Wednesday, March 24, 2010

You know you're from Mt. Vernon when...

I love Mt. Vernon. There’s no other place I’d rather live.
When I was graduating, I couldn’t wait to get out, and I left for a few years. But since being home, I’ve realized what an emerald of a place we have here.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some down sides to living in a small town. Everybody knowing everybody’s everything can get a little old. Especially when everybody tells your everything to everybody.
But, all in all, there’s nothing more special than the way this town rallies around people who are having a hard time — or a good time, for that matter.
People in this little old town of Mt. Vernon are good stock, and they care about each other.
And that outweighs not having a Wal-Mart or a 15-show movie theater. At least in my book.
So in honor of all you out there who bleed green, I asked my online Facebook friends to help me think of some things unique to Mt. Vernon by finishing this sentence. Here’s what some of them said:
“You know you’re from Mt. Vernon when ...”
• you think apple butter is a food group.
• you don’t look twice when you see people driving lawnmowers or golf carts instead of cars.
• you realize other high schools don’t bale hay on the school’s front lawn.
• someone’s pulled over by police, you stare to see who it is because you probably know them.
• you pronounce it supe R market.
• you know where “Tater Town” is.
• someone hears on the scanner that your teenager got pulled over. Then they call to tell you.
• you can’t help viewing anybody in black and red as an “enemy” to the homeland.
• you move away and plan vacations back home around Apple Butter Makin’ Days.
• you used to hang on the square after Friday night games.
• someone gives you a local name, you could probably recite most of that person’s family members — including cousins and ex-spouses — and the year they graduated.
• your mascot has a coonskin hat and a shotgun.
• you can remember middle school movie nights at Ruble’s theater and have cruised around the Golden Keg.
• you would rather drive home to eat Mt. Vernon cashew chicken than eat it anywhere else.
• you don’t know street names. Directions are given based on who used to live near or around there or businesses that don’t exist anymore.
• you remember eating Queenie burgers.
• someone tells you to meet them at the “big tree” and you know exactly where it is.
• you know what Happy Brew, Jolly Curls and Smile Dogs are AND you know how to make them.
• you know most names — if not all — of people you see in the grocery store.
• your child is taught by teachers who also taught you, and, in some cases, your mom and dad.
The list could go on and on. But really, the spirit of this little town rests in the fact that there’s no place like home.
And that’s just what Mt. Vernon is to me. Home.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hoping to survive with grace

I am currently reading a true account of a woman from the early 1900s and her life on the Canadian frontier.
Boy, am I a wuss!
Page after page I am baffled by the obstacles day-to-day life brought this woman. The book told of a time when she and her husband were forced (due to starvation) to make a 25-mile hike in 65-degree-below weather with a toddler to a “nearby” cabin for help. Oh, and she was seven months pregnant! And they survived!
Stories like these are the norm in this woman’s life. After giving birth to her third child, she got word that her husband had drowned. Now she and her three young kids were on their own. There were tales about moose hunting — all four of them — from a crooked canoe. And more times than not there wasn’t enough food. There were wolf attacks and very vivid descriptions of nature and the majesty and terror that life on a homestead can bring.
I love reading books like this. It might seem weird, but reading about women who have had it worse — and most do — than me brings comfort and strength where I might lack.
Because since moving onto the farm, I have never been so humbled. There’s nothing like this type of life to make you see where you lack in physical strength and mental knowledge.
Like a few weeks ago when the kids and I went to check the chickens. And then one got out.
“No big deal,” I thought. I was just going to grab the fishing net we use for this type of situation and collect the bird and place her back inside.
And the kids were going to help ...
Which meant that our little fix turned into a half-hour trek through the pasture, back and around all sorts of nooks and crannies.
Finally, I surrendered. We went back inside to eat dinner and let the bird deal with the consequences that might befall her. But when Matt got wind of the events, he told me (he was at work) that I needed to try harder to save his blessed hen.
So every 15 minutes or so, I went out into the dark, cold night trying different scenarios to catch the already spooked bird and lead her back to captivity.
I’m thankful you didn’t see me that night. Because in the light of the chicken house, I could be seen running — with Matt’s too-big-for-me knee-high work boots on — chasing the winged creature around the entire back of my yard with the fishing net. A ridiculous, and unfortunately accurate, display of my farming abilities.
See, I gave up my pride a long time ago. Situations like these forced me to. Whether it’s trying to free my beloved bottle calf from his own stupidity (and mine) or attempting to help wrangle our entire herd of escaped cows. A life of pride simply does not go with my reality.
So reading these books of women who encountered actual life and death situations and handled them with what seemed to me as poise and grace, is inspiring.
And although I wasn’t able to save that stubborn hen — Matt had to catch her — I gave it my all.
Hopefully, one day all of my predicaments will amount to a story about a young city girl who survived this life with a lot of joy and, hopefully, a little bit of grace.
As seen in the Lawrence County Record