Tuesday, February 26, 2019

21 years under the stars

By Shelley E. HuguleyFarm Press Editorial Staff

This month, my farmer and I will celebrate 21 years of marriage. If you had asked me as a little girl if I would grow up to be a farmer’s wife, I would have cocked my head, wrinkled the crease in my forehead and said, “a what?” The redheaded part would have been easy. I’ve always been crazy about redheads.

When my farmer and I first met, I was a couple of years out of Texas Tech University at Lubbock, Texas. I was living on my own and driving what I affectionately called “a piece of Nissan.” What you need to know is my Nissan ran through much of college on a prayer and chance. One of its fine features was its absolute refusal for the windshield wipers to work. But that’s not really a big deal when you live in West Texas, right? On the rare occasion it did rain, I would simply reduce my speed and follow the white lines on the road.

My farmer, prior to us dating, overheard me telling someone about my wiper crises, and said, “Are you serious, your windshield wipers don’t work?” He went on to explain how he knew how to fix most anything and could he take a look. Not only did he repair the wipers but noticed my tires were worn down to the chord. My farmer told me he was certain God had extra grace for women because if these had been his tires, he would have already had a couple of blowouts.

I’ll never forget the first time I visited the farm. Having grown up in the city, we had nights when the stars were brighter than others, but nothing like I witnessed in the pitch-blackness, except maybe a floodlight by the barn, that night at the farm when I looked up. I remember standing outside the farmhouse in amazement. I had no idea what I had been missing.

In the fall of 1997, I found myself in the middle of a cotton field behind my farmer’s house, with him on one knee proposing and me screaming with excitement. Good thing he asked me in the country! Dressed in his work jeans and t-shirt, he led me out to the field to show me some “good” cotton, where my engagement ring was strategically placed in a cotton boll. I’ve been walking in high cotton with him ever since. (I didn’t say high prices.)

When you divorce the city and marry the country, there’s a bit of a learning curve. For example, in a small town when people ask you where you live, they are not asking you for your physical address. What they are actually asking you is who lived in your house before you did. “I live in the ol’ so and so house.” And for someone who did not grow up in a small town, not only was I trying to learn people’s names but who lived in their house before they did! The funny thing is 21 years later, I ask the same thing.

In a small town you keep your pantry stocked with cake mixes. Whether it’s a birth or a death or a cake auction, a girl can’t be without a cake mix. You also learn the value of home-canned vegetables. I had never had “canned” food other than Campbell’s off the grocery store shelf. My mother-in-law made and canned chow-chow, a relish you put on black-eyed peas. Those jars were like gold, carefully rationed throughout the winter and spring until it was time to can some more.

I’ve learned a lot over the last 21 years. Our family has grown from two to five. We’ve weathered and are weathering some tough farming years. But as long as I’m with my farmer and remember to take moments to stand in awe of the stars, we’ll celebrate 100 more.