I have mentioned before that my commute to work takes place on back roads for the majority of the ride. I pass by many farms and through many fields along the way to work and quite frankly I like this for a couple of reasons; it reminds me of the area where I grew up and where Earl and I had our first home and more importantly I don’t feel as rushed to get to work. Driving the Thruway to work is like a battleground lately as I opt to drive right around the speed limit while others run up to the back of the Jeep and then swoosh around me in a flurry of hyperactivity as they urgently dash off to where they need to be at 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit, usually while gabbing on the phone or sending an urgent text message while driving in the left lane for as long as possible. A year ago I would have been among their number, but a lot has changed for me in a year.

Right near the county line along the open hilltops is a rather large farm. There is a large, two-story red brick house that looks like it was built around 1900 or so. The house is flanked by a couple of barns, a small, fenced off cemetery area and a scattering of farm equipment. Behind the house is a drop off down into the Mohawk Valley, across the street is a small mobile home situated on a lot in the middle of a field. More farm equipment flanks the mobile home and there is usually a one ton pickup truck with dual wheels on the back sitting in the driveway. At least one day per week a farmer is walking from the mobile home to the main farm across the street when I pass by the property. I say he’s a farmer because he has a farm machinery company hat on (he’s a John Deere guy by the looks of it), he wears a Carhartt when the weather calls for it or else he is wearing a pair of work jeans that are being held up by suspenders. He just has that farmer ‘look’ to him.

Now I’m going to admit that I noticed this farmer the first time I saw him waiting to cross the street after I passed because he’s bearish. Unlike a good majority of the gay population, I’m not attracted to those that spend an inordinate amount of time trying to look a certain way and go out of their way to defy their natural age and the resulting evolution of their body as they age. I like to hug or be hugged by a guy that’s going to give or reciprocate with a big ol’ bear hug. While others may mock those that aren’t physically fit or muscular as manicured by spending way too much time at the gym, I dig guys that find their fitness naturally, in their own way and have a comfortable feeling to them. “Farmer Bear”, as I have dubbed him in my head though I have no inclination as to whether he would even know what a bear is, is a guy that just looks like a hard working guy in his late 40s or early 50s. The thing I instantly noticed about him is that he is almost always smiling. If I pass him on my way to work, usually around 7 a.m., he is smiling. It’s not a crazy, wild man smile, but just a pleasant grin that’s surrounded by ample beard. If I pass him on my way home, he’s smiling then too as he heads in the other direction.

Now some would wonder what he’s smiling about because he works on a farm, probably smells a little bit like manure or some other fertilizer and he lives in a small mobile home (quick guess would be that it’s probably a 12’x55′ from the 70s) on an open lot that has little in the way of vegetation surrounding it. The farm is in the middle of nowhere, the closest town being at least 10 miles away. Since I drive by this place almost every day, I have ascertained that he doesn’t have satellite or cable television since there’s no evidence of either being connected to the small mobile home; all that I see is a television antenna mounted to the side of the trailer. The big house across the street has been lit up every night since the transition back to Standard Time in November, occasionally others from the farm will be walking in the direction of the main house. I like to think that this family, whether biologically related or just through the camaraderie that results from working a farm together, dines at around 6:00 p.m., much like many of the farmers I’ve known over the years do every night after the chores are completed.

I think I know why Farmer Bear is smiling. He’s obviously happy and while others may decree that his life is simple, what with working a farm, driving a tractor, living in a small mobile home and the like, he’s apparently found what he wants in life. When we do this, we smile without even thinking about it. And hopefully, that smile becomes contagious and others are prompted to smile, either involuntarily or through thinking about what would make them smile and the finding the reason to do so.

Farmer Bear will probably never know that he’s made me smile when I see his smile and that I admire the little life he apparently has going there on his little plot of land, all based my assumptions from passing by repeatedly at 55 MPH. But whatever his life circumstance is, I hope he continues to find a reason to smile everyday.

His smile has given me the drive to continue to find a reason to smile myself.

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