by Pettus Read
It was a beautiful Tennessee spring afternoon when I pulled in the long gravel driveway of Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie's farm. Their white frame house located among the landscape of the colored hillsides was the perfect example of what springtime on a Tennessee farm is all about!
Aunt Sadie met me at the front door wiping her hands on her apron as usual and led me to the back portion of their house. There, sitting at the round kitchen table, was Uncle Sid and their teenage granddaughter Jenny. Uncle Sid was working on a plate of Aunt Sadie's homemade cookies and sipping on a cup of coffee. Jenny was texting on her phone and Uncle Sid was fascinated at her ability to punch all the little buttons. After exchanging pleasantries and taking my seat at the table to also share with Uncle Sid some of Aunt Sadie's cookies, Uncle Sid once again directed his attention to Jenny's cell phone.
"Jenny, would you like some of my cookies? I just made them!" asked Aunt Sadie with a plate of warm cookies in her hand.
Rolling her eyes and giving a deep sigh, Jenny answered, "Are they organic or all natural?"
"Well, I made them myself and I do know they are made from scratch," my little gray-haired aunt said smiling.
"They're neither one," Uncle Sid quickly answered, while now looking up over his wire-rimmed glasses at Jenny. "She used Martha White and Crisco, which makes them "all right" in my book and about as natural as bacon in a cast iron skillet."
Jenny never looked up and said, "I only eat organic or natural foods these days. You know, only real farm food!"
That was all it took. Aunt Sadie and myself each slid a little further back in the kitchen. I grabbed one of the cookies meant for Jenny and waited on the old farmer to answer that last remark from the texting generation.
Uncle Sid reached over and gently placed his callused, farm-worn hand on Jenny's as she attempted to text. When she looked up to see what he was doing, he said, "I'm glad you take your health seriously these days and pay attention to what you eat. There are so many young folks who don't and I have always been very proud of you. That little telephone you have there can contact the world and get you a lot of information and even give you directions to where you want to go. Am I right?"
Being completely taken back by the old man's move and question, Jenny answered, "Yes sir."
"A preacher told a story the other night about a man who had two mules he couldn't tell apart. So, he cut one mule's mane fairly close and the other mule's tail somewhat shorter. That worked for a while until they both grew back out and then the man had to come up with another way to solve his problem," Uncle Sid told his granddaughter.
I could tell Jenny was wondering where this was going and she wasn't the only one. Uncle Sid went on with his story by saying, "The man decided to study his problem a little closer, and after a detailed examination and a lot of studying, he came up with a solution. He determined that the white mule was two inches shorter than the black mule."
The room grew silent and Jenny's eyes seemed to cloud over for a second. I wanted to laugh, but thought better and just waited to see what was coming next.
"You see Jenny," Uncle Sid said smiling at her, "Many times we can't see the true answer for looking too deep at our problem. There are all types of products produced on our farms that feed us all every day. The majority of it is about as organic and natural as anything you get, but some folks have gone to a little more trouble to make it somewhat more so than others. But, if we are going to feed all these folks riding up and down these highways it is going to take all us farmers producing the best food products we can. The way I farm is called traditional, and it has fed your folks, as well as a lot of generations before you, in a very safe and healthy way. We will keep on farming this way and your Aunt Sadie will keep cooking the same way she has too, because it is about as natural for her as my farming is for me. So, I guess you could say her cookies are all natural."
Uncle Sid then left the room to go check on things at the barn, but his final statements seemed to hit a nerve. Jenny put down her phone and went over to help Aunt Sadie in the kitchen and asked for one of her "all natural" cookies.
Uncle Sid does have a way with words.