight younger siblings superseded his plans. He became a farmer. We know God has a special place for Farmers. Paul Harvey said so and I know that “Bud” surely has an honorary place at the Farmer’s table.
He was born Anthony J. “Tony” Feist, but he was always “Bud” to our family. He was a neighbor and the most date-detailed person we ever knew. Bud knew what the weather was on any given day in his life. He knew the dates he planted, harvested and tended to things. He knew the dates of his family, the date the cat had kittens, church dates, common and important dates. He was a walking and talking and quoting calendar.
He was a life-long bachelor. He was handsome, had dated; I think he was engaged once. He was a soldier too from 1955 – 1957.
When we met Bud, we had just moved our young family to the country and we were eager to try our hand at any homestead activity we could handle on an acre of ground with a big old house. I was from farm stock and hoped to instill some of that in our kids. Bud treated kids the same as he treated adults and they gravitated to him for that and his slow easy pace. He seemed to have all the time in the world for questions, teaching or a farm visit. He lived across the field which made him our neighbor right off the bat.
Bud was a tinkerer. It is part of the farmer DNA to be able to repair any machinery with baling wire [name brand –Red Brand] and pliers [name brand – CeeTee]. Bud converted all his farm engines to propane, the tractors, combine and his truck or van. He was an old school farmer with only used equipment – the make-do or do-without farmer. When all the neighbor farmers were harvesting with a newer John Deere or International combine, Bud plugged along getting his crop out of the field with an old Gleaner. Bud never turned down a request for help, seemed especially glad if you stopped to visit and was always busy with a never ending array of farm projects. Bud was a flyer too with his private pilot’s license. We never saw him fly, but he had a grass airstrip near his house that he kept in shape for any emergency landing that might occur.
He enjoyed my kids and often they went gallivanting on some farm expedition or parts run, spending a few hours with Bud. Bud was good at treating them as thinking and older-than-they-were kids. I hope they learned a few things from Bud.
He was from a whole family of devout Catholics. Two of his sisters became Sisters of the Church. He had siblings who lived years in Minnesota and others in Bloomington, Illinois. They were all very devoted to family and he spoke often of the different members, so that they seemed people we knew, yet never met, except for “Tootie”, one of his sisters. She was much like Bud and they eventually both lived on Bud’s place as our neighbors. As Bud reluctantly retired from farming he continued his maintenance and custodial work for his Church. He was counted on and relished being so.
To Bud’s family, he was bigger than life. They counted on him always and when he died June 21, 2015, things would never be the same. To our family, we lost a dear and cherished friend we will never forget. To you, Bud is an average guy. I would ask you to remember that we are all average people and it’s nice to think we might be remembered, not for extraordinary events, but for living. Let’s hope we will be remembered for being a neighbor or a friend. Let’s hope we are remembered one day for the few minutes that someone takes to tell of us to another, to be mentioned and to be thought of. Life is grand and glorious …. occasionally. Life is ordinary and average most days. Life is a blessing every day.
Bud, and a few others near our place, were the quintessential “farm neighbors” and made the years my kids were “farmers” just the way I had envisioned they should be. I think my youngsters learned to love the homesteading ways, the truth about where food comes from and the work involved to get it. I hope they learned about home and family and hard work and livestock and their earth and laughter and fun and friends and feasting and ….. some of famine, now and then.
I hope they try harder and work longer and love generously because they had the life lessons that only farming provides. Farming is full of chores, neighbors, commitment, baling wire and pliers.