News from Ellenboro 4/13/2012

Josiah is getting ready to go to market, and Jed is going with him. It’s a farmers’ market where people go to buy veggies and meat raised on small farms in the area, but Jed is still excited. “I’m taking my money, Siah,” he declares exuberantly. “Cool, dude, whatcha gonna buy?” The response is instant and confident: “A gun.” “A gun?” Josiah is skeptical, but Jed affirms vigorously, “A gun.” “Well, how much money do you have?” Jed answers as he spills some coins onto the table, “Hundreds and hundreds of dollars.” Josiah tries to explain to Jed that he only has a few hundredths of one dollar, but Jed remains unconvinced. “No, Siah, I’m gonna buy a gun…A shotgun.”

When you’re young, everything is bigger. The small things are larger than life, and the big ones are gigantic. An oak tree with a bend a few feet off the ground becomes a castle’s tower, or a mountain to conquer, or the bow of a mighty sailing vessel. For hours you stride along the seven feet of almost-level trunk, directing epic sea battles from the for’rard deck of your flagship. You stand in the topmost turret of your castle, barking orders that are obeyed instantly by hapless minions fearing death should they incur your displeasure, and then Dad appears and his head is level with the top of your 200-ft. tower –“Time for supper,” he says—and you’re a kid again and leap, howling with delight, into your father’s mighty arms.

Warm weather means it will be swimming season soon, and the kids walk down to the creek to “wade.” Invariably, someone “falls in,” “accidentally,” in such a way that—even though the creek is only two feet deep, at most—they’re soaked up to their neck. Joseph and Nathan hatch a plot to pull the wool over Mom’s eyes (“Nate, you push me in, and I’ll say such and such happened, then we’ll dunk you and say…”), and it works. Mom doesn’t suspect them, but simply orders them to take a shower, and they laugh about their cleverness—quietly, of course—but big brother heard them conspiring. As Joseph is taking the mandated shower, big brother steps into the laundry room and turns off the hot-water heater, (one of those tankless, on-demand, gas-powered contraptions) and the resulting icy deluge almost kills him, but leaves enough life in him that he can loudly express his displeasure. He storms out after his shower, demanding to know WHO would DARE! …but everyone’s laughing and nobody’s talking, so Joseph has to let it go.

It’s April, and the garden bug bit Dad in January, so he’s had plant fever for about three months now, and the garden plots are full of green shoots in neat rows. Raised beds of potatoes occupy all of one plot, and the other is half-filled with more elevated beds containing leaf lettuce, carrots, beets, carrots, and greens (spinach, kale, collards, and mustards among them). Already there have been several salads made with homegrown lettuce—character-building opportunities for the kids (“See here, Jed, it’s either eat salad or go hungry,” Dad tells him, and Jed digs in like the salad is cupcakes with sprinkles and icing on top)—and everyone eagerly anticipates fresh kale to go with pork chops and corn bread. There’s ham in the freezer, for black beans and ham (with rice and coleslaw), and a package of sirloin tip for beef stew, also served over rice. A perennial favorite is Southwest Soup: tomatoes, corn, black beans, and ground beef, served with tortilla chips and sour cream. And then there are eggs, bacon, grits, oatmeal, whole grain cereals, All-Bran (looks just like bran pellets they give to horses), and all sorts of other good and wholesome food. Eating is not something the Crains take lightly; it’s serious business, providing the means to survive and work another day, cooperating with their overall goal of a healthy lifestyle…and yes, they enjoy their food, too!

Mom is in the kitchen, about to grind wheat in her WhisperMill that sounds like an airplane on final approach (“It’s the quietest one on the market,” she says in her gentle way as the mill gears down to convert the hard red wheat into wholesome flour), and the plane lands, taxies to the terminal and shuts off its engines—the turbines take a full minute to wind down. But there’s fresh bread for supper, and the whole family spreads butter on the piping-hot slices, and thanks the Lord for the Whisper(Loud)Mill. They also thank Him that Mom knows how to cook so well.

Dad and David take a trip to pick up a piece of equipment for the farm, and the journey begins at six AM…after breakfast, of course. Dad hooks the trailer to the truck, and the two of them journey four hours east to get this disc. CDs are rapidly going the way of the 8-track tape, but this disc was made before either of them were around—it’s a disc harrow that breaks up the sod and readies the soil for planting—and although it’s old, it’s definitely usable. On the way home, they share a Subway sandwich and reminisce about Florida, the state where Dad grew up, and how much the eastern part of NC reminds them of it (“It’s almost like somebody copied and pasted the landscape and vegetation,” David observes to himself). Arriving home in the mid-afternoon, they slide gratefully from the truck and stretch their legs—“That truck gets smaller as the trip gets longer,” Dad jokes—and they’re greeted with shouts of welcome from the family and yelps of joy from Ivan, the ninety-pound Boerbel that loves to see his people come home from anywhere. After a nutritious meal, the family gathers in the living room to hear Dad read from the Bible and a Ralph Moody book. Moody writes about life as it was at the beginning of the last century, and everyone loves to hear Dad read about the interesting experience Ralph had in Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, and the Southwestern United States.

Well, that’s the news from Ellenboro, where the roads are never straight, the stores are small, the people are friendly—and the traffic lights are so close together, if you sneeze you’ll run ‘em both.


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