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The Time I Learned the F-Word Could Mean Fart.

The RJ Reynolds building in Winston-Salem shortly after it was built.

A few months ago, I received a call from my favorite Cooperative Extension County Director, Donna Rewalt. She started the conversation by saying, “Just so you know you aren’t the last person on my list”. She pointedly didn’t say I was the first person 😊 She went on to explain how a vacancy was coming up on the State Advisory Council (SAC) for Cooperative Extension and, after chatting it over with the other County Directors in our region (Durham, Chatham, Randolph and Alamance), they all decided it was high time Durham had some representation (apparently no one remembers the last time a Durham County resident was on the council). This is where I come in, somewhere not at the bottom of the list.

I was cautiously flattered given Donna’s introduction, but pretty excited about the idea of making sure Durham and niche farming are well represented on the state level. It was a chance for me to give back to Cooperative Extension for all the pasture walks, calf borrowing, conference/workshop attending and information gathering I have taken advantage of over the last 13 years. Pretty exciting stuff let me tell you, the only problem, I had absolutely no idea what this meant….not a sausage!

When it came time for my first meeting last week, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. July is a busy time of year (who am I kidding March through November is a busy time of year). I spent 4 days preparing for the 2 ½ day meeting convinced that I would be watching the clock the whole time I was there knowing I would be returning home to a mountain of work and probably the need for apology emails for my delivery customers for the mistakes made by my substitute driver (Scott😊).

Tuesday morning, as I prepared to leave, I reminded the boys to be nice to one another and to make sure everyone was alive when I returned (the animals, not my sons), left a printed (so he couldn’t say he couldn’t read my handwriting) note with delivery instructions for Scott (that had also been emailed, sent as a text and talked about) and said goodbye to the dogs. There was nothing more I could do; I was positive the place would be in free fall by the end of the day and certain to be a pile of ashes by my return.

As I drove into Winston-Salem, my excitement started to grow, I was surprised to recognize our hotel. The 1920’s era RJ Reynolds building (it was their headquarters up until 2016 when it was made into a hotel/conference center) was built as “practice” for the Empire State Building… looks just like a miniature Empire State Building! My concerns for the farm were slowing moving to the back of my mind as my excitement over my accommodations increased.

(inside the RJ Reynolds Building)

After acting like a tourist by taking loads of photos and reading all the informational plaques I could, I made my way to the meeting area with my phone at the ready for any emergency calls (of which there were none).

I started to relax at dinner when I was introduced to a fabulous group of women, a combination of volunteers and extension staff. We started out innocently enough by introducing ourselves. That quickly morphed into a conversation about the rude names for Pilot Mountain then the F-word was mentioned as part of a funny story which led to Julie telling us that her sweet, Yadkin County, Methodist mother thought the F-word stood for FART till her dying day (none of her family had the heart to tell her the truth). In fact, she never said fart, replacing it with “I just stepped on a frog”. It was at this point in the evening, with tears rolling down my cheeks, I knew I was going to enjoy this group of people.

As a way to get to know one another we were asked to pick a table spokesperson who would do a quick introduction of the members at the table and share a little of the conversation we had been having.

The F-word (even if it did stand for Fart) and rude words for pilot mountain weren’t going to shine a positive light on our table….we looked at one another with the same hopeless expression! I didn’t want to go down as the new SAC member who was better suited to a 6th grade lunch table than an Advisory Council meeting.

As the first volunteer stood up and shared how their table had discussed racial inequality, inclusion and a whole lot of other really important and serious topics….it wasn’t looking good for my reputation.

There was hope that we weren’t the only ones stuck in middle school once Miss Linda stood up and, trying her hardest not to laugh, started to introduce the members of her table.

When I first started to write this account, I knew there was no way for me to share how thoroughly entertaining Linda is. I’ve started a few times now with no luck….so, while you’re reading this imagine a lovely, well dressed septuagenarian with the loveliest, sweetest southern accent, then pair that sweet voice with a carefully sculpted wit.

Linda started by introducing her table, stopping to mention that the “young man” to her right has the most wonderful children, adding as an aside to the group, “just sit next to him and he’ll tell you just how wonderful they are”. She went on to say something funny about each of the members until she got to her husband. She put her hand on his shoulder as she doubled over with laughter.

She went on (in between fits of laughter) to tell us how her husband once had an office in the building we were currently in and that he had been so excited to see his old office and reminisce. After some hand fluttering and “oh my”s as she told how they had entered the building with her taking up the rear (because of her torn meniscus) and how when she caught up to her husband he was staring at the toilets. After several fit of giggles (we were all joining in at this point) and a final “oh my”, Linda told us that her husband wasn’t trying to decide which toilet to use but that he was staring in disbelief because his office had been turned into the “all gender” toilet. Linda told her story to perfection; I wasn’t the only one with tears of laughter coursing down my cheeks (I learned from her husband the next day at dinner that it wasn’t just the “all gender” toilet but the ladies as well…… “there were 4 of us in that office after all”. It’s important to deliver the facts correctly😊).

Most of the other tables were just as funny with one table arguing over who had the best wife (after meeting Dick’s wife I agree with him that he won) and another conversation, according to their spokesman, that started with Alpaca poop and went downhill from there.

By the time it got to our table it seemed perfectly reasonable for our spokeswoman (who is Durham’ district director) to refuse to share what we talked about on the grounds that it might get her fired…way to think on your feet Susan!

I learned a lot in my few days at the SAC meeting (I now know what SAC does); I am 3 times more efficient in a hotel room, my family is perfectly capable of holding down the fort even with Wednesday deliveries, septuagenarians and octogenarians have a lot more energy than I do (I learned this when, at 8pm, I was ready for bed and they were headed to the rec room), you are never too old to bungee jump (and according to Dick, New Zealand is the place to go) and that Edgar’s wife is a wonderful cook and she has a cookbook to prove it (we got a copy, this week’s recipe is in it). I also learned that in order to stay married for 50+ years you need to have a fantastic sense of humor, which this crowd had in spades!

After a few days of being cooked for, entertained and generally treated like royalty I reluctantly said good-bye to my new friends and left Winston-Salem.

Once home I unpacked, mowed the yard, castrated/vaccinated the lambs and got some hoof trimming in on our newest Dorper/St Croix crosses before the rain. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.


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