"Well," I said to Sean after he closed my door, shutting out the cold night air, "not many women would enjoy such a date as this but I sure had an enjoyable time."
He drove our van slowly down the long dirt driveway away from the light dimly shining through the dirty barn window where we had just been. A craigslist ad and a few phone calls had brought us over dark country roads after dinner, peering at mailbox numbers and then to a quiet James Herriot-esque barn, where Sean knocked, shouted a "hello" and walked in. We were greeted with smells of grain, hay and animals and a dark haired boy who, with a southern twang, asked if we were there to see the pigs and welcomed us in.
"The pigs are all down this way, in that corner," he directed us with a hand gesture and we all began walking the length of the low ceilinged barn, over feed and manure and mud, stopping to comment on a pretty Jersey and remark on how many heifers were lined up in the stalls.
"Um, where is your mother," Sean gently asked the boy, since the mother had been the phone contact about the pigs for sale.
The dark haired boy grinned again and told us the name of where his parents were this cold night, working on a contract for selling hay. He told us a little of his family's business ventures, two farms, selling hay down in Virginia, excavating, trucking, lawn maintenance and the list went on. He told us he ran this barn we were standing in mostly by himself, with the help of a friend who came after school. He wasn't boasting. It was just a matter of a fact thing and he was glad about it. I looked again at the long rows of heifers and cows and young bulls. He told us how he was sending the bulls back down to Virginia to put out to pasture, raising the heifers to milk and was milking nine cows by hand twice a day since the milking equipment in the old barn had never been put right. How they planted two hundred acres of corn and beans and for every acre they planted way up here in NY, they got twice as much product as the red clay Virginian soil would offer up. He gestured with small man hands, leathery and dark with grime from doing a man's work. When Sean asked his age, he said he was fourteen and that he was schooled at home.
We got to the end of the barn and there were the pigs, five or six huge cut ones in one pen, a mama readying to give birth in another, and a giant (I honestly mean GIANT, that body kept going and going and...) boar in another pen with the sows. He told us a little history of each pig in his slow southern drawl, apologized if we had trouble understanding him, laughing at having shown some New Yorker that "y'all" is in the dictionary. We picked out a large pink round pig who had once been a house pet of the boy's grandfathers but now dwarfed his siblings, weighing about four hundred pounds, for our butcher to come and pick up.
On the drive home I remarked on how impressed I was with the boy-farmer and Sean agreed. We both think most boys must once have been more of this caliber, hardworking, articulate, able to look you in the eye and speak intelligently about more than skinny jeans fashion, video games or the latest Apple release. That farming young man and his light-hearted smile and hard work ethic reminded me of wisdom of hard work in the book of Proverbs. It gave me hope that there are still good young men out there, not stuck in eternal adolescence into their twenties, to someday marry our daughters, and encouragement to keep developing a good work ethic in our sons. It was such a sweet experience, that I thought I'd share it here, with you.
Have a beautiful weekend, everyone!