Funny, how a seemingly insignificant incident can set a course of direction for generations yet to come.
A nutty little squirrel set a course for Benny Pyron’s family. However, it was some years down the road before Pyron went "trucking" along that path.
"A way back," his grandfather’s brother-in-law shot a squirrel —- a common and rather insignificant event. But rather than falling from the tree on his death march, the squirrel got lodged in the tree. Mr. Bud Warrick climbed the tree to get his supper, fell and broke his back.
Farming is back-breaking work and "Mr. Bud" had already done that so "that ended his farming."
"But he had an old man who drove him around the farm on a wagon so he could see to things, but he couldn’t physically farm anymore," Pyron said. "So, my granddaddy and grandmother took over the place he had homesteaded.
"There was about 120 acres down on the county line around Henderson. The old man who drove Bud around the place got 20 acres of it and my granddaddy got the rest. He was a regular kind of farmer. He planted cotton and corn and tried peanuts but he couldn’t make anything off them."
Somewhere along the "hard row," farming got in the blood of Grandpa Ben Mosley. And, when farming gets in the blood, there’s no known antidote; even Mother Nature can’t cure it with too little rain when a lot is needed or a lot when none is needed. Even a banker waving a mortgage note in the air won’t purify the blood when farming’s in it.
"Nah, my daddy didn’t go into the farming business, but he stayed close to the land," Pyron said. "He was a logger, a saw miller. I was in the same kind of business for a while in the wood industry. Then I went to work for National Equipment Company in Elba and that was how I made my living."
But Pyron had been raised "all around the farm." He knew about growing things and how hard farming could be on a man, a mule and on the land. So, when his son and grandsons approached him about doing a little truck farming, he had to really scratch his head and "study on that thing."
"They came to me with the idea of doing a little truck farming," Pyron said. "They had the idea that pretty soon, if folks can’t raise what they eat, they’ll go hungry. They’re right. If you can plant a garden and eat off if it, you¹ll be all right. Knowing you can do that will relieve some of the pressure and stress of trying to make it in the world today. Times may get better soon, but then they may get worse before they get better. Those who can live off the land are going to be in a whole lot better shape than those who can’t."
Pyron pledged his support, his knowledge and a few calluses to the truck farming idea, and the idea became a reality with a tag — Double P Farms of Henderson, Alabama.
"We’re not a big truck farm and we just do this on the side, but we all think that it’s important and, too, we’re having a good time," said Keith Jeffcoat, Pyron’s grandson. "We’re all in this together."
"All" includes Benny Pyron and his son, Ben; his grandsons, Jeffcoat and James McLendon; his son-in-law, Bodie McLendon, and last, but certainly not least, his wife, Sue.
"We’ve been truck farming for about three years now and we really don’t do much trucking except to the Pioneer Farmers Market in Troy on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays," Jeffcoat said. "We’ve got peppers — all kinds, squash, tomatoes, peas, butterbeans and corn meal — which is a big deal.
"We grow the corn, pull it and shuck it, but we’ve got a miller who grinds it for us. It’s mighty good corn meal."
Relishes are another "big deal" at Double P Farms and that’s where Sue Pyron "comes in the kitchen."
"My grandmother makes the best relishes that you’ve ever tasted," Jeffcoat said. "She makes salsa, and tomato and squash relishes that are great with peas. For a while, the relishes didn’t catch on at the farmer’s market but now they have and people who try them always come back."
Now that the Benny Pyron family have "stuck our toes in the dirt," they’ve found there are more rewards to farming than the "few" extra dollars it puts in their pockets.
"We get to spend a lot of time together — like people used to do when they worked on the farm," Jeffcoat said. "We really enjoy that and I do believe it’s important for us to know how to grow our own food. A lot of young people don’t have any idea how to grow what they eat and wouldn’t even know how to start. One day, being able to plant a garden and see it through could be something we all need to know."
Pyron agreed with his grandson that "peace of mind" comes with being self-sufficient in living-off-the-land.
"That’s important to me. Owning what we live on and being able to pass on what we’ve worked so hard to have is important, too," he said. "We also need to pass on what we’ve learned. What we’ve learned from our parents and grandparents will be taking on more meaning in these difficult economic times. So, we’d better pay attention."
Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.