By Pettus L. Read
Winter attempted to make a swipe into the hills and valleys of Tennessee during the week of Valentine’s, and the people of the VolunteerState once again took up residence in their homes. But their thoughts and dreams were about a future spring pilgrimage to their yards and fields out back, hoping to cure the cabin fever disease now in epidemic proportions around the state.
The local Farmers Co-ops are already getting fertilizer price checks, and farmers are thinking about planting and hoping for another successful year of production at harvest time. Oh, there will still be cold snaps for dogwood winter, blackberry winter, locust winter and cotton britches winter, but everyone is ready for this “barren winter” to end.
On one of those cold afternoons recently, I stopped by to see Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie on their farm. As I pulled into their gravel drive, I saw both of them getting out of their old pickup parked near Uncle Sid’s tool shed containing his H-Farmall tractor. He bought that tractor brand new, and it has always been kept in the tool shed except when it was being used on the farm. Next to Aunt Sadie, Uncle Sid loves that tractor more than anything he has ever had in his life. Aunt Sadie says he loves it more. She told me once that if it was raining and she was caught outside, he would check to see if that tractor was covered before he would get her an umbrella. He does like his tractor.
They both were wearing their “go-to-town” clothes, and as I got out of my truck, they walked with me to the couple’s old white frame farmhouse. They told me they had been to town to eat lunch at the new O’Charlie’s restaurant to celebrate Valentine’s Day, due to missing it because of the weather. Uncle Sid said he wanted to take his Sadie out to something more than the meat-and-three place down at the crossroads. He always has been sort of sentimental when it comes to special occasions.
“Yeah, Charlie has a pretty nice place in town,” Uncle Sid said as he patted Aunt Sadie on the leg. “It was real good. Didn’t even have any problems with my new teeth either. My steak was as soft as butter.”
After discussing his steak, Uncle Sid began to smile a bit and I knew something else was coming. He said, “Saw my cousin Sassafras there, too. He’s about five years older than I am, but married late in life. He and his wife Magdalena invited us to eat with them and we really had a good time. But, you know, I got sort of tired hearing him talk to Mag. He called her Honey, Darlin’, Sweetheart, Nanner Puddin’, Punkin’ and things like that.”
“Well, I guess he really likes his wife, Uncle Sid,” I said, trying to make conversation.
“Not really,” Uncle Sid fired back. “While Mag and Sadie went to the ladies room, I asked him why he never called her by her name instead of using all of those sugar-coated names.”
After a moment of pause, I asked, “And what did he say?”
With a mischievous look on his face, Uncle Sid said, “He just hung his head down and told me, ‘To tell you the truth, I forgot her name about ten years ago.’ ”
After a good laugh, Aunt Sadie looked at me and said, “We had a real good time, and the meal was real tasty. I got all caught up in the excitement of the day and left my reading glasses on the table. I didn’t miss them until we were a good five miles down the highway. When I told Sid what I had done and told him to look for a place to turn around, he threw a real good fuss and said I’m really getting forgetful.”
At this point, Uncle Sid began rolling a No. 2 pencil around under his large, old hand on the kitchen table we were sitting at and seemed to put most of his attention on the chore of making that moment go away.
Aunt Sadie went on with her story and said, “When we finally got back to the restaurant — and after a whole lot of fussing about me being forgetful — I got out of the truck to go in and get my glasses. Just as I got ready to close the truck door, Sid said, ‘While you’re in there, you might as well get my hat, too.’ ”
See now why those two have been married so long? It’s more than the tractor in the shed, but a lot of years of giving and taking between two people who really care for each other.
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.