Blue Rock Station Diaries February 9, 2012

23 F outdoors          65 F indoors




Samuel Sheets.  I will never forget the first time I heard those words.  How could I know that the person that belonged to that name would walk into my life and steal my heart?

There’s a history with this guy – he’s young, handsome and smart.  He also has had some challenges in this life, but when he was with us those things were off in the distance and he belonged.

Sam is good hearted.  He is a joy to work with because he can take any situation and make something good out of it. 

I hesitate to re-tell some of the stories that involve his life at Blue Rock Station because he’s in the Army now, and apparently at the ripe old age of 19 there is a lot to make fun of if you’re from Ohio, particularly farmland Ohio.

His one mistake in life, as far as I can see, is that he decided he was in love with our granddaughter.  Since there can be no choosing anyone over her, Sam’s days with us eventually became measured by when Miss America was off on a trip, or doing something away from the farm.

Since his birthday is two days apart from Jay’s we had some wonderful birthdays together – sometimes taking a little trip, or holding a party, or just doting on him.  Sam loves a party.  He really truly enjoys bringing people together to talk, to play music, to have fun.  I really like that about him.

Even at Christmas he would join us after Miss America went off to her mom’s house.  He also really loves holidays.

So when I saw him in the library two years ago I wasn’t surprised to see him wearing a stocking cap with the word “ARMY” on it.  He waltzed right up to me to tell me he had enlisted, and I promptly burst out crying, right in the middle of everybody.

Last spring, after he graduated from high school, he spent quite a bit of time with us.  He worked on some projects to help out, and we shopped for the things he needed to take with him to basic training at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

I confess that the day I returned his Army-issued backpack (the one I had to take apart and re-sew because it was already falling apart) I planned that I would not be officially saying “goodbye”.  He was leaving in two days at that point, and I hate goodbyes.

That was the last time I saw him until I arrived at graduation at Ft. Benning.   While I waited in the cold morning air just for a glimpse of him I was surrounded by hundreds of parents and grandparents.  There were also wives and girlfriends.  We sang “God Bless America” and recited the pledge of allegiance.  I felt really traditionally American sitting on those hard seats waiting to see this person I hold dear to me.

When he marched out with his battalion unit I spotted him immediately in the sea of gray camo.  His Army-issued glasses changed his face, but it was still Sam.  The sign I’d made the night before “Sam Sheets – our hero” signaled to him where I was standing (actually on top of a chair – I’m short).  He never broke that serious expression, but later he said that he saw me right off.

ImageFt. Benning graduation – Sam and Annie


When they finally broke rank and he came to give me a hug I could hardly believe how strong those muscles felt.  But some things never change – he wanted a new pair of boots and to eat something.

Off we went to the military store where he did find a pair of more comfortable light- weight Army-issue boots.  We also managed to find a pizza buffet where he ate every type of pizza twice.

I spent those two days just drinking in Sam – the boy I first met because Miss America drug him home; The young man who tried to find his way through fishing and teaching kindergartners; The guy who was trying to figure out what it means to grow up in a world with so many mixed messages.


Image  Home for the holidays – Miss America, Annie and Sam re-creating the Georgia pizza experience


After a stint at Ft. Gordon for more training, and home for the holidays (recreating each pizza style we ate in Ft. Benning) Sam is in Hawaii.  He reports that the Army says he will be there for 18 months.  He can’t believe his good luck. 

From the moment he left until the moment he returns I am dreaming of his future.  I can see him coming back here – to Blue Rock Station to be a part of our work.  He can contribute to our conservation efforts by teaching fishing and hunting.  And, he’ll know a lot more about the mechanics of things – plus bring all of that charm.  In his heart he is a country boy.

Maybe he won’t stay, but I also keep reminding him that he has a place to come back to when the time is right.  There’s a lot to be said about having a bunker for security, and we want to provide that for him.

In the meantime he’s busy making, as many mistakes as possible so that he gets all of it out of the way for when he faces even more serious challenges in life – like building a house, finding the right mate, and living an everyday life.  I can’t wait to see how he’s going to pull all of this off, but I am hoping I get to watch from a ringside seat.



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Writer, farmer, scientist, from Ohio

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