It was a beautiful Tennessee spring Sunday afternoon when I pulled in the long gravel driveway of Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie’s farm. The hills behind their house this time of year are becoming bathed in pastel colors with hues of green, yellow and pink that are a sure sign that spring is finally here. Their white frame house located among the landscape of the spring colored hillsides, seemed to be part of an artist’s painting hanging in a gallery on the strip in Gatlinburg. Just to the side of the house, I could see my elderly relatives getting out of their old farm truck parked near the tractor shed still dressed in their Sunday afternoon finery. Their wardrobe has never changed in all the years I have known them. On Sundays you will find Uncle Sid in his best overalls ironed and starched along with a white shirt. Aunt Sadie will be in a print dress with some type of pin on the right shoulder. It has been that way for years and will never change, and I’m glad that it won’t.
Aunt Sadie saw my car coming up the drive and stopped to meet me as I parked near their truck, but Uncle Sid proceeded to the back porch that faced the farm’s fields and woodlands that had a view you could lose a crop over just sitting there taking it all in. I could see him take a seat in his favorite chair and sort of pitch his brimmed felt hat over on the table that Aunt Sadie kept her flowers on during the summer months. By the pitch of his hat, I wasn’t too sure if this was the Sunday afternoon I should be making a visit or not. Uncle Sid usually never came outdoors without a hat and for some reason he had just pitched his Sunday hat to the wind. No, the hat pitching was not a good sign, but Aunt Sadie took my arm and walked me to the porch all the time telling me about some teacakes she had made. I would gladly face a grumpy old Uncle for one of Aunt Sadie’s teacakes no matter what.
As Aunt Sadie went in the house to fetch the teacakes and some cold milk, I took a seat beside Uncle Sid and asked him how things were going, and did I ever find out. “Boy,” he said, “You can’t even take a Sunday afternoon drive anymore without folks trying to run you over!”
By that comment I immediately figured out the problem. All the way back when Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie were courting, they have taken a Sunday afternoon drive to see what was going on around the community. Uncle Sid would check out who has planted what crops and Aunt Sadie would see who had the prettiest flowers on their front porch. They would even take us kids at times and Uncle Sid would play the same joke every time trying to frighten us. He would pretend he didn’t know where he was and didn’t know how to get home. We would wind around country roads and then all of a sudden be back on the black top headed back to the farm with Uncle Sid laughing all the way. And for some reason we fell for that trick every time. Mainly for the adventure, not because we really thought we were lost.
“What’s wrong with people these days?” the old man went on to say. “What’s the big hurry to get to nowhere in particular? I was dodging cars and trucks all afternoon passing me and then pulling back right in front of me where I had to hit the brakes. I was busier than a centipede at a toe counting contest all afternoon instead of enjoying seeing all of this pretty spring weather around us. I know none of those other folks saw it either, because they were going too fast!”
I just let him talk. He was right. We all have lost the ability to enjoy a beautiful day due to trying to get to some place that in most cases really doesn’t matter.
“Most of the people who passed us had those silly cell phones stuck to the side of their heads as well,” he said wrinkling his nose and demonstrating how the people would hold them next to their ear. “If they had to talk to those folks so bad, why didn’t they just stay home and call them. You can’t halfway drive and hold a sardine can to the side of your head at the same time. It just isn’t safe. I think you either talk on the phone or drive. Don’t do both.”
Aunt Sadie was now coming out the door with her teacakes and a cold pitcher of milk. Uncle Sid was slowing down on his fussing, but I could tell he had one more thing on his mind. He said, “I put all those crazy drivers in the category of what Roger Miller once said many years ago.”
“What was that Uncle Sid?” I asked with a mouth full of teacake.
“He said, ‘A chicken can get fat but he will always look the same in the face.’ Those folks in a hurry going no place in particular will never see the beauty of what really this world is all about. They will just get fat and never change.”
How’s that for some really deep country thinking?
– 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 email@example.com