Billy Goss runs his hands down the sides of deeply furrowed face, stares across the table at his wife Dot, and then slowly holds up two fingers: “I know that God meant for me to do two things in this life. One, he meant for me to marry this young lady. Two, he meant for me to farm. Those are the things I know — and you can’t beat that.”

It’s an early-October day following a weekend of rain and Goss, 82, Lyon, Miss., is unable get in his fields. He’s sitting at his kitchen table and the lull is a burden — almost a physical pain for Goss. It’s not by chance that he sits nearest the door, the closest indoor spot to the soybean field over his shoulder. Physically, Goss looks the part: The stamp of toil, sun, diesel and dust have toughened Goss and given him the appearance of a man who belongs to the land.


(For a photo gallery of Goss, see A true American farmer)


He turns his head, looks out the window and points toward his farm: “You have to understand. You have to understand that the secret is love. I actually enjoy doing what I’m doing in those fields.”

His words tail off as Dot cuts in. “Every day he’s excited. He’s ready to go to work each day. Even when it gets hot in July or August, is he inside? No, he’s out there on the land — actually in the fields.”

He fingers the brim of a weathered hat, shrugs and nods in agreement. “She’s right and let me tell you why. I think the biggest mistake a farmer can make is not using an open window. You follow me on that? I’m saying don’t let a pretty day go by and do nothing with it.”

Goss pauses and takes a last look out the window, resigns himself to the weather, and begins to tell his tale. With long, lanky arms he clasps his hands together and pours out a story of a life well farmed — and well lived.

In 1931, 100 yards from where he now sits, Goss was born into a farming family in a house long-since gone. With three brothers and a sister, he was established in the pecking order by age seven as the “best hoehand” of the lot, following the path of his father and grandfather. “There was never a time I can remember that I didn’t know I was going to be a farmer. Even as a little boy, I only wanted to farm.”