It is earlier than I normally arise. I've gulped coffee with milk, no sugar. I've arrived at the supposed meeting place, but I get it wrong. I end up chasing a white bus full of roughly 30 senior citizens down 15-501 and then onto Highway 64. We are going on a farm tour. This was how yesterday morning in my life as reporter-at-a-weekly-paper-in-a-rural-county began. The farm tour was the gig. I was covering it and I was excited. I love old people and I love tours. I even love farms. Missing the bus and then having to chase the bus was unfortunate but once I found the group at the first stop I was pumped. A farm...only it wasn't a farm - not in the basic sense of the word. This was a meat processing establishment.
I made my way, smiling, into the classroom where my group of tour-mates were getting the lowdown. We were asked to put on hairnets and smocks. This, I guessed, was to keep us from getting pelted by any pieces of hog skin or random lard.
It smelled and the machines that spat out meat into large plastic containers disgusted me, but I got over it. There to help me were these people, these amazingly friendly people. Once they found out I worked at the newspaper it got pretty fun. "Watch what you say! Watch what you SAAAA-AAYYYYY," they roared. "She's from the NEWSPAPER!" We were kidding around. We were getting to know one another. I took a picture of two men only to be told that I, now, had to pose for a picture they would take. I love getting my picture taken while wearing a hairnet!
We did lots of fun things together that day. We had banana pudding. We talked about dogs. We learned about all the things the county had to offer, like laminated logs with which to make log cabins. Plants grown in water to aid in riverbed restoration. Meat goats.
After the barbecue place, where they gave us each a free sample pack (of meat which I'd just seen coming out of machines into large plastic vats) we didn't get to wear any more special outfits, but we did get to walk around in the bright sunshine. I asked questions when I could, some for my story, and some I was just curious about. There were so many personalities. The gentle old doctor audio-taping the event for his kids. The tall joker. The know-it-all. In fact, at one point while walking into a building at the lumber yard, I felt a steady tug on my backpack straps. I could not move forward. It was my smarty-pants friend. "Did you know...!" he began. I didn't know the particular piece of trivia and it was a fulfilling interchange for each of us.
I stepped on the bus to say goodbye at the end of the day before we all went our seperate ways. Last night I met up with J for a beer and several other friends happened to be out, too. I told them about my day and showed them where I'd gotten pork juice on the bottom of my pants. I settled into the cool night with my sweatshirt on and a Newcastle. It felt good to have traversed such distance in the span of one day.