I’m starting this column about 10 minutes to midnight, Sunday, July 29. By the time I finish, it will be July 30-the 50th birthday of my father Dennis Krause.

I’m sure he’s not thrilled that I’m publicly broadcasting this in my column. After all, he’s been very adamant with everyone around him that this is “just another day” and that he “doesn’t want a party.”

But, whether he wants to admit it or not, turning 50 is an accomplishment-one those of us who haven’t can’t possibly fathom.

My dad is fairly well-known throughout Marion County. He’s been president of Farm Bureau for the past several years, is active in many conservation efforts, and runs a farm just outside of Lincolnville from the very house where he grew up.

When his brothers left, spreading out across Kansas and Colorado, it was my dad who returned home to pick up the reins of a ranch that had thrived under the Krause name for 70 years.

This was where he brought the wife he had met at Emporia State University. This was where he raised his two sons-all the while trying to do justice, both as a farmer and a father, to his own dad, who died in 1985.

I don’t remember my grandfather that well. After all, I was only 3 when he died. But at times, I can see glimpses of who he was in Dad’s eyes.

My grandfather was someone who profoundly believed in the value of family, community and hard work-values my father has impressed on me for as long as I can remember, both in words and action.

My father has always been there to listen to me, to support me. And he has never confused blind acceptance with approval. When he thought I was making a mistake, he has never been afraid to tell me-and most of the time, he’s right. He pays his bills on time, all the time.

When his marriage of almost 25 years was disintegrating around him, he struggled to hold it together, wanting not what was best for himself but wanting to provide my brother and me with the same strong nuclear family structure he had grown up with.

When those efforts failed, he never used-or allowed Ben or me to use-the divorce as a crutch for self-pity or misbehavior.

Although some would argue he didn’t have to, he consistently treated my mother with patience and respect, working with her in ways that best facilitated the needs of his sons.

But even with the failed marriage, he managed to give us everything a true family, regardless of its structure, provides: understanding, discipline, security. And most of all, unconditional love.

Is he perfect? Of course not. In fact, we argued this afternoon. Although we rarely fight, this was one of the few times it got heated. But despite our disagreements, we were able to find a middle ground, to compromise. By the time I left the house, he was joking with me. And he didn’t let me leave before pulling me close for a hug, telling me: “I love you. Drive safe.”

It can’t have been easy raising me. God knows, disciplining a son who basically embodies perpetual insecurity, occasional irresponsibility and pseudo-intellectualism wouldn’t be easy. And if I turned out OK, it’s largely because of his influence. In fact, having come across several of his old letters-some to my mother, some to old flames-I have come to two conclusions.

One, if talent is genetic, I got my writing skills from him-although he can’t spell to save his life.

Two, that in the guise of a world-weary rancher beats the heart of a romantic.

Recently, his life has been tougher than most. After a freak accident in early July, when his tractor and bailer both exploded, he found himself almost $20,000 in debt. Both implements were insured, but not enough.

If that wasn’t enough, eight of his calves died of unknown causes, the clotheswasher broke, and the metal plate from a computer disk broke off inside the drive. (That last one was my fault).

But he has handled these setbacks with his customary aplomb and grace: by persevering the way he has for the last 50 years.

For this-and for everything else -I love, admire and respect him more than words can express.

Happy birthday, Dad.

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