My dad, Robert W. “Bud” Perkins, grew up on a farm homesteaded by his father in southwestern North Dakota. Except for a year in Los Angeles in 1940 working for Douglas Aircraft, he spent his entire life on that farm. Surviving the 1920s and ‘30s gave him a tremendous work ethic and will to succeed.
As I was growing up, I assumed my dad had many dreams and goals that he never had the chance to pursue. I imagined he saw farming as the only thing he knew or was qualified to do. After having a family, Dad resigned himself to remaining there on the farm, making a living and supporting his wife and children. He was just trying to do “the right thing.”
I grew up on that farm, and when I was old enough, I worked in those fields with Dad. But I wasn’t very mechanically inclined and never liked to get my hands dirty, so I couldn’t see myself becoming a farmer. From an early age, I wrote and performed songs. I played in rock bands during summer breaks from college. Music became my true passion, the dream I had to follow.
But growing up in North Dakota, the music business was only a distant vision, not something to make a living doing. I felt the prevailing wisdom, “the right thing,” was to follow a career where I could be easily employed and make a good living. I became a certified public accountant with a master of business administration degree. I moved to the city, and tried many different jobs, hoping to one day make enough money to spend time writing songs and getting into the music business. After twenty years of career and financial disappointments, I realized I could never attain my musical goals that way, nor would I ever make any money.
In October 2000, my dad retired from farming and sold the machinery he no longer needed. I attended the auction to see one last time that farm and equipment I had worked on as a kid. I saw my dad as a successful and contented farmer who, after setting aside his other dreams and goals, managed to overcome the hardships of agriculture and become a well-respected man in his hometown.
After an emotional day of watching people buy and take his machinery, I decided to ask my dad, “If you could start all over and follow your dream, what would it be?”
Without hesitation my dad said, “Farming was my dream.”
Since that sunny autumn day, my life has never been the same. At that moment I realized the example my dad set for me wasn’t what I thought. He did “the right thing” by following his dream of farming.
Now I know I have to follow the passion in my heart for music. Embracing my true calling has given me a humbling sense of responsibility to be more aware of the legacy I am leaving my son and the generations that will follow him. Like my father did for me, I believe I must set an example of living my dreams.
Randi Perkins is an inspirational folk singer–songwriter living in Nashville, Tennessee. He composes songs and stories about family and friends, celebrating life, and growing up on a farm on the Great Plains in North Dakota.
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