Wednesday, February 2, 2011

42. Farmers

Of course I recognized him straight away. C.W. had called and said meet him for coffee early this morning. It wasn’t hard. How many times does one enter Starbucks and see a portly man wearing overalls and a straw hat? I started to execute an “about-face” and leave, but he had already spotted me.

“Big Dope,” he yelled loud enough to be heard in the nearest county. “Moan over here and set.” He had already purchased two coffees so what could I do?

As I eased into a chair, I noticed that he had been studying a small booklet. Our state legislature was in session and he had obtained one of those free publications that feature information about the various senators and representatives.

“Can’t be long,” he said. “Got to be cuttin’ hay.”

“C.W., I said. “It’s February.”

“You don’t cut hay in February?”

“Not in Arkansas.”

“Well, I’ll swan. Guess I’ll chop some cotton.”

“Will you cut it out?”

“Tell me something, Jimbo,” he said, picking up the booklet.

“Don’t call me that,” I said. “What can I tell you?”

“Been studyin’ up on legislators,” he said.


“Was wondering why so many of the men list their occupations as ‘farmers.’ Don’t y’all elect anyone else?”

“Well,” I said. “They’re not really farmers. At least not as a primary occupation.”

“It says here they are,” he said, picking up the booklet. “You mean they don’t really farm. They lyin’?”

“They farm the way George Washington built Mount Vernon.”

“How’s that?”

“They own some land and workers and drive by every once in awhile to see what’s going on.”

“I’ll swan,” he said. “Who in blazes are they?”

“It varies. A lot are attorneys and some are bankers.”

“I can see how a feller wouldn’t want to admit to that.”

“Now don’t stereotype our species. We’ve talked about that before.”

“I reckon. So who does the real farming that I see going on?”

“Corporations to a large extent. It’s a business like anything else.”

He sipped his coffee and grimaced. “I still don’t see how y’all drink this stuff,” he said. “Hit tastes worse than a heifer’s hind-end smells.”

I ignored him and glanced around to see if anyone was watching.

After a moment, he asked, “Well why in the world do they choose farming to list as an occupation if that ain’t what they do?”

“Who knows,” I said. “Maybe they think it produces an image of a strong, independent man of the soil who bows down to nobody—like the ‘Marlboro Man.’”

C.W. on Farming: "Looks like the old days are done fer"
“The one who died of cancer?”

“Yeah, that one.”

“Well somethin’ here don’t make no more sense than a preacher with a lot of money.”

“What’s that?”

“This ‘idee’ of independence. According to my research so far, farming may be the occupation in your country most heavily supported by the taxpayers.”

“Uh no, I said. That might be banking now.”

“I’ll swan,” he said.

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