As I was driving down the road to my farm a couple of weeks ago, I tuned into my favorite country radio station, U.S. 107.9. Sifting through the speakers of my truck was an endearing and familiar tune by Tracy Lawrence, “You Find Out Who Your Friends Are.”

The lyrics to the chorus go like this: “You find out who your friends are/ Somebody’s gonna drop everything/ Run out and crank up their car/ Hit the gas get there fast/ Never stop to think ‘What’s in it for me?’ or ‘It’s way too far.’/ They just show on up with that big old heart/ You find out who you’re friends are.”

On that cool, spring day, I listened to those words a little more closely than I usually do. I asked myself, “Just what makes a friend?”

Later that day, I found out.

Between working here at the paper, taking care of the farm, and working on my tractors, I was spread pretty thin over spring break. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of it. But the work I was doing couldn’t have been done without help.

I kicked off my holiday week by resurrecting a 1968 Case 580 tractor from an eight-year hibernation. I did what I knew to do: checked the fluids, installed a new battery, aired up the tires, and cleaned the bird’s nest out of the air intake. But the old girl still needed more work, which revolved around the ignition system -- specifically, the distributor. When it comes to points and condensers, I’m still a novice. So, I called my good buddy Jim.

Jim is a mechanic by trade and at heart. He’s been around tractors since the day he was born, and to say he knows a thing or two about them is an understatement. Luckily, he lives near my farm and came to help me as soon as I called him.

When he got to the tractor, he dug into the electrical system, making sure that the power was flowing down the path of least resistance like it ought to. After a little work, that tractor fired up like a hoarder at an estate auction. The engine sounded beautiful. The next day, I took it home. 

But before I could do that, I had to find someone to help me fix my barn door.

My old round-top barn is a sturdy place, but it needs some cosmetic work. Sadly, this kind of problem couldn’t be solved by Mary Kay. Some of the tin on the main door had been ripped off by recent wind storms, which left a hole. In order to slap some tin on there and do it right, I called my partner-in-crime, Patrick.

Yes, he’s the one who had the escaped cows that I’ve written such wonderful things about. The ones that we chased for three months in the nice, balmy weather of winter. So much fun.

Anyway, we were able to brace a new piece of tin against the door by placing wood blocks on the backside. We put screws through the tin and into the wood, patching the hole. It felt good to get that project out of the way, though I’m sure the opossum living in the barn wasn’t too happy to find his front door closed off.

The next day, I decided to do some spring cleaning around the house. Old Man Winter sure did a good job of knocking all the leaves off the trees around my house, and it was time to pick them up. I rang up my pal Rudy, who forms the second half of our Cheech and Chong reenactment duo. (Figuratively.)

Rudy has been one of my best friends since the grueling period in childhood called “middle school.” We’re bitterly sarcastic, and we mince no words in our sharp critiques of personalities, food, and community theater.

After making some snarky comments, we got to work. By the time we were done, there wasn’t a single dead leaf or tree branch left around the house. It looked pretty good if I do say so myself. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Then again, ignorance is bliss.

You know, all the work I’ve just discussed might seem mundane and simple. But without my friends, I couldn’t have gotten any of it done. And thus, I have learned a valuable lesson: the times when you need help are the times when you find out who really has your back. 

A true friend doesn’t just show up to make himself look good; a true friend shows up even when the work is less than glamorous. A true friend doesn’t tell you just what you want to hear; a true friend tells you what you need to hear. A true friend isn’t just someone you hang out with; it’s someone who is there to help you when you need it most. 

I’m fortunate to have such terrific friends in my life. This week, look for the true friends in your life and weed out those who are not. In the game we call life, we need our friends to help us along. Find out who your friends are today.

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