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I’d like to relate to you a story that a son tells about his father that made an impact upon him for the rest of his life. He recounts:


The cold Iowa dawn was still an hour off, but already Dad and I had finished a big job on our farm. We’d loaded 100 head of cattle for market into two waiting semi-trailers.


I was 16 and this was the first time I’d seen the cattle to market. Dad had made it my job to keep the feeder full with the right mix. I’d seen them come in as scrawny yearlings and fatten up to 1,100 pounds apiece. The price was right and it was time to sell. There was just the paperwork to complete.


“Got to have your John Hancock right here,” said Mick, one of the drivers, as he handed Dad a clipboard.


“What’s this, Mick?” asked Dad.


“Something that Uncle Sam wants you to sign. Says you kept the cattle off stilbestrol for two weeks before the slaughter.”


I felt the blood rush to my head. Stilbestrol was used as a feed additive to promote growth. We’d debated its use and had gone ahead. The government had changed its regulations several times, and the form Mick had was new. I’d been giving the cattle stilbestrol all along.


“I don’t think it makes a whole lot of difference myself,” said Mick. “Don’t see how they can tell anyway.”


Dad scratched the ground with his boot. We’d be the laughingstock of the county if we unloaded our cattle because of some silly government regulation. Another two weeks and the market price would be sure to fall.


Finally Dad looked up. “Better unload ‘em,” he said.


That was 15 autumns ago and I’m a farmer myself now. Dad died a few years back. But his example lives on for me. That morning as the cattle came back down the chutes and the daylight stretched across the horizon, Dad didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. Honesty wasn’t just a value Dad talked about. It was something that he lived by (Guideposts, 1989).

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