“That’s what country folks do. We believe in God and country, In family, friends, and neighbors. That’s just what country folks do.” — Bluegrass group Lost and Found
In the 40 years I’ve been at the Enterprise-Journal, countless reporters have come and gone, some of them from big cities — Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, New Orleans. And a question I’ve heard from more than one is: “What do you do in a place like this?”
That especially comes up when they learn I live in Amite County, and not just in Amite County but the far side of Liberty. Terra incognita. Might as well be the dark side of the moon.
What could there possibly be to do in such a remote, isolated place, with no theaters, fancy restaurants, big museums or art galleries?
I try to answer: We hunt, fish, garden, go to church and just sit on the front porch and enjoy nature.
But I came up with a fuller answer last Saturday when I witnessed and experienced a good sampling of what country folks do.
That morning I drove to town to the co-op, which was packed with customers doing the very same kind of things I was going to do — picking through tomato plants, getting equipment repaired, loading bags onto trucks.
In the lawn mower shop I chatted with retired co-op manager Dennis Wilson, who was just filling in.
Outside, I browsed through tomato and pepper plants. I settled for some Arkansas Traveler and cherry red tomatoes and sweet banana peppers.
I never heard of Arkansas Traveler, but that’s the name of an old fiddle tune, and the plants looked healthy, so why not? I later learned they’re an old-timey heirloom variety, all the better.
At the checkout counter, Quinn Toney boxed up my plants, scooped me out a sack of okra seeds and fielded my questions about cushaw seed and sweet potato draws, neither of which was available yet. Mr. Quinn used to run Liberty Hardware Store and was always a delight to deal with. I’ve bought untold gallons of paint, single and double spring traps, plugs of Cannonball tobacco, even a snub-nosed .22 revolver from him back in the day.
I put in an order for 10 sacks each of topsoil and garden manure to go on my raised beds. Longtime employee Michael Tobias loaded them onto a forklift and brought them to my truck, where we tossed them into the bed.
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My truck loaded, I headed to Gillsburg for a walk in the woods, which were greened up and gorgeous. I checked out tracks of deer, hog and raccoon, the spent blossoms of tulip poplar trees, the bright green mitts of sassafras leaves.
As I approached a wooden box deer stand by a food plot, I heard something big thump inside, and a buzzard flew out the window. I eased closer and another buzzard flew out, perched on the window sill and vomited. The smell almost made me do the same.
I seem to remember reading that’s a defense mechanism. Well, it’s pretty darned effective.
The second buzzard flew up to a pine limb and watched me closely.
Vultures normally lay their eggs in stumps, hollow trees or under logs, but they will use an abandoned shed now and then.
I peeked inside but saw nothing besides a metal folding chair. I suspect there was an egg or two under the chair, but the smell was too bad to keep looking.
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Back home, I lunched on a sandwich and iced tea, then went back out for more chores.
Backing my truck up to my raised-bed garden, I tossed bags of topsoil and garden manure into a wheelbarrow. I lay a sack of each in the beds and slit them open longways with my pocket knife. I dumped out the black dirt and raked it smooth. (I had already spread triple-13 fertilizer in the beds.)
I normally plant on Good Friday, but with the night-time temperature expected to go into the low 40s, I decided to hold off until later in the week.
After a short rest from unloading and spreading 900 pounds of dirt, I tossed a chainsaw into my side-by-side and headed to the Outback, where a large dead pine tree had fallen across the road.
I donned my chaps and cranked the 16-inch saw. There would be no easy way to cut this log, which lay at an angle and was a good 18 inches thick.
The wood was soft, but as I got three-quarters of the way through, the log settled and pinched the blade, as I halfway expected. I jammed a bush ax into the gap, freeing the saw, but knew this would be a continuing problem.
When it pinched again, I rode home for a crowbar, sledge hammer, small chainsaw and towing chain. By dint of much effort I got the log sawed into chunks and rolled out of the way.
I returned to the house, satisfied with my efforts. Angelyn and I sat on the front porch swing for awhile as the shadows grew long. She pointed out various flowers blooming in the yard. Then we went inside for supper.
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“What do you do in a place like this?” I’ve been asked.
Well, I go to the feed store, chat with neighbors, walk in the woods, work in my garden, cut up a fallen tree, ride on my ATV, sit on the porch.
That’s just what country folks do.