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Tour Guide

When God pointed me toward seminary back in 1993 I moved from LeMars, Iowa (population 10,000) to Phoenix, Arizona (population way more than 10.000). For being a farm kid, I adjusted surprisingly well, save for one night about 10 PM driving down the Superstition Freeway with my window down, screaming at the endless stream of cars. “Go home! Just go home! It’s ten o’clock already!”

So it was wonderful to come back to visit my parents a couple summers later.  I loved living in the Valley of the Sun, but I missed the tranquility of the Iowa countryside. Home again, I spent a fair amount of time walking the gravel roads and blacktops that marked square mile sections of corn and soybean fields.

Having lived both places, I don’t think life is necessarily easier or simpler in a small town. People are people wherever you go and people, as a rule, are busy whether they live in Phoenix or Pflugerville. Still, it’s easier to get your emotional bearings when surrounded by pastures instead of freeways. But that’s probably my farm boy bias.

My Dad called over to Aunt Katherine to ask her if it would be ok for me to come over and take photos of their farm. Pulling up the lane I saw her grandchildren, David and Ericka, sitting on riding lawnmowers. They were parked in the shade by the old granary, waiting for me to arrive so they could escort me to the front door.

Standing in the farm kitchen where I’d lived out a good part of my childhood, I mentioned again to Aunt Katherine that I wanted to take some pictures of the farm. David and Ericka were listening. David, with serious sincerity said, “Grandma, if you like, I could show him around. I can point out some things he might want to get pictures of.”

Barn – Erickson Farm – Armstrong, IA (Photo: Todd Thompson)

He looked at me as he said it. As though I had just stepped off a tour bus from California and didn’t know a pitchfork from a salad fork. I said I’d love to have him show me around. He grabbed his sister by the hand and they led me out the door toward the barn.

As they ran ahead, I couldn’t help but laugh. My tour guide didn’t realize that I could show him around. As a kid, I’d played in every building and climbed every fence. I could take him to the rock pile or down the lane to the cottonwoods or to the old corn picker that we pretended was a space ship.

Arriving at the barn door, David began pointing and explaining. Suddenly I was overwhelmingly proud of him. This was David’s farm. He owned it. The barn with the ropes and pulleys and the ladders and the cats and kittens and the hay mow with the bales to climb. The John Deere tractors in the shed that he likes to drive. These were all “his”.

David was showing me around his farm. The farm that was also his Mom’s farm. And his grandparents’ farm. And his great-grandparents’ farm. Each generation owned it. Because they did, he had opportunity to also make it his own.

There is a difference between passing on memories and passing on a legacy. Memories are past moments shared. When we pass on a legacy we are passing on ownership. Legacy is lived out long after we’re gone.

Erickson Farm – Armstrong, IA (Photo: Todd Thompson)

Certainly both are important. You can have memories without legacy. You can’t have legacy without memories. There’s a difference between, “When I was a kid we used to eat at Montgomery’s Cafe” and “The reason we eat Sunday lunch together is because I remember how wonderful it was to be around the table as a family at Montgomery’s Cafe after church on Sundays.”

Memories are moments. Consistently connecting those memories creates a legacy. Let’s be purposeful in making memories that our children will want to own.

Todd A. Thompson –


This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Faith Gustafson

    Thanks Todd!! I always love your messages – especially today referring to Montgomery’s Café. I do live in Phoenix now and just lately have also had some time to spend in Iowa and Minnesota with my best friend there. Those are the best of times, the best of memories, and I also love Phoenix because my daughter and grandson are both here. It feels like I kind of have the best of both worlds available to me.

    1. Todd Thompson

      Thanks, Faith! You are indeed blessed to experience both. Will you do me a favor? Go to The Blue Fin in downtown Phoenix and eat a Chicken Teriyaki bowl for me? I miss that place! 🙂 Blessings to you! – tat

  2. Faith Gustafson

    The Blue Fin and having a Chicken Teriyaki bowl will definitely be on my list of upcoming things to try. Blessings to you also, Todd!! — Faith

  3. Brenda Naasz

    HI Todd. I’m fairly new to your blog. A friend from workout passed on your info to me & I have loved reading these. I admit more often than not it strikes a chord with me whether it be on a spiritual level, emotional level or just the fact that you are from “home” . I grew up in SD & have lived here in Lubbock for going on 14 years. This is home for now but the Midwest is very near & dear to me & always will be. Thanks for sharing . Brenda

    1. Todd Thompson

      Brenda, thanks for the kind words. I appreciate them very much. Like you, the Midwest is a special place for me. I wouldn’t trade growing up on the farm for anything. I learned more than I realized while working the fields, wrestling hogs and living in community with hard working, good hearted people. Thanks for taking time to read. I’m honored. Blessings to you and yours! – tat

  4. Bruce

    Thanks for this blog Todd. It was interesting to me to see that your pictures are from Armstrong Iowa. To show you what a small world it is, Stacey’s father owns the post office in Armstrong. A few
    years ago we went to Minnesota to visit family and dad asked us to drive back through Armstrong and check out the post office. It was a time when the Postal Service was considering closing several post offices around the country. What a joy it was to drive through beautiful southwestern Minnesota and Northern Iowa and to meet the wonderful people there. Stacey was so happy to be back she said she was considering buying the post office and renovating it so we could live there if the Postal Service decided to close it. Me, not so much! LOL

    1. Todd Thompson

      Bruce – Wow. I had no idea. It is a beautiful part of the heartland and home to me, though I’ll likely never live there again. I’d never trade growing up there. We learned an ethic of hard work and how to live in a healthy community where people look out for and love each other. The world could learn a lot from small town Iowa. Blessings to you and Stacey. I think of my Arizona friends every day without fail. – tat

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