It’s fall in Tennessee and along with the changing of color of the trees (which is not as pretty as Indiana, my home State), the geese are wending their way south and the air is crisp. It is time for some final outdoor preparations too. This afternoon I stepped outside to mow my yard and discovered my gas can was empty. Since my yard is going to continue growing down here through December, I figured I had better go and fill it up.
Arriving at the convenience store, I dispense the gas and pay at the pump, but I walked into the store for another purchase. While I stood in line, I recognized a man that I see frequently at this convenience store. He wears overalls, a faded red ball cap with the word “Best” on the label over his visor. I think it is a seed company, but I can never see it clearly enough to know for sure. His name is Eugene.
Eugene is a farmer whose family has lived in Nolensville for three generations. With all of the urban growth around Nashville, Nolensville maintains it rural personality, with Eugene’s corn field directly across Nolensville Pike from the Twice Daily convenience store where I stand in line. He is always buying the same thing…ten dollars of gasoline that he pays in cash because he doesn’t do business with bank cards. “The dang things charge you to use them!” he says with wide eyes. “Why would I use a card that charges me to use it?” He smiles big and shows his 78 year old teeth, no caps, no veneers, no ultra whitening. Eugene told me once that television “has got everbody so image conscious that everone wants to look young for their casket picture for the newspaper!” He laughs, grins and says , “oh my, my!”
I asked Eugene to maybe put a little more gas than ten dollars in his gas tank and he grins real big and says, “If’n I kick the bucket tonight, I don’t want nobody getting a full tank of gas off’n my hard work!” “Let em fill it up thurselves!” He laughs big and says, “oh my, my.”
Eugene and I became friends this summer, when during one of the hottest days of the year he was out in his field. It was a fallow year for this field. Last year they were supposed to rotate and Eugene had wanted to plant soybeans, but he needed to feed the soil…so he let this one lay fallow. He was on his knees smelling the soil to see if it smelled “acidy” according to him. I had thought he was having a heart attack and had parked my car on the side of the road and walked into the field calling to him to see if he was okay. Eugene had looked up at me and said “You can tell if a field is ready by color, smell and doin’ some fancy test by the County Agriculture office…but I like smellin’ best!” Needless to say he hadn’t had a heart attack.
He thanked me for stopping and asked me if I had ever farmed. I told him my former father-in-law was God’s favorite farmer and Eugene just laughed and said, “oh, my, my”! He offered to buy me a Coke for stoppin’ cuz “folks just don’t care no more!” We had gone up to the Twice Daily market and that was the first time I had seen him put ten dollars in his tank. Over the months we have lived here in Nolensville, I made it appoint if his old 1975 Ford Truck was sitting at the gas pump when I passed by, I would stop and talk to him.
I asked Eugene to tell me about his family. He blinked a little and took a big long sip of his Coke. “My wife and I raised 4 kids, “en ever one of um moved away…not a one of em a farmer!” He smiled big and said, “but, you know, that’s how God does…you know?” “That’s just how God does…raise up a child the way God wants em to go and when deys growed, they don’t walk away from it.” “Evidently, God dint want none of em’ to be farmers!” He told me they were scattered to the wind, but one daughter was in Nashville and she always stopped by to check on him.
His weathered face had big smile lines. He told me that he was one of seven boys in his family and the first to be in the Army. When he had finished his hitch, he said he went home to help his daddy. I wondered…but didn’t ask him about his wife. As if he could read my mind he said, “My wife and I were married 51 years but she went to Jesus a few years ago.” He hesitated and then continued,
“I still have a maid that comes round’ ever week to dust and clean, en I make shore they dust and clean the floor just so my wife would be proud of the way the house looks effin’ she ever comes to visit while I’m a sleepin’”
I told him I was grateful for my wife too and he smiled and showed his teeth and said, “Dey keep us honest don’t dey?” He laughed out loud and said, “Oh, my, my” I nodded to the affirmative and he said, “dey DO keep us honest!” I asked about retirement and Eugene said, “I cain’t think about dat…I am too busy puttin’ away silage right now and getting the soybeans in”. “I got plenty of time to rest from November through February!”
Today, Eugene’s eyes met mine and he said, “Heyo frien!” I said, Heyo…just like him. We got to talkin’ about me mowing grass and him having to pay twelve hundred dollars for a roller bar under one of his pieces of equipment. “Can you believe dat? Twelve HUNDRED dollars! I liked to had a calf myself when dey told me dat!” then he laughed big and said, “Oh, my, my….but it’s jes money…you know? It’s jes money.” The time had come for me to get back and mow my grass and as I left I looked at the sun beginning to set and Eugene was walking next to me. I said,
“Aren’t the sun sets beautiful in Tennessee?” I said, I am so glad to be saved, and that was when Eugene, took hold of my arm and said, “Hey…we BOTH saved…we lucky ain’t we? We da lucky ones ain’t we?” I smiled and said, “More like blessed Eugene” and he laughed and said, “yeah…we blessed and even though we got joints dat get stiff and fingers dat don’t want to work…we blessed” Then he smiled big, showed his teeth and said… “When Jesus come to take me home, I figure He gots a farm what need looking to and He will want me to fix his tractor of sumpthin’…and you know what? I got DAT covered!” Then he laughed out loud, showed his teeth and said, “Oh, my my!”