It was a sight to behold. The funeral procession of cars and pickups was more than a mile long. I had to wonder if anyone other than the Pembroke police officers and Bryan County Sheriff deputies manning the roadblocks were left in Pembroke and north Bryan County.
Danny Page was an easy man to like. The turnout of friends on Tuesday night and again at midday on a beautiful Georgia Wednesday to lay him to rest was no surprise to me, even though I was the newcomer and had spent less time with him probably than anyone else in attendance. I was so new to Danny that he had not christened me with a nickname yet.
The first time we met he came in to the extension office, sat down and got straight to the point: “Do you know anything about cotton?”
I told him the truth. “It feels good when I wear it.”
Danny grabbed the bill of his cap, whipped it off his head and waved his arms in the air. “Darned if they didn’t send me one that doesn’t know nothin,’” he exclaimed.
I know a challenge when I see it. I knew this would happen when I took the job. My agent skill set fit the south end of the county fine, but the traditional row crop and cattle agriculture of the Pembroke area would mean this old dawg would have to learn new tricks. Danny was the bar I was going to have to clear to truly succeed in Bryan County.
Like everyone else, I thought I would have more time with him. He was five years younger than me, president of the Bryan County Farm Bureau, paramedic for LifeStar for more than a decade and ran successful farming and forestry operations. I did not know how lucky I had it.
Danny Page and Bob Floyd are both competent farmers, which gave me the chance to get up to speed before they really needed me. Both have been trying to help me along, and they gave me opportunities to learn at their sides.
Now Danny’s son Shaun has to shoulder the family business a lot sooner than he expected. My learning curve just got a lot steeper. Danny’s mother, Mrs. Hughlynn Page, had picked out a beautiful spot for the Page family cemetery at the edge of a field backed by live oaks where Hughlynn and now Danny can supervise to make sure the rows are plowed straight in the spring and watch the cotton harvest in autumn.
As I greeted Mrs. Page at graveside I found out where Danny learned to get straight to the point. I told her to call on us if we could help in any way. With Shaun clearly on her mind, she reset the bar for me: “You’re going to have to learn something about cotton.”
Gardner is the extension agent for Bryan County. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.