Ghostwood Farm

April 10, 2013, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

I’ve been meaning to tell this story for some time. If you and I are connected on Facebook, then you may have seen a lot of this already–when I’m out of town and drunk, I post a LOT. The original post was made 29 January 2013, you can find it on my Facebook page if you were of a mind to do so.

I travel for my day job, not as much as some but more than most, I think. I’m gone 3-6 weeks per year. The last week of January I was in Memphis for the Ecology and Conservation of North American Waterfowl Conference. The conference was at the Peabody Hotel, just a few blocks from Beale Street. It was a cool location (though vastly overpriced and more expensive than I could afford if traveling for pleasure).

I spent a lot of time wandering Beale by myself, talking to the homeless and other locals. What I want to talk about here, though, is about two people I met at the hotel during a social.

At most of the socials, there was a cash bar, and the prices were like being at a ball park ($7 Budweiser? HA!). The second night, though, there was free beer. Needless to say, myself and some colleagues who are also underpaid state biologists were first in line, and in fact were early. The keg was not tapped, and was not even at the bar, but was on a luggage cart across the room. A couple of us offered to carry the keg to the bar, and did so, over what could only be considered mild protestations on the part of the bartender. We then offered to tap it, but the bartender did that.

I talked to the bartender for a bit. Her name was Sarah. She was well-spoken and intelligent. Somewhere along the line, she mentioned that she was related to William Faulkner. Her great great great(?) uncle was Faulkner’s brother. She prefers Hemingway. So it goes. She made me promise to read The Sun Also Rises.

Things got crowded. I am not fundamentally a social person, so I wandered around a bit. Before too long, I wandered up to the gentleman who had been standing by the door since we took the keg matter into our own hands.

His name is Lewis. Lewis’ job was to clean up after us. I opened with some small talk, but it wasn’t necessary–he was ready to talk. Lewis is about 5’5″ and slight of build. He’s 54 years old, African-American, with a light complexion. He has been working at the Peabody for about a decade. Before that, he was a chef, cooking in the school system and for private families.

He has six siblings with whom he shares a mother, although each has a different father. His mom married Lewis’ dad, who is now 82. His dad owns a 300 acre farm that has been in his family for generations, since one of his ancestors, who was share-cropping the ground, inherited it from the previous owner. Lewis and one half-brother will inherit it when his father dies.

Lewis is from Memphis, but his dad’s family is from Benton Harbor, Michigan. He still has at least one uncle up there who comes to visit Lewis’ dad and brings him down to see Lewis. His dad likes beer. When Lewis goes to visit him, he takes his dad two beers and himself two Diet Cokes. It sounded as if Lewis’ dad used to be a heavy drinker, as Lewis was himself. Lewis has now been clean and sober for 20 years.

Lewis owns his own home (two bedroom, one bath). His girlfriend also owns her home. Lewis spends $25 per week on groceries, splurging on ice cream and Diet Coke.

We talked about Ghostwood and the kids, and how nice it is to be able to raise them in such a place. Lewis told me that his dad says he wished he’d have raised Lewis on the family farmstead. Lewis wishes he had, too.

Lewis is a minister. He spoke a few times about how God finds ways to make people do good things. He did not talk of it much. Before I left the room, I told Lewis that I am not a believer, but I hope…Lewis broke in and said, “…to find Him?” I told him that I had found God once and I am now glad to be free of Him. What I hope, I told him, is that I made a good impression as an unbeliever. Essentially, I want him to believe that nonbelievers can be good people. Lewis said that whether one believes doesn’t matter, as long as one is a good person. That was good to hear–so many who believe think that one MUST believe to be a decent person.

I only tell this story, not to out myself as an atheist (not a surprise to anyone that knows me) and not to air all of Lewis’ laundry. I wanted to tell this story to show how amazing, how INTERESTING, people are, people that we walk by every day. I go out of my way, now, to talk to people that I normally would not have. One never knows what new perspectives one will gain, new insights, and even new friends.

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