by Pettus Read
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to speak to numerous audiences across this great state and I always leave those gatherings feeling a lot better when I left than when I got there. Not because my presentation was over or the green beans were not cooked, but because the people I get to meet make me feel honored to have made their acquaintance.
During these visits I usually tell a few of my stories and try to make some point about rural living being the grass roots level of our country's moral fiber. There is a story I always tell that sort of brings that point home about an elderly couple going to the store and their encounter with a young couple in love. I have told the story for years and really don't remember where I first heard or read its beginnings. It could have been one of those front porch visits with my grandparents in years past or one passed on to me from a reader. To the original author, whoever it may be, I wish to express my thanks for a great story we all may relate to. It has become somewhat of a trademark closing of my talks and I would like to share it here.
An old couple headed out to town in their old, red pickup truck as they had done together for over 50 years. It was the day that the Social Security check had been deposited and they needed a few groceries to tide them over until next week's visit to the city. Just like farm folks in years past, every Saturday usually required a visit to town.
They each took their usual places in the vehicle, the old man in the driver's seat and his wife on the passenger's side of the truck. A very noticeable wide area in the center of the truck could be seen between the couple.
The couple had been married for 50 plus years and had traveled this road many times. However, this day the old farmer's wife had noticed something different in the automobile driving along in front of them.
There, in a bright red sports car, was a young couple you could tell were madly in love. The beauty of the fall day had also caused this couple to seek a trip on the country road, but their trip to town was a long way from picking up a few things at the store. Their only thoughts were being together with each other and enjoying the day as a couple in love.
There was also a very noticeable difference in the location of the young couple in the car and the older couple in the farm truck. Just as far as the older couple was sitting apart, the younger couple was sitting that much closer together. In fact, if a pin was placed between them you could easily have stuck them both with the same pin.
The observation of the young couple in the car by the old lady brought back many fond memories of when she and her husband used to sit close together as they would travel down this same road when they were first married. She could remember how he would drive with one hand on the wheel and place his other arm around her.
Their travels in those days would be to the store to buy supplies on a limited farm income. An income that was dependent on the weather, interest rates at the bank, cost of seed, and whether or not the market for cattle would stay up. They would also stop by the local store to split a Coca-Cola and a bag of peanuts just to make the day a little special for a young couple in love.
Yes, the old woman missed those early days and as she watched the young couple in front of them, her eyes also glanced to the empty space that now occupied the seat in the middle of the truck. For some reason the space between the couple had grown wider, and after years of working together as one, she had not noticed just how wide the space had grown.
As they drove along she turned to her husband and said, "Just look at those young folks in front of us. They seem to really love each other."
The old farmer continued to stare straight ahead and his only reply was, "Yep."
Once again his wife of 50 years commented, "Yeah, they sure must think a lot of each other. Just look at how close they are sitting together. "I can remember when we used to sit that close when we would ride together."
The old man continued to look straight ahead with both hands on the steering wheel but now with a twinkle in his eye he said, "Well, I haven't moved."
As the truck continued on down the road following the sports car, people it passed now had a hard time determining whether or not there was one or two people in the truck's seat.