In addition to being a gathering place for meals, my parents’ kitchen table, when I was growing up, was the place where, every morning and afternoon, coffee was served to my dad and the hired man.
Coffee was also served to those who came to see my dad as part of their job. That included feed and machinery salesmen who had been calling on him for so long they were considered friends, plus veterinarians, neighbors who stopped by for one reason and were now invited (more like expected) to come in for coffee, and anyone who was worthy of sitting down for a visit.
Ralph owned the produce store in town and had a route collecting eggs, stopping at our place twice a week during the morning. My dad enjoyed visiting with Ralph and on egg pick up days seemed to be working a little closer to the house so he would not miss Ralph when he arrived and then of course, tell him to come in for coffee.
That was a small problem for Ralph who had stopped at our neighbor’s, Everett, about two miles away to pick up his eggs. Everett also had coffee waiting so when Ralph arrived at our farm, he had probably spent half an hour with Everett and was now going to spend another half hour with my parents.
I learned all this years later when Ralph talked about his egg business one day. Ralph never let on to my parents that he just had coffee and needed to keep moving. Ralph was a good-natured soul who sat down for more coffee and besides, I am fairly sure Ralph enjoyed visiting.
My parents enjoyed these visits just as much because Ralph was a good source of “community information.”
OK, it was gossip.
This is one of my favorite memories from a time when there were many farmers.
As farms grew and the number of farmers became less, there were fewer people pulling into our driveway from salesmen, to veterinarians, pickup and delivery people and neighbors.
Fewer people meant fewer occasions for coffee and the socializing that came with it. Small town cafes that served meals disappeared and so did the coffee groups that met there daily.
While farms and farming have changed, farmers still have the need to socialize, particularly with one another.
It is a safe bet that stopping in any town that has an elevator and walking in the office, there will be a table and chairs with a coffee pot not very far away.
Depending on the time of day, the season, and the weather, those chairs will be empty or mostly occupied.
The coffee and “community information” will be mostly fresh and some days the “community information” may be even hotter than the coffee depending on the subject or person.
At our local elevator, during most days, you can still have a cup of coffee with Ralph, now well into his 80s, who long ago quit the egg-collecting business, but now has even more time for coffee.
My parents and Everett are probably waiting to have coffee with Ralph, just not on this earth.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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