Friday, January 9, 2009

Making Improvements



I have the perfect guests. They don’t stay long. I’d be paranoid about it if they didn’t keep coming back. But they do.

I’m not set up very well for guests. I do the best I can but a lot of it is out of my control. I’m thinking of the one bathroom. That’s all I have. One. Not very conducive to city girls blow-drying and flat-ironing or whatever it is they do to primp nowadays. I have no idea. Since moving to the farm, I’ve gradually given up certain beauty routines such as changing my jewelry daily (or even wearing jewelry), lining my eyes with a Maybelline pencil that I soften with a lit match, and painting my toenails in the winter.

I haven’t even put on a pair of high heels in six years. In fact, I don’t own a pair of high heels. Shocking to those who know me since I used to be the queen of pumps. I had every color to match every outfit, including polka dotted (I know, I know, how many times am I going to mention those stupid polka dotted high heels? I can’t help it—I’m obsessed with them and I miss them terribly), plus suede, leather, patent leather, straw, acrylic, pointy-toed, open-toed, peek-a-boo, spiked heel, clunky heel; you name it, I had it. But those things just don’t seem that important anymore when you’ve got grain to unload in the pouring rain, hoses to drain, ashes to dump, and best of all, horses to ride.

So I’m out of the loop. The only reason I even know about the flat-iron is because my sister grabbed me the last time I was up there and dragged me to the beauty parlor for a little makeover. It turns out the bleached blonde look I’ve been sporting was so nineties and I needed something called “low lights.” Plus it appears that I don’t know how to dress. I forgot everything I used to know. For example, I thought the purple sweater I got from JCPenney purposely for the trip was pretty happening. Certainly a big improvement over the usual sweatshirts I get from Wal-Mart and, if I’m dressing up, out of the western catalogs. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. I was dead wrong.

Sharon stood back and appraised me. She gnawed on the inside of her cheek. “You need black and white,” she advised.

“Like a little check?” I asked, trying to be agreeable.

“No! Black and White! The store! Get out of Wal-Mart or Kmart or whatever it is and do your shopping in a store that knows about clothes—Black and White, or The Limited or Express… one of those places.”

I decided not to tell her that I don’t really go shopping anymore, per se. I might grab something when I pass the clothes racks on my way to the frozen food aisle and I see a T-shirt on sale for $7.99. Or if Kelly needs a white shirt for choir. Or my rubber boots sprung a leak and I got as much life out of them as I possibly could by lining them with plastic Wal-Mart bags. But to go out on a trip specifically to shop for clothes? Armloads of clothes from a store that doesn’t have shopping carts? To go on a spree? Those days are over.

At any rate, I don’t give my guests makeovers but I do take them out to see the manure pile and when I really want to impress them, I take them to Sweet’s store down the road where the brothers Dewey and Fred, who live in the doublewide with the big greenhouse; Dub Jackson, in camouflage and blaze orange no matter what time of year it is; and Leon Thompson, who drives a school bus for the county; sit in the back around an old Formica table with long burn marks in it the shape of Cheese Doodles. They feed logs to the woodstove next to them, Fig Newtons to the dog under the table, and lines to everyone who comes in. They elbow each other and raise their eyebrows when my girlfriends and I enter. We pretend we don’t notice.



I couldn’t help noticing they’ve been doing some improvements over at Sweet’s. After all these years with an outhouse, they finally put in a porta-potty. My guests took pictures. They’ve never seen an outhouse in real life. But they refuse to use the porta-potty. They say, “I don’t consider that an improvement,” and make faces. Dub Jackson overhears and offers to take them across the road to his mama’s house which has a bathroom that’s spic and span. Dewey, Fred and Leon snicker and the girls don’t know what to say. How nice! But he’s still a stranger. I tell them Dub’s okay—he’s harmless. I’d go if I was them. If I didn’t want to use the porta-potty, that is. Of course I go in tractor sheds so a porta-potty is nothing.



“Yep, he’s about as harmless as Miz Thelma’s kitty cat,” Dewey says.

“Ain’t never got hisself a deer. Don’t worry, he can’t shoot nothin’” Fred says.

“Not even a squirrel,” Leon adds and they guffaw and almost fall back in their chairs.

“Now boys, leave them ladies alone. You’re scarin’ away all my customers,” Thelma scolds from behind the counter where she sells homemade sweet potato pies in little Baggies, hand-crocheted pot holders and pink eggs. You can also get bait, dried pinto beans, and a cookbook put out by the ladies from Trinity Christian that includes recipes for venison stew, pickled peaches, and corn chowder.

My sister comes back with a kitchen towel that’s been crocheted on the end so you can hang it on the refrigerator door handle, red to match her décor, and a bag of crabapples and reports that Dub’s mother is the cutest thing and if only he’d get out of those army clothes, then maybe he’d get himself a woman, just on the strength of that mother alone.

“First of all, they’re not army clothes; it’s camouflage,” I correct. “And second of all, Dub’s been married three times.”

“Well,” Sharon says, “he still needs a make-over.”

I don’t know about that happening but I do know that my guests keep coming back. They don’t complain about my one bathroom even though we have to take turns and with all that primping going on—someone’s always in there. I guess they figure it’s better than an outhouse or a porta-potty. But it doesn’t compare to Dub Jackson’s mother’s bathroom.

26 comments:

Wolf said...

thanks so much for stopping by! i'm always glad to find another farm girl (although i've always pretty much been a farm girl...lived in a city for a few years for college, and was so glad to move away...)

jasmine is a chow mix. not sure what the mix is...we've been told a number of things. i personally think lab, my husband does not. but whatever it is, i have a feeling one parent was a chow, the other a chow mix. she has too many of the chow characteristics not to be mostly chow.

i've only just started couponing/deal seeking. i think this is the start of my third month. it has already cut our monthly grocery budget in half. i never wanted to take the time to do it before, but i feel it is so worth it!

we just bought this farm back in may...although my family had a farm my whole life (we didn't live on it though...mostly went on weekends). we adopted all of our horses, and only one (our 11 year old Laddie) when he was not a week to a month old. the rest were nurse mare foals. two of them are not even a year yet, and the other three are just hitting three and will be broke soon. from what we've been told we have a thoroughbred (that's Laddie), a paso fino/thoroughbred (Sugar, who was in the picture), a standardbred, a quarter horse, a percheron/cross something, and a percheron/tennessee walker. they are all very well mannered since we got them so young. we were lucky when we bought the place that there were several pastures already in place. however, they are torn up and need a break because it has been so wet, so we are trying to fix the fence on our largest pasture now.

the racoon is still around...there aren't many places around here that will take him in. we do keep our grain in locked trash cans though, and at the moment, he hasn't messed with them. he likes the catfood i guess.

hope you come back!

Motley said...

Thats funny stuff Debi, I can't wait to get over to Sweet's, those boys would be fun to mess with!

Sloan said...

I was laughing out loud! I would love to go to Sweet/'s! I don't even care that they have a portapotty. It sounds like a charming place!

Claudia Condiff said...

OMG...I can SO relate to this blog!
You and I have been thrust together for a reason...we have got to get together and yak this subject up. I don't even have nylons(panty hose) any more! I used them all for orchid bags to feed them!
High heels! God I don't remember my last pair! An d there's a store called black and white???Is that political?? Talk about being out of the loop! I just hatched out praying matis's in my house for cripes sake!
Next time your city comes to visit, I'd love to join you for lunch..we could take them to Carls!

JERSEY BROKER LADY said...

Be Yourself

Debi is my sis 4ever. I am very proud of her publications and of the woman she has become. She is very focused on her dreams/career of writting. Debi is very content and shows to be a strong woman in her lifestyle. She is living the dream of owning her own farm with horses and publishing stories. You can see she is surrounded by people in town who care about her. I love her style of writting and it shows character about herself. It may be small town but I see a big strong confident lady who only requires the lil things in life to make her happy. I look forward to reading her other stories on this blog.
by JERSEY BROKER LADY

Debi Kelly Van Cleave said...

Aw, Jersey Broker Lady, you are so nice! Thank you for saying all that.

Claudia, yes, "black and white" is a real store. But the real name is "White House, Black Market." However, according to my sister, everyone up there just calls it "black and white." That was a real conversation. That's exactly what we said.

Wolf, that's wonderful all those horses were rescues. Nurse babies? Are they PMU babies?

Amy Tate said...

Your place is F-U-N! And different! Everybody shops Express and Limited, but who needs those things on a horse farm? Don't feel so bad, I don't own a pair of high heels either - I'm too tall, anyway. Great post!

hellosweetworld said...

Cute story! Isn't it funny how you can come from one way of life and then change to fit another?

Becky Mushko said...

I haven't worn heels for 20 years or more. I do own a couple of dresses: I just don't wear them.

That is a good-looking porto-potty. How nice that they up-graded.

gingerhillery@mac.com said...

Returning guests are great for the self esteem, aren't they! 'Specially when they know in advance they are gonna have to share a bathroom, it is going to be cold, cold, cold unless they help keep that fire fed, and they will probably be asked to take off the city shoes and borrow some barn shoes to help do chores!

Thanks for the funny article! Hope you guys are ready for the coming hard freeze. We are not yet. Hope to be in the next couple of days...

Beth said...

Long ago, when I was doing temp work in offices, I was required to "dress professionally," which meant both heels and pantyhose. I was more than happy to dispense with both in later years since I was prone to falling off even one-inch heels, being the super klutz that I am.

A funny and well-written post!

(By the way, I enjoyed seeing your daughter's art at her Etsy site. Great stuff! To answer your question, yes, my daughter is an artist--she is an art/creative writing major at UNC-Chapel Hill. Thanks so much for your kind words!)

CountryDew said...

Ha. I don't own any heels, either. I wear sneakers to the Board of Supervisors meetings. Sometimes I really dress up and wear black sneakers!

sweetflutterbys3 said...

Lol! You are a very good writer. I can sympathize with the one bathroom situation. We only have one too. Really teaches you how to share, esp. when you really have to go. The screams of "get out NOW!" are usually heard a lot in our house....

Jeff said...

So funny!! And so well-written! There are most assuredly adjustments that need to be made when you move from an urban (or even suburban) place to a rural location. Different rules that are sometimes learned at a high price!

main street diaries said...

Oh man, do I hear you. I used to wear high heels all the time, and lately it's been so cold and snowy that I've been wearing my husband's Gore-tex boots around town because my old ones (which I got second hand) finally fell apart. My sister says I look like Daisy Mae, only without the boobs and the short shorts. It's a makeover of sorts--just in a different direction.

Wolf said...

Not PMU babies...they are the ones from Kentucky. Their moms are bred so that they can end up being foster moms for thoroughbred babies...that way the thoroughbred moms can be bred quicker. I hate that it seems they feel to make money, a life can be wasted. Most are sent to slaughter, some are rescued. The rescue we got ours from (The Last Chance Corral) rescues over 100 every year, although the last few years have been more difficult with the economy...

If you typically shop Walmart, I go to this link http://www.dealseekingmom.com/walmart/ to find the great deals. They don't typically put out circulars for Walmart unfortunately. But Walmart typically does price match (although you'd have to make sure and check with the manager of the store in your area) if you have the time to look for deals in your area you should be able to get them to match as well. Just a suggestion. :)

Marion said...

Good one, Debi. Only I'd like to see a picture of you sporting those polka-dot heels, maybe sticking out from under the outhouse door....

colleen said...

Another good humorous essay about the country lifestyle. I grew up with one bathroom for 11 of us. I''ll never forget the time I went home to Mass for a wedding and my sister dressed me. Talk about out of the loop. I'm here in Orlando on vacation now with a pair of sneakers and mocs. Going out to eat tomorrow and have to decide which ones to wear!

Going Crunchy said...

Oh, I LOVED this post! When I lived in Pittsboro N.C. right by the Haw there was a little country store just like the one you described. Two locals (and gosh , I can't remember there name though I knew it then) were always there playing checkers, sitting in the rockers and talking a little smack here and there.

Ah, those were the days. I got a cold Coke in the glass bottle, fresh eggs, apples picked from trees. It was nice to be known as the new "arty" girl that moved in up the road. I lived there almost three years and was always the "new" girl.

Debi Kelly Van Cleave said...

Marion, that's a great image, the polka dotted heels in the outhouse!

Wolf, that is so sad about the foals. It is terrible some of the things humans do to animals. It's wonderful that there are so many people like you who rescue.

Thanks everyone for the nice comments!

Love My Dog said...

Fun post, Debi! I went from the San Francisco area to college in San Luis Obispo - big university that had a huge Agriculture department. We had everything from crop science majors to a swine unit to AI classes -- along with your regular university offerings. Most of us arrived with our best versions of your polka pumps (although we wore very flat valley girl shoes) - and most emerged 4 years later having experienced some version of life on a farm (or near one). Friends would visit and instead of getting decked out and bar hopping ala USC, I'd drag them out to see the baby pigs and such. And went on dates that included helping feed cows and such. What a blast!
And you could get anything you hunted/caught cooked up at any of the little stores in town - my mom thought a store was on fire when they were just doing their daily tri tip BBQ. Although yesterday - I have never been happier to live in a giant city and celebrate with hordes of people!

Pony Girl said...

Great post, I always enjoy the imagery of your writing. Did your guests try their hand at riding horses? ;)

Cynda said...

That is funny. I need a makeover!

Jamie Ferraioli said...

Aw man...you got rid of all of your pumps? You should have given them to me!!
You know they're in style now again. I actually just bought a pair on sale from Target. They're black peep-toes with big black bows on the front with multi-colored flowers all over them. 8 bucks! Lou thinks they're ugly.

Remember curling your hair every morning? You'd be in the bathroom for what seemed like an eternity..cigarette dangling from your mouth, flipping through a magazine, asking if you got all the back pieces. Then heating your eyeliner with a lighter to apply it, which looked terrifying to me. I was sure you'd melt your eyelids one day. You know they make automatic eyeliners now. Just twist and the tip goes up. They glide on really easy. Or liquid eyeliner (my favorite). So much easier to use.

The Blue Ridge Gal said...

I quit wearing heels when I left the corporate world almost 9 years ago. When I have to go to a wedding and dress up now, it kills my feet to have to wear a pair of pumps... can hardly bear to jam my foot into them. I now wear jeans, sweats, walking shoes... and I can now go days and days without any make-up. The country is wonderful and lets us be who we really are without any pretenses. Black and White, Red and Blue, Green and Purple... who needs those stores? You go Debi!

Di
The Blue Ridge Gal

Giulia said...

Lining my rubber boots with Wal-mart bags. Now why didn't I ever think of that!

You actually manage to make your life on the farm sound like a heck of a lot of fun. I, however, know the truth about how hard it really is.

I'm so glad you've kept your blog up. And I'm about to be smoke free for three years on the 1st. YOU could have been there with me. Ahem....ahem. Still nudging.