Down On The Funny Farm – Beans & Watermelon
By Clint Pollard
The Rest of the Story by Doug Harrell
I have no idea how many of you have ever worked in cornfield beans, but if you have, I am sure you have probably walked out of the field itching, I know I have done that many times. Clint was extremely worried, as he should have been, about using any kind of chemicals, and I was always conscious of warning him when there was a danger. He did have red whelks around his arms and neck the day he came in from the bean field. I can still see him before he went to the field with his chemical suit on, respirator and gloves, I had put a little fear in him because I did not want him to get hurt or exposed to anything that might hurt him. When I looked at his neck it was instantly apparent what had taken place. The look in his eyes said, am I going to live? He did look much better after the shower and piece of Barbara’s delicious cake.
Betsy, Barbara, and I had a belly laugh about the watermelon situation, Clint was beginning to get the hang of farm life about the time we took over the paper, and he moved to Spruce Pine. Those were the days my friend!
As I reminisce about my past agricultural prowess, I am still amazed to have survived so many near-misses with death at Harrell Hill Farms. There are nights I awaken, terrified of “what might have been,” always thankful for God’s protective covering.
This month I want to share two short stories, more evidence of how easily things can go awry!
It was a sweltering summer day as Doug dispatched me to spray insecticide on rows of beans and tomato plants. While I don’t recall the exact name of the chemical, I believe it was the first cousin to Agent Orange. Despite temperatures in the 90’s, my buddy insisted that I wear a ridiculous crepe suit, gloves, and hat. “Pollard, this is a dangerous chemical and you need to be careful not to let it get on your skin,” Farmer Doug warned. Always compliant, I slithered my then fat self into the hunter’s green material, donned my farmer’s gloves, and set out to eradicate the veggie cannibals.
I had the presence of mind to stand down-wind of the fine chemical mist so as not to drink too many of the tiny droplets. And spray I did…up and down…all around…bugs gasping for their last precious breath as I bobbed and weaved among the rows. Dodging pigweed, swarms of hornets, and all manner of creepy-crawly things I maneuvered throughout the vast garden. Mission accomplished.
Returning home that evening the skin on my neck was burning, tingling, and feeling as though a gazillion fire ants were feasting on my blood. As I looked in the mirror, I noted what appeared to be a vast blister, better said leprosy! Alas, my life flashed before my eyes as I envisioned the end…surely the dastardly chemical mixture was expediting my trip to heaven. I scurried to the farmhouse kitchen, hoping only to bid farewell to Doug and Barbara.
Running headlong into my mountain-man friend, my eyes telegraphing terror and distress, he asked, “Pollard, what’s wrong with you?” I explain how I followed his instruction, “Doug, I wore the suit and gloves even though the heat was nearly exhausting. I even thought to stand upwind of the spray. But, as you see, my skin is being eaten from the outside in.”
That crooked smile and mischievous look, the one he always displays just before saying “Pollard, I don’t know what I’m gonna do with you,” that one…and he asked, “Uh, did you get tangled up in the beans?” Thinking back, I recounted how a couple of times the cornrow beans had wrapped their stringy vines around my neck, once nearly taking me to my knees. “You are allergic to the bean vine, lots of folks are,” Doug said. “Take a shower, dry it off and you’ll be okay in a couple of days.” Snickering, having a bit too much fun, in my opinion, my friend offered me a piece of cake. And I devoured it, thankful that God spared me death from the nuclear material.
I had been plowing, hoeing, raking, and otherwise eating dust all day long. An extended dry spell plagued our mountain farm as Doug lovingly and painstakingly taught me the process of harvesting hay. I had recently learned to lift and transport the round bales (a story for another day) and was returning to the barn with a fresh load.
As you know from previous musings, I love driving the tractor. Tooling along down Harrell Hill Road I “was one” with the land…content in my role as farmhand extraordinaire…privileged to captain the Kioti along our rural roads.
I’m telling ya, this was a hot day and I’d had no water in a few hours (Doug didn’t give me breaks L). As I rounded the bend, I saw a lovely lady standing at the intersection of Harrell Hill Road and Byrd Road. Drawing near I recognized Betsy, Doug’s cousin, and my friend. Her arm was extended as though flying a kite, but I quickly noticed that instead, she was waving a piece of watermelon.
As I passed by, I could almost taste the succulent, dripping, cool red melon. And I wondered aloud, “Why is Betsy standing there waving a slice of watermelon? Such unusual customs in these mountains.” Nevertheless, I smiled, tipped my Farmer Clint hat as a gentlemanly gesture, and went to deposit the hay. All the while wishing I could figure out a way to finagle that watermelon from Betsy.
A week or so later Doug remarked, “You hurt Betsy’s feelings and I think you might want to talk to her about it.” I searched the cobwebs of my mind to comprehend what I possibly could have done to offend this wonderful woman. “What did I do now?” I whined. Once again, his eyes two mischievous marbles, my friend explained, “Betsy tried to flag you down for some watermelon last week and you just drove by and waved.”
I immediately went on the attack, defensive to the extreme I proclaimed, “Now look, I don’t know the rules of etiquette here. What was I supposed to do? You know I like Betsy, and you know I like watermelon. What you don’t know is that I WANTED Betsy’s watermelon! But how was I to know she wanted to share with me? It just didn’t seem right to stop and say, ‘Hi Betsy, may I please have your watermelon!’ Or what if I had leaped from the tractor and said, ‘Gimme that watermelon Betsy!’” Bursting into laughter my friends Doug and Barbara nearly died at the hilarity of that vision.
That was an important day, though, in my education at Harrell Hill Farms. What I learned is that on the farm virtually every gesture has meaning, and every movement has a purpose beyond what is apparent.
A few days later I apologized to Betsy for my faux pas. “That’s okay,” she said. “There’s always another day and another watermelon.” So, if you’re new here and don’t know what to do, remember…never fly by a lovely lady waving watermelon in your direction!
As always, I thank God for the memories and experiences at Harrell Hill Farms…growing more distant now as the years roll along. Your old pal Farmer Clint enjoyed a special time of healing and restoration in the cornrows, sorghum cane fields, at the river, at the farmhouse table…among true friends. Thank you, Jesus.
Still humbled in these hills,