It happened the other day. It’s funny how things so simple can remind us of things so meaningful, of those sweets that are tucked inside our hearts and unknowingly treasured.
I went to the co-op. For you non-farmer types, that’s the Farmers’ Exchange, where farm supplies are available at the most reasonable prices.
“Where’s Tink?” asked the lovely woman at the register, smiling cheerfully. “He’s the one who normally comes in.”
We exchanged talk on my husband’s whereabouts, and then I placed an order for several bags of horse feed.
She started to punch it into the register and paused to ask, “Now, y’all get the Triple Ten, don’t you?”
That meant a lot. In the South, which my family has called home for 11 generations, neighbors mean a lot. And where I come from, neighbors don’t just live next door. They live within a 25-mile radius of us. The cashier knew us by name and cared enough to remember what kind of horse feed we buy.
“Let me hug you ‘bye’,” she said, coming around the counter. “We just enjoy y’all so much.”
A couple minutes later, I pulled around to the back and waited to have the feed loaded. There were four vehicles waiting, and three were driven by women. One pulled up to have her truck loaded with hay. Another, driving a Ford dually pulling a small trailer, was given a large pallet of horse feed.
That meant a lot. For in my South, that of a rural landscape, women pitch in to do whatever needs doing. Last summer, Tink and I were on our way to a revival service and passed a farm where the pasture was being bush-hogged on a steamy late-July day. But it wasn’t a deeply tanned man who drove the tractor. It was pretty, young girl — about 15 or so — with a long, blonde ponytail trailing down her back. Cautiously, she drove the big John Deere, checking behind her as her father stood, his arms crossed, nodding while he watched.
“She looks like a homecoming queen, doesn’t she?” I remarked to Tink who watched with admiration.
“That’s amazing,” he replied. “Very impressive.”
When we came back by after church, it was around lunchtime and she was just finishing up and heading toward the barn.
“She’s finished,” Tink announced.
“Finished with that. She’s probably got other chores now,” I said.
As I was pulling out of the Farmers Exchange the other day, I noticed a large sign posted on a light pole in the parking lot with reference to the book of Isaiah. I made a mental note to myself to look that scripture up, but I had a notion I knew which one it was, for it is one that people — neighbors — use to encourage each other when droughts come, when rivers flood and when disease kills the crops and the livestock.
And it meant a lot. Because in my South, people believe in the ancient truths of the Bible and they count on each other for prayer when tribulations come.
I stopped next at the grocery store. As I started in, a woman passed, then stopped and called, “Louise?” It’s a common mistake — mixing me up with my sister, whom I favor.
I smiled and answered, “No, I’m Ronda.”
“Oh, Ronda!” she exclaimed. “I’ve never met you, but I’ve met your husband!”
That began a friendly introduction followed by a neighborly conversation. We didn’t know each other, but I had heard her husband was battling cancer and for him, a man I’d never met, I had prayed.
For that’s what neighbors do. She lives a ways away from us but, probably somewhere in time, one of my kin married one of hers.
Tink says often how he loves this South of mine — a place of hospitality, neighborliness, hard work and prayers.
The other day, I was reminded why my South is such a treasure.
And that is invaluable.
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