Little Rock Arkansas, Part 2

February 2020

Tammy has a booth in the upcoming flower and garden show in Little Rock, so my help is needed in preparing for that. Animal feeding takes place at 8am and 4pm, and Dan has been helping with that consistently since his arrival, so my presence in the barnyard feels almost superfluous. Because the goats aren’t currently producing milk, nor are the bees making honey, I won’t get to milk the goats or learn about bee keeping as I’d hoped, but several of the goats are pregnant, so I’m crossing my fingers a baby goat or two might arrive while I’m here.

During my stay with them, the bulk of my time is spent helping Tammy with her goats’ milk products; schlepping them to the fairgrounds, setting up the booth, answering questions and making sales, and eventually, after the 3 day event is over, transporting everything back to the farm and organizing whatever didn’t sell back onto the storage shelves in the soap cottage. To some extent I help with the animals, but there isn’t much for me to do there except collect the eggs and help feed the goats after Dan’s departure. As it is I’m on my feet all day, eight or nine hours during the garden show, which is considerably more than Workaway policy gives you to expect. It’s (far) more demanding than I’m used to, both physically and mentally, but I remind myself it’s only temporary.

Our conversations, when we have them, consist primarily of Tammy and/or Skip “educating” me about, well, just about everything. If I ask a question or offer a comment about something that I see, it becomes a jumping off point for some political statement. I soon realize that while we have some fundamental values in common (love of animals, a fear and loathing of mega corporations like Walmart, the belief that whole foods are where it’s at in terms of nutrition, for example), they are very much southern Republicans while I am quintessentially liberal California. I look around me and bemoan the trashy country side, the litter that embellishes their neighbors’ front lawns and the entire roadside verge, in moments that take me to flashbacks of India. I’m grateful that where I come from (my county if not the entire state) there are zoning laws, codes, programs and restrictions that prevent this sort of thing from happening, while Tammy prides herself on keeping her own property free and clear of garbage at the same time as she admits, with acceptance bordering on pride, that Arkansas has no codes to enforce. Her neighbors will do as they please and that’s the price they (she and Skip) pay for the lower cost of living, the slight property taxes, the freedom to build whatever they want whenever they want and anyone who objects can go straight to hell. She is a rabid Amazon Prime shopper, finding no hypocrisy in her patronage there while refusing to support Walmart (who own the state, she claims), and her idea of a vacation is not, like mine, hiking in a national park or traveling to a faraway country where she will discover new languages, customs and cuisine, but cruises, year after year, to Mexico or the Carribean. The corona virus features prominently in the news right now since it is no longer restricted to “over there.” Washington state has had its first few cases, and Tammy and Skip’s daughter and her husband are scheduled to embark on a cruise themselves next weekend. 

I try to contribute some ideas and thoughts but soon give up. They don’t seem interested in my opinion, rather I, and Dan, are audience, meant to absorb. Some of it is enlightening, much of it is tedious. Not once do they begin a sentence with “What do you think about…?” I feel like a child, cross legged at the foot of my teachers. A student attending lectures. I give them credit, however, for not proselytizing. Yes, they pray before meals, but they never preach at or to me. Nor do they go on and on about the virtues of Trump and how refreshing he is because he “tells it like it is” or some such drivel. Indeed, I get the impression that they are on the fence politically, and that deep down inside, they really just want common sense to prevail. In much the same way that I do (though I am not on any fence). I’m not sure how close we are to one another on the continuum of moderation, but I don’t think we are polar opposites when it comes to what that means. Neither of us are extreme. I realize these aren’t people I would choose as friends, yet I recognize their humanity, I appreciate their kindness, I feel their goodness.

When it’s time to go, I hug them both goodbye. I’m ready to leave, more than ready to have some time alone, to sleep in for a few mornings and give my poor bitten tongue a reprieve. But I’m glad I came, glad I added this experience to the many I have gathered so far in my travels. Each one paves the way for more, each one part of my quest to witness and possibly understand how other people live, my goal to broaden my line of vision and choose what really deserves caring about in this vast, undeniably interconnected, hopefully not yet doomed, world.

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