This farm is located much differently from Stringtown Rising (which is to say, so much more conveniently). Sassafras Farm is 8 miles from the interstate. Handy, but not too close, and all that said, it’s still quite country out here. Like old Stringtown, there was once a little town here, too. The remains of old Clio are more visible than the remains of Stringtown. It was a postal address up until several years ago, but the post office is gone now. The old elementary school still stands, albeit in skeletal form. The old general store has been converted to a house. There is a tiny white church, still in operation. “Downtown Clio” is about a mile from my farm. I like to tell people as we’re driving through–”You’re in downtown Clio!” It perplexes people since it looks like nothing but a cluster of houses and a church. Oh, and that skeletal remain of the old elementary school.
Clio, by the way, is pronounced Cl-iiii-o, with a hard i. Not Cl-eeee-o. One sure way to tell everyone you’re not from around here is to say Cl-eeee-o. Luckily, I’m from only 10 miles away from here, so I already knew how to say Cl-iiii-o. Or I’d stick out even more than I do.
My neighbor Jim grew up here and remembers when the school and the store and the post office were still in operation. I wish they still were. It would be nice to have a little store and post office that closeby. I can only imagine the disturbance when the post office was taken away. (Not to mention the school and the store.) No post office in Roane County serves this road. It’s actually served by a post office in another county. The postal address here is Clendenin, which is in Kanawha County, because that is the town that sends a postman to this road. If that seems strange, welcome to rural living. I’m happy just to have a mailbox at the end of my driveway. I haven’t gotten over that yet. Probably never will after several years on a road with no postal service at all. This road is served otherwise (school bus etc) by Roane County, but it can be confusing sometimes to explain to people that your postal address is of one county although you live in another. If you ask people around here where they live, they’ll still tell you Clio. As do I. I’m more one of them than they know.
This road follows a path between a hollow. There are few farms on this road. The geography doesn’t support it well. Much of the land between the hills is narrow. There are a few roads branching off this road, going over the hills. There are random farms here and there, where the land allows, but no true farms any closer than a mile and a half away where I found Patriot after his escape. Farmers or not, these are country people and they have long roots. The number of mailboxes up and down the road with a single family name tell you that–and that same family name is the name of the road where it turns to dirt past my farm. These people have been here a long time, and they don’t take to outlanders or pretenders.
This farm is one of the few places along this road where the land opens up, providing wide flat spaces and good farmland and pasture. It’s one of the prime pieces of property on this road. The house has been here since the 1930s, and the farm longer than that. The original (now gone) farmhouse and barn were erected in the 1890s. But in recent memory, this farm has changed hands repeatedly, and the hands it has changed through have been outlanders and pretenders (or so goes the judgment of those who belong here).
I am the latest outlander and pretender to buy the pretty little jewel of a farm at the end of this road. The vast majority of the neighbors have been very friendly (and kind and generous and helpful!), though I doubt they expect me to last any longer than the rest. A few are more blatantly leery.
Recently, two little girls came strolling up the road. They were attracted to Patriot. They stood and stood and stood at the drive until I saw them and came down. They wanted to come closer to see him, and they wanted to see the other animals. They’d heard I had farm animals. I took them to see all the animals and then, naturally, their grandmother came up the road after them, looking for her errant girls.
We talked for a little bit and she said, “So do you ride the horse?”
I could tell right away that this was an important question.
She went on: “The people before, they had that big black Percheron, and they NEVER RODE HIM.”
I felt like I was having an Ornery Angel moment. She was testing me, to see if I really deserved to live on this road and to live on this farm and if I was a real country person.
Or if I was just another outlander and pretender.
In some ways, I probably am, and always will be. But yet that’s not quite true either. I have earned my stripes. But now I’m not country enough because I can’t ride a horse?
“I don’t know how
But I have
a milk cow
AND I MILK HER.”
And that, dear readers, is ’nuff said.