Cold Winter Air Brings on Clear Thinking

It was an afternoon after one of the TV news talk shows had discussed pretty negatively many of the items found in the national Farm Bill, that I pulled into the long gravel driveway of Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie’s farm. The day had been an unusually cold one, as January days have been lately, and I could see Uncle Sid walking around out in the front yard of the family home place.  

As I parked my car beneath one of the huge maple trees near the house, I could see he was really studying the ground as he walked around the yard of the old white frame house. Before I reached where he stood, he had stopped to gaze across the hillside of his family farm, looking out to the cow pasture where his Angus cattle grazed in the late afternoon sun.  

Being somewhat curious about what he was doing out there on such a cold winter’s day, I approached him slowly, hoping his actions would give me a hint about what was going on in his age-experienced head. However, with Uncle Sid it could be anyone’s guess on what he was thinking about, but I could tell that whatever it was really had him thinking.  

Catching my shadow being cast by the late afternoon’s sun coming up behind him, he turned around and gave me a grin that made me feel good by the fact he was glad to see me. “It’s good to see you, Boy,” he said. I’m 65 years old and he still calls me Boy. “Been out here pondering this farm program everybody’s talking about and still ain’t figured all of it out. Looks like a lot of folks talking about something when they don’t even have a dog in the hunt. What do you think?” he asked, now no longer studying the ground, but me instead.  

With that question and the content of the subject under examination by Uncle Sid, I knew it would take me a while to get in the house for some of Aunt Sadie’s tea cakes and a warm cup of coffee. “I think we all have our work cut out for us in the coming months,” I answered as I tried to understand just where he was going with this conversation.  

Picking up a stick from the frozen ground, he took out his three-blade Case pocketknife and began to whittle little curls of bark from the stick’s surface. From previous experience, I do know that whenever he starts to whittle, there is about to be some profound knowledge unleashed. Knowing what was about to happen, I buttoned up my coat to my neck and found a maple tree to lean up against for the duration.  

“The other day down at the store, Gizzard Austin came in and asked Carl behind the sandwich counter if he could fix him up a baloney and souse sandwich,” Uncle Sid began his tale while still whittling. “Old Carl made the sandwich, but before he gave it to Gizzard he asked him if he wanted it cut into two pieces or leave it as one. Gizzard thought about it for some time before saying, ‘Naw, just leave it as one, I don’t think I’m hungry enough to eat two pieces.’ ”  

Closing up his knife and now starting to walk to the house, he said, “That’s sort of the way I see all this Congress committee stuff. Them fellars up in Washington who are arguing over who gets what, are using some of the same logic as Ole Gizzard. I think they should either pull the trigger or unload the gun.”  

With those final words on the Farm Bill, Uncle Sid and myself walked on up to the house where I knew Aunt Sadie’s teacakes were waiting on us at the kitchen table. I really didn’t totally understand what he said, but I think I know what he meant. One thing for sure, if this thing is going to work for Congress, they want Uncle Sid and a lot of others like him on their side!                


Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.  

He may be contacted by e-mail at