It was the beginning of summer, the beginning of dusk edging toward twilight as we headed home from dinner with friends.
Everything fell silent in the car for a moment, the time when the threads of one conversation have been sewn up but another one has not yet been cast. As the sun sank almost out of sight, we four studied the beauty of the rolling mountains filled with different shades of green. It was hay-getting-up time so we drove past fields with newly cut hay, waiting for a fluff and a baling. Other hay fields were pristine and shining with huge round bales ready to be trucked away.
“Isn’t it beautiful this time of year when farmers are gettin’ up hay?” asked someone thoughtfully.
“Yes,” I replied softly. “It is.”
Her comment filled with studied admiration came back to me the next day. I am ashamed to say that though I always noticed the hayfields and it always registers with me if the hay baling is finished or the farmer is coming back the next day, I never revel in the sheer beauty of it all.
From the rural South, a place crafted by the turn of many a hand beneath an all-too-often cruel sun, I rise up. Here’s how you’ll know where I come from:
Folks plant their gardens so they’ll “come in” during the week they’re off from work. No one in the sweat-driven South ever calls it a vacation. They are also mindful not to plant the gardens where they will come in during revival week.
Once when Tink was new to the South, we went to a weekday morning revival service. It was July. As the preacher moved to close the service, he asked if anyone had a word or an announcement.
One normally quiet man, who had taken off work for revival week, said, “Preacher, I just wanna say how much I’ve enjoyed the services this week. It’s been a blessin’. The other night we come home from church and mama said, ‘Have you checked your corn? It might be time to get it up.’ And, sure ‘nuff, it was. Every day after church, we go home and work on the corn, then we come back to church of an evening. It’s been hard work, but I wouldn’t take nothin’ for it.”
Tink had never heard of anyone checking his corn. He was bewildered. From that day forward, though, that became his saying whenever he needed to make certain about something. “I’d better check my corn.”
Where I come from, some folks still use the old blue Ford tractors that are reliable but are no longer manufactured and a rough, over-used pick-up truck is a source of pride.
In this place that I call home, the kudzu can crawl across a gravel road in one week’s time, and lightning bugs brighten up the night’s sky like bulbs on a Christmas tree. The dew glistens prettily on blades of grass during the summertime, then frosts those same blades boldly on winter mornings.
In the rural South, you don’t have to ask for prayer. People just walk up to you in the grocery store or at the farmer’s exchange and say, “I’ve had you on my mind lately. I don’t know why, but I have. So I’ve been prayin’ for ya.”
In my South, stray dogs are fed with leftovers – biscuits and gravy are a favorite – wild blackberries grow in abundance and the honeysuckle can fragrance the air for days on end. Where I come from, the dogwood trees are heavy with white, snowy blossoms every April, and every December when the trees are naked of leaves, bunches of mistletoe shine high in the old oak trees.
It is a land of beauty where I come from. I am from the rural South.