They gather together every morning at Kountry Korner gas station in Union Church. Steam rising from coffee in styrofoam cups as they sit in plastic chairs between the wine and potato chips aisle and the wall of drink coolers.
For over 30 years they have talked about the news around town or solved the world’s problems while taking a break from the cows, soybeans and sugarcane. They did most of their shopping next door at the Mobile County Co-op with everything from feed and burlap bags to a meat cutter who sliced up meat the way that wanted it. Once a month they drove to Mobile to get groceries at Delchamps. A long trip was even longer when the road was still dirt. The Co-op closed years ago and they are forced to go to Mobile more often.
Age has caught up with them and sons have taken over the farms, planting new crops like crepe myrtle trees and blueberries. Husbands have passed away. One died from Parkinson’s diseases, “a terrible way to go.”
They are proud of their lives and their community. Proud of marriages that lasted until “death do us part.”
“We have been married for 57 years. When we got married it was for life. These days it’s not for life.”
My parents married 51 years ago today. My dad laughed yesterday when I called a day early and said he never expected it to last this long. I did. He is a farmer and she is a farmer’s wife. Both are strong enough to stand by every commitment they made.
People like that fight the forces of nature, labor, and competition, selling what they raise for prices that are way too low. Year after year, they give everything they have to feed their family, and many other people, too, while hanging in for another year. When times got tough, my dad got tougher. He called it “bowing your head and root-hogging through.” He “root-hogged through” with his catfish farm for 40 years until it was time to sell the farm, retire and plant the garden he always wanted. My mom was glad to have him around so they could travel a little more.
I worked on the farm during the summers but always felt a little guilty that I never went back and do more, like my brother did. I am not as good at “root-hogging” and wouldn’t have lasted working every day from sunup to sundown, seven days a week.
It breaks my heart to see farmland for sale because it is a sign that we are losing a generation that was tough enough to raise life from dirt and survive drought, floods, and plagues. People strong enough to stay together forever.
I will never be as strong as they are, but I am thankful I come from people like that.
Happy anniversary Mom and Dad. I love you.