A Country Life
You're driving down a two-lane road out in the country, away from the city and all of it's traffic and noise, but in a bit of a hurry to get somewhere. Right after you drive out of a curve, you see a farmer on a tractor driving it maybe 10 mph or so. You're frustrated, tired, hungry and just want to get by him as he's driving down the road. Finally, you find a place where you can pass him and after screaming all kinds of obscenities at the farmer, you speed away frustrated because you lost time being stuck behind that tractor. It's happened to many of us, and it's happened to me. I used to be one of those people...
...until I met a farmer and got to see his side of the story and how he lives.
About 7-8 years ago, I moved to the little community of Valley Mills, Texas. My life was at a crossroads, and i wasn't sure which direction I was going to turn. A lot of things had happened just before the move, none of them good, and i was depressed. I had lost control of myself, and I desperately needed to get it back. Dark days they were indeed, until I met the DeChaume family.
The DeChaumes are a close, tight-knit country family. They're a little different from the Waltons on TV, but to me they were right there. I got to know the family well, and they accepted me into their circle as a friend. Johnny DeChaume had worked as a farmer for much of his life, and still does to this day. His wife Barbara worked in Waco and still does. Their sons Chris and Tim, and their wives Kayla and Kim respectively, were just down-home, just like their parents were. I visited the DeChaumes often, and we talked about just about everything under the sun. But it was an awakening for me of sorts, seeing how a country family like them lived day by day. One of the biggest and best chats I had ever had was with Johnny as I decided to ride with him on a tractor while he was in one of the fields located not far from Ocee, a small little spit of a few houses between Waco and Crawford. We talked a lot about life that day, and that day it was a bit on the muddy side. That subject about the mud was interesting; i had told Johnny that i hated the mud. Then Johnny proceeded to tell me about why he needed the mud in order to have those crops grow so he could feed his family. The way he explained it to me, I never forgot it and it changed my way of thinking on a lot of things.
In a way, that converation may have saved me from a possible catastrophic event for me down the road.
Eventually I left Valley Mills, moving south down toward the Austin area and having to deal with some more issues before I finally began to get things back together as I met my future wife Sue. I lost touch with the DeChaumes for a time, until I managed to catch up with them over the phone not long before Sue and I were to get married. We had a long talk, catching up on things, and I was really happy to have been able to hear from them again. Then I asked johnny if he would be willing to stand with me at my wedding. I was one groomsman short and I was running out of options. "Sure," Johnny said without hesitation,"as long as I don't have to wear a tie." I knew about his dislike for ties, so I assured him that he would not need to worry about that. The big day arrived, and Johnny and Barbara were there; even after we had not seen each other in years. That was just how they were, and still are to this day.
About three weeks ago or so, Barbara contacted me about handling their family portraits; they were in need of new ones and haven't had any done in a long time. Let's just say that I was excited to say the least! We got the date and time set up, and last Saturday I made the trip to Valley Mills to see the people that, in their own way, managed to keep me grounded and from potentially making some very big mistakes in my life. I brought my wife Sue with me, so she could see the simple but full lives that the DeChaumes lived, especially since she had only gotten to meet Johnny and Barbara at our wedding.
When we pulled into that long gravel and dirt drive alongside a large acreage of corn that was growing close by, the memories came back. The peacefulness, the scenery, everything I had remembered of that place - it all came rushing back to me. When I saw Barbara and Johnny come out the front door and walk toward our car, it took everything I could do to keep from running toward them, probably tripping in the process. They were happy to see Sue as well, welcoming her to their home just like they did with me all those years ago. I'll tell you this: it felt like a reunion of sorts, and to me I felt that it was in a certain way.
Once everyone got there and introductions were made, including meeting Chris and Kayla's two kids who I had never met but had seen photos of them on Facebook and the like, and seeing Kim and Tim's kids grown up (wow), we headed out to an area that wtim as actually in a dry creekbed along Hog Creek. We took some great photos, a lot of them actually, then eventually headed back to get some pics taken of everyone around the tractor that was parked in a recently harvested wheat field by the house. After those were completed, we went inside to cool off and had a wonderful dinner of lasagna, salad and bread courtesy of Kayla. (I told her she did an awesome job with dinner.) After that, Sue and i were talking with Barbara and Johnny about some stuff, then Johnny and me went out front for a few minutes to talk privately. Tim and Chris came out with us for a bit to join in the conversation, then it was time for us to go. We had such a wonderful time; it was a visit that Sue and I had wanted to make for months, but couldn't due to scheduling conflicts among other things. Maybe Sue didn't see it, but I was smiling for so many reasons; it could not have been a better evening. I know the DeChaumes were smiling too.
For me it was a return to the simple life, the country style of how life is, and how it felt so good being able to connect to it once again, even if it was for one day. And this time, I got to capture some of it on camera, and provide that in pictures to a wonderful family that I will always be friends with, no matter what. Sue understood that as well in her own way because she was raised a country girl, and I know she had a wonderful time there. We're going to go back, and we won't wait years to do it either. Well, we can't wait that long because we have to go back to take them their prints and such once they are ready!
City life and country life are so different, especially in this day and age. But it's always wonderful when you get to visit friends that live the country life, the simple life, and are very happy living it. It grounds you, keeps you honest, and can help you to breathe again when you need it. People like the DeChaumes do that, and if you recognize that then you respect that, receive it, and take it in. You would be surprised how much better you feel.
It was a true honor for me to take care of the DeChaume family portraits for them, and I worked hard to make them look their very best because they deserved it. I owed them at least that much.
Thanks for enjoying this blog entry. Until next time...
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