Country People are My People
The french press had been broken last week, so William knocked on the garret door and said that he would like to discuss coffee in the morning. He invited me to come to the kitchen in the morning, where they brew the brown elixir in a chemex every morning since the 70s. I was happy to oblige, because while he didn't know it, I fully intended to learn more about them and their history, and what better way than over coffee! The Ripshin Goat Dairy is an enchanting place, and I knew there would be some good stories to be had.
I knocked on the screened door, "Good morning!" Liza invited me into the most charming kitchen that I have seen in ages. The table was weathered hardwood and as she invited me to cut a slab of William's homemade sourdough bread, she instructed me to use the table as the cutting board. "We're not fancy here", she said with fresh cut flowers adorning every table in sight, local honey by the gallon sitting within reach, silverware that had clearly spanned generations, and a genteelness that could make the most weathered of persons feel at ease and at home. Perhaps she is right, what I walked into might not be considered fancy, it is beyond fanciful; it is an authenticity that stems from the thoughtful care and building up of people over time, who truly yearn to live.
I have been enchanted by country folk ever since my childhood, when at the top of Old Indian Road, Aunt Millie and Uncle Hart looked at four scared and dejected children and said "you're family now". The warmth that exudes from a people who don't see love as a piece of a pie, but allow it to flow without limit from a place that only the soul knows, is one of the treasures of my life, that I can only hope will be passed on.
Liza serves on the board of the Patterson School, just a mile down the road. A school that her grandfather was headmaster of, before her. She told me of the at risk children she recently fought to have attend and receive basketball coaching, so that their options for a four year scholarship would be increased. The Patterson school was originally founded for the mountain boys who were too poor to attend school otherwise, and she has so gracefully carried the torch.
She told me about the goat dairy, and her days at the farmers market, stopping only to insist I try the wild pear she found growing on that Patterson campus. "It's a little rough on the outside, but inside it is so sweet and creamy!" I told her about my love of quality food and production, and she invited me try some of William's sourdough bread. He later offered to send me home with a cup of the starter, yes please! She had to meet the electricians and construction crew who were preparing the dormitories for the new set of boys, but invited me to make myself at home and read the paper.
How can I read about the world in chaos, when my eyes are enchanted by something that is so rare and so rich, that to blink is a sacrifice? So I sat, with my butter and honey drenched sourdough and listened to the rooster crow and the birds sing.
I have heard the stereotype of country folk being simpletons. I can't help but know that is inaccurate. These people I have known and admired all my life, they understand things like no other. They understand connections of life and the world in ways that the most theoretical course I have ever taken could not teach. They understand how to love extravagantly with so little. Universal truths of sowing seeds, not just into the ground, but into hearts; seeds of authenticity and compassion. Their words are sometimes slow, but thoughtful, because they understand that a word spoken in haste can poison the seed.
If you've never had the privilege of sitting down and breaking bread with people like this, I encourage you to seek them out, to emulate them. Their hands might be rough, their platitudes sometimes counter culture, but like the wild pear, inside you will find a treasure.