Like most people in charge of an operation, farmers and ranchers are well aware of the value of a good "right-hand man."
No one is certain where "right-hand man" originated, but it has been around for hundreds of years as an identifier of a most trusted assistant, often the second in command.
During the 18th century, the right hand man was an officer in charge of the right flank of a cavalry unit. Today the phrase applies to both men and women and generally means someone who is a trusted confidant and often left in charge.
Many farms and ranches are blessed with such a person, sometimes with the title of foreman, but often they are a long-time employee with the title of "friend." Sometimes it is a son who is in the process of taking over the farm or ranch as the father gets older.
A right-hand man is someone who allows the "boss" to be gone without giving a second thought to problems that may arise because his man knows exactly what to do, how to do it and what the boss would do if he were there. For those who bear management responsibility day in and day out, it is great blessing to have such a helper who is more friend than employee.
I am doubly lucky in this regard. I know the feeling of confidence and trust that comes from having a good right hand man both on the ranch and in my government job. You can't imagine what a blessing it is to leave the ranch or the South Dakota Department of Agriculture in trusted hands as I travel back and forth between them.
Another American idiom says, "all good things come to an end."
I am not sure that is always true, but in the case of my right hand man at the South Dakota Department of Agriculture it is true in part. Deputy Secretary George A. Williams is leaving Pierre and moving to a new opportunity in Sioux Falls this month.
It is a sad time for our office, almost as sad as when George left us to do a tour of duty in Iraq as a Sergeant First Class in A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 147th Field Artillery unit of the South Dakota National Guard.
For me, this departure is more difficult. When he left for Iraq I knew in my heart he would be back. That's why we never changed a thing in his office and didn't even shut down his email. Our faith paid off when he finally returned.
This time I am really losing my right-hand man – the man who was in charge when I was out, the man who could handle anything that might arise, and who I knew would do nothing that I would not do. He gave me freedom from worry during every absence from the office.
Losing that kind of support is difficult, whether it happens on a farm, a ranch or in an office. If you see a few technical errors in the column in the future you will know why.
However, there is also a gain involved. Next month, Sioux Falls will become a more enjoyable place for me to visit, because one of my very best friends will be there.