Portrait of a Steward of the Soil

image of a farmer silhouette

Editor’s introduction: Frank Acker, Little River Conservation District manager, passing through Stillwater recently, stopped by the Payne County Conservation District office to wish Doris Anderson good luck on her pending retirement after 30 years as district secretary. At the office he and Darrel Dominick, OCC tribal liaison and NRCS retiree visited for a while. Darrel commented that his father Max remembered working with Frank’s grandfather, a well-respected farmer in Sequoyah County when Max worked for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service in that county. Here are Frank’s words to me:

“I got to thinking, on the way home, about my Granddad, then remembered his eulogy, which was given by Dick Mayo, editor of the Sequoyah County Times. I have kept it for many years because it described my Grandpa to a “T.” Grandpa was a conservationist before it became a proper term in everyday language. I don’t think there was ever a person I respected more than Grandpa.”

Frank shared this with me because he knows I love a good story. I enjoyed it and I am sharing it with you because I think you will enjoy it. As you read it, see if it reminds you of anyone you have known who set an example that inspired you as a conservationist — I think it will. I believe it was people like Mr. Acker and others you and I have known or have known of who founded the conservation efforts that we depend on and work to carry on today. — Mark Harrison, editor.

Pervin Acker

Obviously, I am not a contemporary of Pervin Acker, him having about 28 years head start. Nor am I a farmer-stockman. And, as I look over the friends of Pervin gathered today, I see that most of you aren’t either.

Many here have known Pervin longer and closer than some others of us. Yet we find common ground in that we are here to honor this man and to commemorate his life among us. To each of us, Pervin’s life means something different, something special. Yet so much the same. Always honorable, always upright, always forthright. Those were Pervin’s ways, and you could count on it.

Husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, farmer, member of Sequoyah County’s community of man, Pervin wore many hats. And he wore them all exceedingly well. He was an honorable man among men.

Through lean years, years of drought and years of too much rain, Pervin regularly harvested crops far more bountiful than those who hadn’t his experience, his love of the land, his knowledge. Pervin could make a crop when no one else could. Sequoyah County has lost its very best farmer in the death of Pervin.

Wheeler Mayo, my dad, was an excellent judge of men — and of their capabilities. In the 196Os, dad raised soybeans on upland patches here and there around the county. He had two farm hands. Lots of mornings they would ask dad what he wanted done that day and how they should do it. If it was an important task, he would put his decision off until noon or after. “I’ll have to think about it,” he would tell them.

One day, I asked my mother why he did that. “It gives him time to go find Pervin Acker and ask him what to do!”

Shortly after dad’s death, Pervin and I shook hands on the sale of some land of dad’s.
Shook hands – nothing more. I told him it would be “some time” before I could complete
the sale and give him a deed. Three years later, I was ready and here came Pervin with the
check. Right down to the penny. On a hand-shake. You don’t see much business done like that any more!

Knowing how Pervin liked his farmland neat and trim, I kidded him about there being
no extra charge for the grown-up fence lines. Pervin clamped his jaw flat, looked me in the eye and told me to “stick around I’ll show you how the preacher and the bear had at it”

I have no idea when, where or by whom the term “Steward of the Soil” got started. But I do believe the originator had Pervin Acker in mind. Pervin took his stewardship seriously.
He dutifully followed farming practices that nurtured the land. Sometimes, I thought it was incidental to Pervin that he brought in excellent harvests. It was the LAND that concerned Pervin. He was living proof that the land takes care of those who care for it.

So long, Pervin – friend of mankind, sower of seeds, harvester of grain – and above all, STEWARD OF THE SOIL… We return you to the arms of Mother Earth.

-Dick Mayo