2008 Art of Manliness Man of the Year Finalist: Dirk Smits

The Name of the Nominee: Dirk Smits

Age of Nominee: 58

Nominee’s Location: Addison, Vermont

Why should Dirk Smits be The Art of Manliness/Old Spice Man of the Year?:

Dirk is the 2008 Man of the Year. My dad is a “no-day-off”, hard working dairy farmer in Addison, Vermont. He has been married to Kay for 33 years. And they have 6 children and 7 grandchildren.

I should start at the beginning. He was born in the Netherlands and moved to America as a young boy. After high school he enlisted in the US Army. He was in the Airborne Division and served overseas. My dad has a great love for his country. After seeing his parents struggle to provide for their family in their war torn Holland; then to leave everything in search of a new home in America. Dirk is thankful every day for this land of opportunity and freedom. He has never taken a hand out, but believes in working hard. It is his belief to lead a quiet life, mind his own business, work with his hands, be honest, and help others in need.

I don’t think dad knows how to turn on a computer, but he does know each of his neighbors. And not just by name, but by need. The widow to the west of him gets her wood stacked for the winter. The elderly gentleman to the north of his farm gets his driveway plowed in the winter. Years ago the farmer up the road lost his barn in a hay fire. My dad was there that night with feed for his cows and a cattle trailer to transport them to another barn. He doesn’t offer help, he does help! And by help, I mean he does it for nothing. It’s almost unheard of nowadays to just be kind with no personal gain. I have known my dad for 30 years now. In all those years he has taken two vacations. He went to Holland to see family. And the last vacation was to take his family across country in an RV. And he doesn’t have a hired hand, as many farmers do. But instead has operated his own 100 cow dairy on his own, with occasional help from his sons and daughters.

I know my dad’s greatest contribution is all that he has taught us children. We were taught that your word must be your word. A handshake is good enough. Work hard on six days of the week and go to church on Sunday. Don’t waste time worrying. These aren’t things that he preached to us. We just didn’t see him behave any other way, always straight as an arrow. I remember milking one Saturday morning with dad. All of a sudden a fire fighter came running into the milking parlor. “Dirk, your car is on fire.” My dad looked up from the milk machine he was holding and smiled, “Okay, you do what you do best and I’ve got another 40 cows to milk.” What?! I thought to myself! “Dad, don’t you want to see what’s happening or if the car is completely burned up?” He doesn’t even look up from putting the machine on the cow. “They don’t need my help and I have cows to milk!” was his quick reply. He is just so darn practical.

Dad has kept his dairy operation small and tends to each detail himself. I can remember a cow suddenly dropping in a stall. She needed to be put down (and no farmer wants to do that to one of his cows). Dad wouldn’t let her suffer and put her down right away. He continued on with his day, quietly. There are no days off with him. I remember planting a crop of winter wheat till 2:00 in the morning, trying to get it in before the rain came. And just 4 hours later dad would be up and milking. He knows what he needs to do and does it. I honestly don’t think most 20 year olds couldn’t keep up with my dad! He doesn’t whine, but is thankful for the work. I see how little he makes as a farmer and yet he doesn’t complain. Everything has its season is a phrase he would often say. Although I have seen dad mad, like the time we drove a tractor into the side of the barn!

Dad is also a pretty good teacher. He taught all of his children to drive a tractor by the age of seven. He also taught us to be kind and respectful. His usual saying was, “Don’t put yourself before others. We all put our pants on the same way – one leg at a time!” He worked hard so all of us kids could go to private Christian school, made sure we were in church on Sunday, and did our chores after school. He has never liked all this new technology, such as computers, TV’s, or “those hand held beeping games”. He did recently buy a jitterbug cell phone. And our entire family thought that was a big step for him! He thinks gyms and sleeping pills are funny too. He’ll give anyone a free membership to work out on the farm. And that workout will help them sleep a whole lot better too. As I watch my dad now teach his grandchildren how to feed a calf or work in the barn, I pray that I can give my children the values and strength that dad gave to me. (Dad also told me that my children need to say “cow manure”, not “cow poo”. That just sounds like a ‘sally’ he says!)

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