As I pulled into the long gravel driveway of Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie’s the other day, I was already looking forward to sitting down for a time of down-home discussion. And, of course, the chance of getting some of Aunt Sadie’s homemade tea cakes had also helped lure me to their white clapboard house out near the county line as well.
Summer was making its presence known on that hot day as I slowly moved from my car to the wide back porch of their farm house. The hot southern wind was drying up the grass under the large maple trees that surrounded the farmstead and there “holding court” that afternoon under those trees was Uncle Sid and some of his buddies from down at the store. There has always been a breeze under those trees and that afternoon Aunt Sadie had fixed a large pitcher of lemonade along with a plate of her tea cakes to help keep the “court session” attendees comfortable. All of the guests were his farming friends who had stopped by to discuss just how hot it was and how little rain they had received this month.
The sun seemed to burn through the top of my thinning hair as I approached the group and the shade. The last several weeks had been very dry and some of the hottest on record and the farming community has started to suffer. On this day, the temperature was 100 degrees and it was so hot I even thought I witnessed two birds using pot holders to pull a worm out of the ground. (And it doesn’t get any better. I said I wasn’t wearing a hat.)
After exchanging pleasantries and pouring myself a glass of lemonade along with grabbing a tea cake, I propped an old straight back chair up against one of the maples and settled in for the duration. Most of the fellows were pretty down in the mouth until Uncle Sid changed the mood of the day. After taking a swig of his lemonade he said, “It sure has been a long time since I seen a good rain. I sure wish it would.”
Pushing back his red Farm Bureau Charlie cap, he went on to say, “Not just for the crops and me. I’ve seen it rain. But I wish my three-year-old great grandson could see it just once.”
With that, the discussion went from seriousness to who could make it the hottest or driest. Every old joke about dry weather was about to be pulled from each feed store and chemical company hat setting on this group of farmers’ heads.
Mr. Patterson sitting over near Aunt Sadie’s elephant ear plant jumped in. He said, “Yeah, it sure has been hot. I had to start feeding my laying hens crushed ice so they would quit laying hard-boiled eggs.”
Uncle Sid took a look at Cousin Marshall over near the flowerbed and asked him, “Marshall, does it ever rain out near the forks over by your place?”
“Yes, it does,” Marshall answered him. “Do you remember in the Bible where it said it rained 40 days and 40 nights?”
Uncle Sid said, “Yeah, I believe that was the story about Noah and all of them animals in a boat.”
“Yeah, that’s right,” Marshall replied. “Well, when that happened we got about two hundreths of an inch from all of that.”
It was good to see them laugh a little bit, because lately they sure have not had much to laugh about. Marshall’s corn crop looks worse now than it did during the 2007 drought and Mr. Patterson is already feeding hay due to his pasture drying up. Uncle Sid is looking at just trying to save the few head of cattle he has raised from heifers over the years. He is now feeding what hay he cut back in the spring. Due to his pasture now being gone, he is really concerned about what the winter weather may bring because the second crop of hay may be in doubt.
“I heard one of the guys from over in the Bottoms say at a meeting last week that it has been so dry down there for so long that they have full-grown frogs that don’t even know how to swim,” Mr. Patterson told the assembled afternoon men’s discussion group.
After finishing up my refreshments and going inside to tell Aunt Sadie good-bye, I made my way back out into the summer heat wave to head home. However, after hearing that group still able to laugh and add humor to a serious problem, the sun didn’t seem to bother me as much. That’s what I like about farm life and farmers. Tough enough to handle tough times, but still able to understand that sooner or later it will rain again.
– Pettus L. Read is editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org