One of my most fond childhood memories is walking in my grandfather’s bootprints as he worked in his garden. Row after row, he worked tirelessly, silently hoeing the weeds that plagued the red Anson County clay. He allowed me to follow him as long as I didn’t get underfoot or make too much noise, two very difficult tasks for a child. But I tried, staying just behind the heel of his well worn brogans until the pull of throwing dirt clods or climbing trees proved too much to ignore. I loved my grandfather and his farm, loved hiding amongst the rows of corn, sneaking peaks at the hogs that both terrified and repulsed me. As I grew into young adulthood, I took the farm for granted, I thinking little of my experiences there other than occasional reminiscences and quaint stories I shared with college classmates or work colleagues.
A move to Oregon made me profoundly aware of my Southern roots. Somehow, moving to another part of the country was more jarring than studying abroad. Unable to find decent fried chicken, field peas, Texas Pete, sweet tea, collards, and anything resembling a biscuit eventually led me to leave the Pacific NW. (That and ridiculously high home prices…) I returned to my native South with a greater appreciation of place and culture. Often the subject of ridicule, I grew to respect the perspective of old timers who spoke with a good sized chaw in one cheek and a half smile on other other, dirty overalls patched, long faded with sun. My smile, more often than not, evoked one in return from old men with blue eyes, whose skin was as dark as mine from years of toil in the sun.
A few years have rolled by and I now have that farm, along with a family, sheep, goats, and a laundry list of things that I want to do on this acreage.
Not a day goes past that I don’t think of my grandfather and his well worn boots. I am proud to say that after a few good years outside, my overalls have a few patches, too. I am comfortable in the feed store, and participate in conversations about feed efficiency and soil amendments with great interest. I think that he’d be proud.