When I am home I always enjoy going over to my grandpa Hilkemann’s for supper. He and my dad share a meal every Wednesday night, and my grandpa at 87 still cooks up some mashed potatoes and gravy, corn and chicken. It is always special to join them, and this week a coffee cup waited at my plate so he and I could enjoy an after dinner cup together, something we started just a couple of years ago.
My grandpa was part of the first generation of Hilkemanns born in the United States, and he didn’t get more than an 8th grade education. He has never used a computer, gets frustrated with most modern conveniences, and lives a simple life.
But my grandpa is one of the smartest people I know. He can tell you what the weather will do simply by looking at the clouds and checking the direction the wind is coming from. He can diagnose livestock diseases, fix machinery, knows intuitively when to plant and when to harvest, and how to make a profit. He has had to use economics, physics, chemistry, biology, algebra, and geometry while lacking a degree in any of these. He still remembers the ebb and flow of droughts and good years, who owned what farm and what crop they put in.
My grandpa has modeled hard work, the kind where you put in long hours and get your hands dirty and finish the job. He has passed on those kinds of lessons to my dad, who has passed them down to us. My heritage is found in the soil of rural Nebraska, the many years and work invested in this place. While I have also inherited the Hilkemann bad back and knees, I treasure the model and lessons passed down to me by my grandpa Hilkemann.