It isn’t much, yet the two ladies that live down the road a bit do appreciate the fresh veggies. They are friends of ours, both a bit older, although one not nearly so, and has yet to retire. The older had a factory job until of age. Yet, in that they have a 250-acre farm to run, neither uses the front porch much.
We met them shortly after we moved here. I met the younger first, at a Neighborhood Watch meeting/barbeque. We talked for quite a while afterward in the drive. Her last name coincided with a nearby road named some 100 years earlier. She and her friend lived at the end of that road. I found her delightful and informed in areas I knew little about when it came to farm animals. I wanted to become neighborly, as did she, yet could not guarantee that her friend, somewhat more reserved than she, would feel the same.
I had occasion to visit their farm shortly thereafter with the purpose of retrieving a truck bed or three of a manure/straw mix from their barn for my first attempt at compost. There was the friend in the drive, curious about the newcomer. It was a good thing I had the local classical station on my radio.
While neither woman will shy away from farm duties, both have certain and individual infirmities that make for a slow pace. For years, three bachelor farmer brothers who live with their blessed mother have helped these women. (Theirs is also a name that resonates throughout the county.) In exchange for the manure, I offered to help clean the barn floor back to the concrete under six or seven inches of what I had loaded for home. I have since helped in this chore several times. I have also helped shear and inoculate their sheep. In the doing I learned much about their farm, its history and place in the township. The younger had grown up there and was proud to be the keeper of the story.
The foundation of the barn was constructed by her grandfather with river rock, self-loaded and hauled one mile at the cost of one dime per wagon load from a river property owner in 1909. Her parents took over the farm at some point, she went off to college and to practice her trade in the San Francisco area. When her parents grew too old to maintain the property in the manner it demanded, she and her friend moved back to her childhood home to help. And here they have remained for thirty-plus years.
She and her friend.
It is a common practice in this small area of the County to not inquire after too many aspects of a neighbor’s beliefs, politics and such. It is above all, I believe, a practical consideration as all share in an understanding that having a helpful neighbor takes precedence over other affiliations. This does not lessen the curiosity about certain matters, yet after a while, other qualities of character make some of the questions not nearly as important as they once seemed. The younger remained as sweet and gentle as ever, and the older friend, gruff as she initially seemed, has taken a shine to DW and I and readily shares a side that is just as soft as her housemate. And slowly, we have been given glimpses of their lives together.
So, of a Sunday, after we inquire after their produce needs, I make the trip with the product, we sit and talk for a time as I play fetch with their OCD Border Collie. Today, however, the visit was cut short as I had chores. I remarked about the three brother’s bull they have borrowed for their cows; they expressed dismay over the bull’s performance; and we shared recipes for tuna casserole, for that is what the elder was preparing for dinner. We said our good-byes.
Some of my chores were in the house today and I picked up the phone when it rang. It was the older of the two. She had made too much casserole and wanted to know if I would please take one quart-sized pan off of their hands. She would even drive it over. I said yes to the former but, knowing her level of mobility at the moment, made the drive myself.
I was greeted by the younger coming down to the gate with dinner. I thanked her and yelled the same at the house for the friend. We spoke about reciprocation. I assured her that their acceptance of us newcomers six years ago, and the friendship that has developed, was all we needed, and to drive home the point, told her that I would otherwise be scarce if I were not so grateful myself.
As I was leaving I mentioned that tomorrow DW and I are going to the State Fair to see, among other things, the All Girl Roller Derby exhibition. She was familiar with the renewed interest in the sport. After all, she shared, the eldest had once tried out for the San Francisco…
I completed her sentence. “Bay Bombers!?”
I could see it. And wish I had.