The first Saturday of this month brought the 43rd annual FFA Farm Sale to the Clay County Fairgrounds in Piggott. I'd texted Uncle Ronnie during the week to see if he'd taken a sneak peak.
"SOME JUNK SOME GOOD GONNA BE A GOOD ONE," he replied in all caps sans punctuation.
And it was a good one. We were up with the birds and at the fairgrounds before Mr. Magee started his auctioneer's truck down the first row of farm implements. In tow with us for the day was a beloved lass we've adopted as family. At 9 years of age, Lizzy Lou had spent at least five of those years asking to go to the sale, but folks didn't think she'd enjoy it once there. This year, she was determined to prove them wrong, having positioned herself in the cab of our old pickup just after sunrise.
She stayed quiet and right beside us for the first bit, but by mid-morning, the red-headed, blue-eyed pumpkin asked just how long this sale lasted.
"All day," Uncle Ronnie leaned down and told her, "and most of the night."
We watched to see whether she melted down as she processed this information. She stared for a moment at the rows covering the field, then stood up, nodded her head, and said, "OK, I'm gettin' on this tractor then. Take my picture." And with that, she scampered up the tall ladder of a nearby Case International that soon sold for $96,000. She balanced on metal beams and disappeared into huge stacks of tractor tires. She hooked up with other little girls and did cartwheels in the pasture. She ate a cheeseburger, played with puppies and got a baseball cap. She stayed all day and had a ball, and wanted us to recite over and over the list of things she'd done that day, giggling as she relived them with each recitation.
That evening, we fed cattle while Lizzy Lou scaled gates like a spider monkey. When we deposited her at her grandmother's house, we all looked -- and smelled -- like we'd been in the pasture all day. Louise welcomed us into her kitchen with the smell of fried chicken. One look at our grinning, chattering faces, and she knew we'd had a good time.
Benton County used to be like that, too, but in the past few years, cattle and barns have been replaced by asphalt and cars. While I enjoy many benefits that come in the name of progress, I also mourn the way of life this land once held. I've never drank from the fountain of youth, but I gargle with it each time I go home and bask in the sun and soil, where strong-willed country girls are a striking mix of ponytails, boots, lip gloss, fishing poles and farmer's tans. Where they thrive in proving wrong those who say something can't be done. Where callin' the hogs is literal.
Now that's a beauty secret Olay only wishes it could bottle.
NAN Our Town on 04/13/2017
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