(This is my article for our local paper for 5-1-09)
I did something very un-bumpkin-like this past weekend. I traveled on a plane to visit my sister-in-law, Stephanie Fulford Gault, in Jackson, Mississippi. Bumpkins don’t normally travel, let alone to go see a live theater production of the musical Oliver! (Stephanie played Nancy and stole the show), so I guess I’m only half bumpkin after all. Meeting people on a plane can usually go one of three ways. Either you meet someone who wants to tell you everything about their life, you meet someone who wants to know everything about yours, or you don’t speak at all to the strangers next to or around you. For me, it usually goes the second way.
On my flight from Jackson to Atlanta, I sat next to a gal similar in age to me, so it was natural for us to strike up a conversation. Once we got past the initial small talk, I waited for the inevitable question: “So, what do you do?” And then I brace myself for the conversation to follow. I am pretty comfortable now with “the farm talk” that I have to give to most people. I have listened to my husband give the talk so many times now that I sound like the expert! “The talk” usually consists of a Q & A session on the crops we grow, the animals we have, if I grew up on a farm, what I think of it, how wonderful it must be, etc. I usually throw in a few little known facts that impress people to seal the deal. For example, did you know there are four different types of peanuts? Did you know that a peanut is actually a bean and not a nut? Or did you know that cows don’t produce milk until they’ve had a calf? What about this one… I bet you didn’t know 98% of all American farms are family operations! So we got through all of that rather quickly, and I heard her fascinating tale of her job as a “personal assistant” to an extremely wealthy couple in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She gets paid a salary to run errands, accompany them on trips (to run their vacation errands), ensure that the housekeeper and personal chef are doing their jobs properly, make phone calls for them, etc. I was as fascinated with her life as she was with mine. And I was pretty proud of myself for giving “the talk” so well.
When I sat down on my flight from Atlanta to Valdosta, I had no idea at what was ahead of me. When my small talk was over with the man next to me, and I had broken the news to him that my husband was a full time farmer, he asked what types of crops we grow. I replied, “peanuts, cotton, corn, sorghum, and soybeans.” He smiled and said, “I work for the University of Georgia as a peanut specialist. What type of peanuts do you grow?”
You can imagine the look on my face when I realized that I was no longer the expert on the farm talk. I was talking to the expert! He casually asked me all sorts of questions that are not part of my usual farm talk. I was definitely in unfamiliar territory. This was a Q & A session for my husband, not me! I am still in shock that my brain didn’t completely freeze up. I was able to answer him and he seemed satisfied with my answers. I even remembered that the specific variety of dry peanuts that we grow is called Georgia Green and we’ve had great success with them, and also that our most problematic weed was “pig weed”. I was really on a role here. I was secretly hoping that the questions were over, because I knew I was getting very close to the end of my knowledge. Lucky for me, he spent the rest of the flight talking about his life.
When I got home and told farmer-husband all about it, he told me there are probably about 25 peanut specialists in the entire US. So my chances of ever meeting one again on a plane are very slim. In the meantime, however, I plan to promptly read and memorize all our back issues of “Peanut Farmer” that sit idle in the magazine stack just in case.