Farmer Mort Gives the Talk: ‘A Cleansed Earth—Will You Live to See It?’

We had Farmer Mort over to the house following his public talk. Before eating, we made him take the City Slicker’s Quiz:

If you want to eat, identify all eight items:

1. Credit card

2. Necktie

3. Shoe polish

4. Pictures of Wegmans (where food comes from)
5. Roll of toilet paper (replaces Sears catalog)
6. Kitchen faucet (where water comes from)
7. Refrigerator (where cold comes from)
8. Stove (where fire comes from)

We did this as payback because Farmer Mort had made everyone take the Farmer’s Quiz at that Grad Party on the Farm. “Identify all 5 items before eating,” it said, and nobody was able to do it—Come on! he had bags of individual seeds in there—soybean, corn, wheat—how’s anybody going to know that? In the end, he relaxed the requirement so that guests would not starve to death.

Farmer Mort has farming on the brain. He has been known to give people stalks of wheat, bagged and tied up with a bow, labeled “pre-donuts.” He puts it all to good use when his turn rolls around for public speaking—the title of his talk was: “The Earth Remains Forever.”

He pulled a plastic bag of seeds from the paper bag he had brought up front with him. It contained wheat seeds. If you drop one on the ground in late summer or autumn, chances are pretty good that you will get a wheat stalk next year that includes 125 of such seeds. “That’s not a bad deal,” he pointed out—125 for 1—and man has not been able to ruin that—yet—but if for some reason that deal is not good enough for you and you want a better one.... He pulled out a bag of soybeans, for which the ratio is 210 to 1. If even that deal is not good enough for you....he pulled out a bag of corn seeds—500-700 to one, he pointed out, once again with the reminder that man has not been able to ruin that....yet.

Then he branched off into how there is the UCS today, the Union of Concerned Scientists, raising the alarm of environmental abuses worldwide. And yet—if you just leave the earth alone, it is pretty good at healing itself. Pour oil on man-made concrete and it is there for a long while. Pour it on grass—(“Don’t do this!” he forbade everyone) and in short order the grass is lush and green again. Visit that abandoned factory after a few decades and you will say: “THAT was the parking lot?” Earth has reclaimed it. The earth has enormous powers of recovery, Farmer Mort pointed out, pretty much like we do—cut your finger and there is very little that you must do to it—it heals itself.

Then he turned his attention to wrappers that clog the landfills. “I sort of like the wrappers Jehovah made,” he said, as he pulled out a banana from his shopping bag. This wrapper—he pulled out one from a candy bar—takes 50 years to decompose, but that of the banana? Forget and leave a banana on the dashboard of your car—it goes black in a few days—toss it and, as to the contents within—you plow it back into banana bread. He likes other wrappers as well—wrappers Jehovah made—in each case superior to those of man—the husks of corn, the shell of nuts, the skin of fruits—that wrapper you can even eat.

There is a spiritual crisis today, he observed as his talk unfolded, manifested in the shameful manner that humans treat the earth. He quoted Deuteronomy 32:5, about a “crooked generation” that is “not his children”—the “defect is their own” as they “act corruptly.” It will not always be. Farmer Mort read Psalm 37:29: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”

(Incredibly, Russian authorities have declared this specific verse extremist—because it furthers the “propaganda of inferiority based on religious identity”—do they really wish to stick up for the “unrighteous” over there?)

What about when you take your family for an outing at the park? Farmer Mort presented the picture for us, and you see the sign of all the things you can’t do: no driving on the grass, no animals, no alcohol, no loud music, and so forth. “Well....I guess,” you say and as you enjoy that grass so lush that you don’t need shoes or socks, and—what is that delicious smell wafting in the air—honeysuckle? clover fields, linden trees?—and then it is all spoiled by the thunderous sound of choppers that spin out on the grass. Kegs are pulled out of the pickup truck. Raucous music blares from the speakers and...was that a shotgun blast? “Come on, kids. Time to go. It’s not safe.”

Rebels have destroyed the beautiful park—they always do—rebels who cannot obey the rules—but God will get rid on the rebels. Revisiting the promise expressed at Psalm 37:29 that everyone can read except for those in Russia, Farmer Mort read Proverbs 2:21-22: “For the upright are the ones that will reside in the earth, and the blameless are the ones that will be left over in it. As regards the wicked, they will be cut off from the very earth; and as for the treacherous, they will be torn away from it.” Farmer Mort loves the earth and he looks forward to that time.

Furthermore, “you will see it” when it happens. “Hope in Jehovah and keep his way,” says Psalm 37:24, “and he will exalt you to take possession of the earth. When the wicked ones are cut off, you will see it” Humans cleanse things on earth with “Arm and Hammer,” he said (did he pull out a box of that, too?), “but Jehovah has something called “Armageddon” that will get the job done much more thoroughly and, most important of all, lastingly.

What is it with this guy? Why did I enjoy this talk so much? Is it that I could picture Jesus doing it this way—spinning parables all having to do with rural life that his listeners could get their heads (and thereby hearts) around? Was it Farmer Mort’s low-key but indestructible enthusiasm —he retained the excitement he had from Day One upon discovering God’s purpose.

It had created shock waves in the community when his family embraced Jehovah’s Witnesses. Staunch church members—known and highly regarded by everyone—there is even a street named after Mort’s forefather—they had not been unhappy. His wife in particular had been fully involved in her traditions of the rural community. Only one thing nagged at her—a hunger to understand the Bible—a hunger that she was unable to satisfy anywhere but in just one place—and she resisted that conclusion for the longest time—how could it be Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were so ill-regarded? As for Farmer Mort, he was always busy out hauling the hay—“We used to plow all this land for the Temeris family,” he told me as we drove about in field service. When he saw his wife accept Bible teachings from the Witnesses, he finally took notice, and embraced it in a heartbeat, blanketing his community with such zeal that some thought he had taken leave of his senses. It is a perception that may remain to this day—“a prophet is not unhonored except in his home territory,” Jesus stated at Matthew 13:57—and when Farmer Mort and I worked in service in our territory, he exclaimed: “Wow! People are actually listening to me! I may have to start making sense!”

The joyful task of those post-Armageddon will be to transform the abused earth into paradise, he continued in his talk. They will have plenty of company, “Even though he dies he will come to life,” Farmer Mort quoted Jesus at John 11:25. He referred to God’s mandate—“being a plowboy, I have to look up words like ‘mandate,’” he said, and enthused over how “God is not a mere man who tells lies”—and how ademic conditions will cover the entire globe. Disobedience may work in the short run, he said, but not in the long run.

In the resurrection, people will appear who will say: “I was a Danite...I was a Ruebenite...I was a Simeonite.” Farmer Mort suggested what his reply to them might be: “Um...we really didn’t do it that way.” Did he really suggest that he might say: “I was a Trivialite?”

“Oh, and this one is worth getting out your glasses for” (which he did), as he read a quote from a 30-year old Watchtower publication—never repeated that I know of:

To all eternity our earth will bear a distinction that no other planet throughout endless space will enjoy, though the earth may not be the only planet that will ever be inhabited.[underlining mine] Uniquely it will be where Jehovah has indisputably vindicated his universal sovereignty, establishing an eternal and universal legal precedent. It will be the only planet on which Jehovah of armies will have fought “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” It will be the only planet to which God sent his dearest Son to become a man and die in order to recover the planet’s inhabitants from sin and death. It will be the only planet from which Jehovah will have taken 144,000 of its inhabitants to be “heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ.”

He was like a little kid on Christmas morning, Farmer Mort was. Later on he identified almost all of the items on my City Slicker’s Quiz. I was bummed. I had hoped to flummox him like he had flummoxed us with his Farmer’s Quiz. He missed only #6—the kitchen faucet—which he incorrectly identified as a grab bar for use in the event of an earthquake. I think he was just pulling my leg. I think he really knew what it was. He just saw my spirits sink as he effortlessly ticked off the correct answers and threw me that one as a bone.

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Jon knew dirty rotten lowlifes well, to use one of his favorite phrases. “You know that car dealer on TV?” he’d say, speaking of certain commercials. “I know him. He’s a dirty rotten lowlife. I’ve seen him at the auction. He has a woman in one arm and he holds a drink in the other.” Jon knew dirty rotten lowlifes because he had been dirtier than any of them. When he muscled in on the mob’s territory, the mob came to pay him a visit. He emerged from his shack with a live grenade in each hand! “Now, what is it that you boys wanted?” They suddenly remembered that they really hadn’t wanted anything at all.

Years later, after Jon had become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, my son began to sweat when police stopped the car his friend was driving. The two had some fireworks inside—not exactly legal at the time. “Watch this,” the friend said as the policeman approached. The cop asked for his license. “Officer,” the friend asked, ‘“do you know my dad, Jon Markow?” A pause. “This doesn’t say Markow,” the cop said, examining the license. “It says Sanchez.” “Yeah, Jon married my mom. He’s the one who raised me.” This got the officer thinking, and presently he bid my son and friend a good evening and let them go with a friendly admonition to drive safely.

“See that fellow over there?” one cop said to his buddy at the coffee shop, pointing to Jon. “He used to be the meanest SOB around and he turned out better than all of us.”

At a committee meeting over an elder who turned out to be a real stinker and Jon saw it before anyone else—in fact, he spotted it instantly, mostly because he had traveled in the same circles—Jon stated what he had seen and that elder called him a liar. Jon reached across the table and half yanked him out of his chair by the lapels. It was all the other brothers could do to persuade him that “we don’t do it that way here, Jon.”

“How can you brothers be so naive!?” he said astounded to those ones, who could not believe the evidence unfolding right before their eyes. But after the dust finally settled, one of them approached to say: “You’re right, Jon. We are naive.” Sometimes elders are naive.

He also told off a certain overbearing traveling overseer. His body of elders had worked and worked and had a huge number all pumped up excited during the month over auxiliary pioneering—people that hadn’t done it in ages or even ever. They had rearranged priorities and were all hopped up. The visitor came along and said: “Well, it’s a good start.” “Way to crush the spirit of the congregation,” Jon told him.

Besides my sympathies to the family, his death made me sit up and take notice. It didn’t shake me to the core—that would be too strong to put it that way—but it drew more attention than the deaths of most people for whom I am inclined to pass off as ‘another one bites the dust.’ Sounds callous, I know, but I really am one who believes in the resurrection—death is just the beginning of a long but temporary leave-of-absence and I know that I will not see them for a long while but in most cases I was not seeing them anyway. I have said before that “nobody wants to die—it’s inconvenient and it makes people feel bad,” but other than that—so what? The resurrection will undo it all. Jon’s death was different.

He really wasn’t that old—maybe just two or three years more than me, I think. He might even have been younger. Your definition of what is ‘old’ increases as you get older yourself. I am of the age where I think that I have 20 good years ahead of me, plenty of time to get everything down in writing. But you never know. Maybe life will throw a me curve ball and I will be gone tomorrow. What is that verse about how we are a mist appearing for a little while and then disappearing? Ah—here it is: James 4:14. “Tell your dad you love him,” Davey-the-Kid said to me after his dad died unexpectedly, for which notice they had paged him at the Pittsburgh Special Assembly.

I have said once or twice—no more than that because I really liked the man—that Jon was the originator of 100 stories, each one of which he was the hero. Ordinarily this would be an extremely tiresome quality, but in Jon it was not—I think because I never doubted (and still don’t) that each and every story was true and he really did act as a hero. One can tell when something has the ring of truth and corresponds with experience and known fact in every conceivable way. Having seen it all, he had turned all his energy and empathy towards the congregation and the ones within it.

I have fond memories of our family camping with his at the campground In upstate New York. The two of us would talk for hours by the campfire and then continue while walking the grounds. Sometimes the most trivial details are the ones that survive. Jon used an expression that I had never heard before (or since). I asked him about it. I found it humorous and thus it became a running joke—“throw one over the hoop.” It means taking a leak, and I suppose it is a reference to slobs too lazy to put the toilet seat up. “I’m off to throw one over the hoop,” we would tell each other throughout the weekend, particularly after downing a beer or two.

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The Wood-Sawing Contest—What a Way to End Field Service!

Joan is pushing ninety, alert, and she looks spry. The bevy of pills before her testifies that there may be more than meets the eye, however. Indeed, they just released her from the hospital after a three day stay. Her daughter sits kitty-corner at the table. She quit her job so as to be her mom’s full-time caregiver. That way mom will likely not go into a nursing home, and avoiding one is what she wants.

New York State wants it, too. It’s far cheaper on the social structure if Medicare/caid patients stay at home, and there is a program whereby a family member can be reimbursed by the state, which would otherwise send funds to far more pricey places.

I have come to visit the two, and they pour me some chamomile tea.

As usual on visits like this, talk turns to reminiscing of back in the day. Such as when daughter and mother and aunt worked the door-to-door ministry in a small town that had a wood-sawing contest going on. The mother—she was raised on a farm and is well accustomed to chores—gazed at the clumsy white men pretending to be pioneers—and said to her sister: “I think we can take them.”

“You’re in field service, Mom!” her daughter upbraids her, mortified at the spectacle she might make. But....these flabby young men, in their new store-bought flannel shirts—“it’s important to keep the saw moving so it doesn’t seize up,” the daughter told me, and some of these guys working out their affectation weren’t doing so hot as they struggled to tug the blade to and fro.

“I think we can take them,” Joan repeated to her sister. “Oh, sure! A couple of old ladies in dresses and carrying bookbags stuffed with Watchtowers! No, mom! Forget it!” the daughter rebuked them.

It would have happened on my watch! Forget service—I would have signed them up then and there! Nor do I think it would have been a bad witness. “Jehovah Witness Ladies Capture Wood-Cutting Crown, Beat Out Smallville’s Best”—what a witness that would have been! What! Do you think it would have been a greater witness to place a couple of magazines with someone on the topic: “What is the Purpose of Life?”

The purpose of life is to take wannabe roughing-it pioneers, and hand them their heads on a platter—and show them how REAL pioneers do it!

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At the Grad Party on the Farm

At the grad party on the farm there was a potato gun. It launched those spuds a football field and a half, and there were some kids who ran out there to see it they could catch them—unsuccessfully, since the gun was very hard to aim, and with ears of corn it was even worse. It was powered by compressed air.


At the grad party on the farm there was a hammer-n-nail game. Toss the hammer into the air, twirling it once, catch it by the handle, and then drive the nail. Great fun for resident and the far more numerous wannabe farmers.


Get your school bus ice cream at the grad party on the farm. Order at the driver’s window. Pickup at the rear. The farmer had bought it at auction, thinking it might do for group outings, but then discovered that there was more to putting an old bus on the road than he had anticipated.


At the grad party on the farm you had to pass a farm quiz in order to eat, identifying various seed types and farm implements. This requirement was relaxed so that visitors would not starve. Acquiescing to reality, this farmer had previously given people stalks of wheat, labeling them “pre-donuts.”


There was also a great swing that could accommodate up to three people at the grad party on the farm.


At the grad party on the farm, there was, not one, but two, International Scout convertibles. With a V8 under the hood, it was a vehicle with guts, so said the grad’s brother who took it for a spin—more guts than that brothers own high Jeep, who he first got it, I said: “I’d better not see your tire tracks across my hood!” (or was that his buddy I said that to?)


There was, at the grad party on the farm, a Burmese Mountain dog that threaded through the gathering crowd, its tail wagging all the while, as though a politician. “Careful—it’s a leaner,” someone said. “Pull back quick, and it will fall over.”


Probably 150 made the party, and the grad is someone I have known since she was 2. She had strawberry red hair back then. There was to be a bonfire that night, but we left before that happened. It may have been rained out, since it was raining hard when we arrived home.

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"He Was a Good 'ol Boy, that Tom Harley, But He's Deeeaad Now!"

Leroy Whitehouse passed away the other night. I’ll miss that man. A tall, drawling, deep throated, 80-something-year-old black man from the deep south, I used to jest with him how I hoped he would one day give my funeral talk:

“Yeeeaass, he was a good ‘ol boy, that Tom Harley, but he’d deeeaad now! D_E_A_D!”

LeRoy would uninhibitedly offer comments to the 50/50 congregation about his younger days back home “working for the white man.” Or relate how even long term Bethelites are not perfect, illustrating it with a brother who declared “I don’t give a damn!” Taking the nervous titter in the audience for appreciation, he repackaged the line and ran it through two or three more times: “I don’t give a damn!”

I will miss him plenty. He was a friend.

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It's a Conspiracy!

There is a local brother given to conspiracy theories..

He's a fine brother. I like him, as does everyone else. He keeps it under control. He never mentions it from the platform. At least, not during prayer.

How can one resist not ribbing him? God will understand.

I got the ball rolling myself, then sent several brothers his way. "Make up a conspiracy theory about the Supermoon. Doesn't matter what. Mention in passing that you heard about it." How long till he knows he's been set up?

His grandson latched on with the most enthusiasm of anyone. "Yeah! Tell him it's altered gravity, changing the price of silver!"

I'm worried that the visit of our circuit overseer may distract some from their practical joke duties. It's hard to find good help today. I didn't include the C.O. in my plot. He's already charged with counseling the same brother about taking the trapezoid shaped parking space, making it unavailable for me to park there when I show up in my trapezoid car.

No names, please, should you comment. I'll take it down. And post something worse about you!


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Never Ever Trust a Brother that Drives a Bugatti Roadster


Don't trust them. They do nothing but make trouble.

'Here Tom, here's where you can buy wheels with snowtires mounted for your Fit! Isn't that a good idea? Just think how safe the missus will feel!'

Well, sure...anything for the missus...I bought them.

Who would think the stupid things require a non-standard socket to attach the lug nuts....not standard, not metric...something else entirely! I never knew there was such a thing.

And if you can get your head around that, what about the special 'hub adapters' required for each wheel?! Of course, they supply all those things, but I've yet to remember them when taking my car to the shop for seasonal tire change.

Who can put up with nonsense like this? It's my own fault...when the package arrived and said "Free Aggravation Included" I should have been tipped off. Image

It's not aggravation to Brother Bugatti. Such exasperating picayune stuff is the elixir of life to him! He thrives on it, like a hurricane gathering strength over warm water!

And this year changing the tires...someone had lost some (not all) of the hub adapters. Me? The tire shop? Brother Bugatti? Who knows?

Ah, well, if I must, I'll just buy more. Yeah...good luck on that! I don't remember where I ordered the things from. The likely source Brother Bugatti suggests is a no-go. "Don't you keep your paperwork?" he asks...he has paperwork for every car wash he's driven through since he was 16! No...not after two years...I don't.

Ah...wait. Here's the box from Gorilla Automotive. Yes...the wheel company does carry that brand. No, they won't sell them to me separate without proof that I bought them there...liability issues! Today I'll call Gorilla directly. I just hope the CEO isn't Harambe, who took a leave of absence three months ago and hasn't been heard from since.

I've never owned mounted snows in my life until Brother Bugatti came along. Nor even snows after seventies...All weather-tires work just fine. What was I thinking?

Mounted snows on all four tires are safer, says Brother Bugatti. Well, so are tank treads!

photo: Lothar Spurzem

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