I watched as the old farmer and young boy tussled with the chain at the fence. The huge John Deere green tractor completely blocking the road was so loud they could not hear our little Italian green Fiat. Still tempted to blow the horn as Remy’s barking heightened to a frenzy, the epiphany became a revelation.
I didn’t have to blow the horn. There was nowhere I was in a hurry to go. With the past now distant history, the future delicious mystery, the present felt just right. I realized there was nowhere I’d rather be than on that beautiful country road in Bella (our Fiat) with Gina and Remy waiting until the farmer got the notion to amble over and move his tractor.
I opened the window, breathed in the verdant moistness of the farmland…and turned off the car. As I did, the young boy looked around and noticed us. His cheeks were bright red from the cold, breath turning to foggy moisture as he looked back at the old farmer struggling with the gate, trying to decide if he should say something. Southern manners got the best of him and he tugged on the checked flannel shirt of his elder and pointed at our car.
The farmer started and waved apologetically. He walked over and introduced himself and his shy but smiling grandson. Turns out he has farmed the land on the road next to ours for over 70 years and his Dad for a lifetime before. He was vibrant, articulate and warm. He was real.
We introduced ourselves and told him we had bought the farm down the road. “Ah, yes, that’s the old Speers place. Hadn’t been nobody down there in a long time. You know Turkey Knob is on your place to the west. Glad to have you as neighbors. You’re gonna love it here. It’s quiet—everybody minds their own business—but they take care of you when needed. Maybe we can have a cup of coffee sometime.”
“Yes, sir”, I replied, “I would love that. By the way, do you know anything about the old stacked stone wall that bounds the north side of our property?” He said, “Oh, yes, son, as far I can tell that was built by slaves before the Civil War. They say that the white masters worked them until their fingers bled. The bleeding meant they could stop for the day.”
He then said, “Well, where do you go to church?” I replied, “Ah, that is a long story. God and I are having a quite a tussle right now.” To which he replied, “Well, you know who’s gonna win.” I smiled painfully and tried to change the subject. But he persisted, “When you folks get settled, my preacher and I will pay you a visit. I go to the old country church up the road and I think you would really like him. He’s a mighty good minister.” I choked out a polite, “Thanks, but no need to do that.”
However, I knew that no amount of protestation would do any good. They would be coming to see me come hell or high water. Ain’t many new prospective parishioners moving to this neck of the woods, and you don’t let a fish go once you’ve got him on the hook.
Despite the proselyting, intuition told me this was a good honest man. Salt of the earth, you might say, and I would be crazy not to have coffee with him on his porch soon. I had the distinct feeling, if we could get past the religion, I had met someone who would become a true friend. And perhaps a mentor for this younger novice and would-be farmer.
And to think, if I had started blaring the horn, I might have missed this magic moment—and the mystery of what is to come.
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