It’s mid-afternoon. I just got back from a farm supply store in nearby Cedar Park, Texas. It’s been a good day, and it’s not over yet! I had lunch with my daughter Joy today, picking her up at work in Jonestown, a few miles west of Cedar Park. We went to lunch at a restaurant that was new to us in scenic Lago Vista, a couple of miles west of Jonestown. All three towns are northwest of Austin. My hamburger was a half pounder, stuffed with hatch chili peppers, cheese, and bits of bacon. It appealed to me mainly because it was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal. Probably about 3,000 calories and an amount of fat that I don’t want to know. I’ll eat light tonight.
After lunch Joy wanted me to stop by her office to see the new carpeting that replaced some badly worn carpeting of many years. She wanted to have me say hello to her staff, then she led me to the front lobby where maybe a dozen clients of this Travis County community assistance center were gathered to socialize with their neighbors. One of them, about eighty years old, observed,
“You are quite a bit taller than Joy, but you both have the same smile.”
“When I was growing up on the farm, I got a lot of fertilizer spilled in my shoes. That made me shoot up like a weed.”
He and a friend across the table laughed as I walked over to speak to a larger group of ten or so people.
As I began to drive out of the parking lot, I thought about my remark about spilling fertilizer in my shoes as a boy on the farm. Some of that fertilizer–depending on the day–was cow manure, or chicken manure, or hog manure (the worst), or chemical fertilizer that we used to put on crops in Tennessee so many years ago.
Then I remembered a farm supply store in Cedar Park where I bought an ax a couple of years ago to use in chopping trees in our wild Hill Country landscape. The ax has a yellow plastic handle that doesn’t feel as good in my hands as a wooden ax handle. It feels like a city slicker’s ax, not a farmer’s ax. But I guess I’m a city slicker now anyway.
So I decided to stop at that farm supply store on the way home. It is on the north edge of town not far from some farmland that is rapidly yielding to suburban sprawl. The population in this part of Texas is spreading like fleas on a dog, but people have to live somewhere.
As I walked in the store, I paused a moment to size up the place. I moseyed down an aisle to the left as the mingled smell of farm products reminded me of farm supply stores of my youth. First I came upon the distinctive smell of rubber tires that were waiting there to replace old ones on wheelbarrows, small tractors, garden tillers, riding mowers, and carts.
Farther back the smell changed to that of light oil on metal to keep it from rusting. Here were heavy-duty tempered steel pins for hitching wagons to the drawbars of tractors. Some were equipped with hairpin-shaped cotter pins to keep the hitch pins from bouncing out of the drawbar or from being pushed out over rugged terrain.
I remembered a scary story that Daddy had told me years ago about my brother Nolen Robert, soon after he died. He was hauling a load of firewood on a trailer behind the tractor. He was coming down a steep hill on a farm road from what we called the “Hanna Holler” area of our farm when the hitch pin came out of the drawbar. Nolen Robert heard a funny noise and looked around to see the trailer riding up the deep tread of a rear wheel of the tractor. He jumped off the tractor in the opposite direction and escaped uninjured. This time. It’s important for hitch pins to stay in place in such situations.
Today the hitch pins without cotter pins at the end cost $5.49. The ones with a cotter pin at the end cost $5.99. The extra fifty cents could be thought of as a cheap life insurance policy. I remembered Nolen Robert’s narrow escape. After looking over the hitch pins and cotter pins of various sizes, I walked to the other side of the store.
There came the smells of livestock feed triggering memories. I approached bags of various shapes and sizes with feeds and nutritional supplements for horses (this is Texas, after all), cows (ditto), sheep, and goats. I remembered the bags of feed and salt blocks we hauled on our pickup truck from a farm supply store for our cattle, hogs, and chickens as I was growing up.
As I walked back up toward the front of the store, I came upon a section containing clothing and protective gear. Hanging above my head on the front wall were straw hats with green visors built into the front part of the brims. I remembered hats like that being worn by Tennessee farmers when I was young. The hats haven’t changed one bit. I never wore hats like that, and usually no hat at all. But if I had, maybe two dermatologists would not have had to carve basal cell skin cancers off my nose and cheekbone a half century later.
So now I’m back from the farm supply store. It’s now late afternoon and time to post something new on my blog. Well, folks—this is it! 🙂
It has been a good day. And it’s not over yet. What’s next?