Gene Logsdon, The Contrary Farmer, died of cancer at the age of 84 yesterday morning at his home in Ohio.
I first read Gene’s work as a horse-crazy, cowgirl teenager nearly half a century ago, when he was writing for the Farm Journal. As I grew older, I searched out his books and learned many things about farming and farmers, life and death, the spiritual and the profane.
None of that was surprising. Born in 1932, Gene’s entire family was made up of farmers and he spent his life either farming or writing about it. Even during his years in the seminary, what he loved was working the farm. The priesthood wasn’t for him, though, and he fell in love with and married Carol, raised two kids and bought his own 30 acres where he experimented with all sorts of things conventional farmers turned their noses up at.
His came by the Contrary part of his cognomen honestly. Gene didn’t see life (or much of anything else) through conventional eyes. I remember his comment about a course he took in psychology when he was trying to argue that animals did in fact have personalities (as any farmer or rancher will tell you is absolutely true), and the teacher basically told him to sit down and shut up because he didn’t know what he was taking about. Gene said: “I was so angry I left the course and left the whole stupid school.”
No subject was safe from Gene’s pen, whether it was the beauty of a wildflower, the strong connection between agriculture and art, the idiocy of bureaucrats or the joys of manure (one of his recent books was titled Holy Shit). In addition to reading most of his books, I followed him at The Contrary Farmer blog for years, discussing with him and like-minded folks a wide variety of topics related to whatever his free-ranging mind became engaged with. Last year, when he told us about his cancer diagnosis, a number of us wrote a tribute to him and Carol — although we hoped he would beat the big C, we wanted him to know how much he meant to us. I think it was the first time Gene was ever speechless…
His publisher, Dave Smith, plans to keep the Contrary Farmer blog online, so if you’ve never read any of Gene’s material, you might want to stop by.
As I said on my final comment on the blog, I wish I could have been a fly on the wall to see what happened when The Contrary Farmer showed up at St. Peter’s gate! RIP, Gene. You will be sorely missed.