Zach’s Gift

Zack Shaffer is a wheat farmer in Jetmore, Kansas. He’s runs 200 head of cattle. He lives with his wife Renee and their new son, Henry.

Zach grows wheat because, in his words, “wheat is hard to kill.” I guess when you live in western Kansas and you want to grow something, you better grow something hardy. Anyway, when Zach’s not farming, he’s making furniture. He works pretty much round the clock. To be honest, I can’t tell if Zach is an amazing furniture maker who farms, or an amazing farmer who makes furniture. All I can say for sure is that Zach made me a rocking chair. It arrived at my home today. It’s made of solid walnut, and it’s stunning.

Here’s the thing about Zack. I don’t know him from Adam. He’s just a farmer who called my office one day and said, “Hi, I’m Zack. I make furniture and I love what mikeroweWORKS is doing. I’d like to send a Mike a handmade rocking chair, as a token of my appreciation. Do you think he’d like a handmade rocking chair?”

Who says “no” to a handmade rocking chair?

I’m not only humbled by Zach’s gift, I’m blown away by his craftsmanship. Here’s a young man, raising a family in America’s heartland by growing the food we eat, and making something as beautiful as it is useful. By hand. Once piece at a time. A guy whose job and hobby are so closely linked I can’t tell the difference.

Reminds me of the last stanza from one of my favorite poems. Robert Frost, “Two Tramps in Mudtime.”

“My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future’s sakes.”

I called Zack Shaffer this morning to thank him for his gift. He was impossibly gracious. We talked about the skills gap. We talked about his grandparents, Dan and Ruby. We talked about the challenges of farming, and of furniture making. I’m posting a link to his site because I think he does amazing work. And also because I think the world would be a better place with more rocking chairs in it.

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