I remember well the Sunday afternoons under the shade trees enjoying watermelon or homemade peach ice cream. As children, we played like there was no tomorrow. It was a simpler time when people could actually talk politics without getting angry. There was nothing like an old fashioned chicken stew to bring families together in North Carolina’s rolling hills.
There were no chicken stews that I got to attend during my college years. Those were the especially turbulent late sixties and early seventies and I was far away from North Carolina in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As I finished my degree in the summer of 1971, I needed to get away from those strange-hued city-night skies where it was impossible to see the stars.
Just as people used to gather under shade trees in North Carolina, friends used to just drop by on Sunday afternoons at our farm for visit. It was a great excuse to stop working and spend some time catching up on the neighborhood news. It was the way people built relationships, established trust and found common ground. I cannot ever remember discussing politics.
Beyond the impromptu visits, there were community picnics, shared meals, church services (even burials) and work done for the good of the community. All these things made for richer shared lives. When we were on the farm, I never doubted that the community and friends helped us be successful. The support of their communities was essential to success of farming when we had our farm.
That was back in the seventies. The fifty years since then have not been kind to under the shade tree gatherings or any of the other ways that we connected and established relationships.