Thursday, August 14, 2008

ox roasts and widows

Living in a rural community signs you up for things you don't always expect. Some of these things are good. Like when my neighbor asked me if I was following her to the Ox Roast, or would I drive up on my own? And what was I bringing for the potluck? There was no question if I was attending - even though no one had invited me or asked me if I cared to go... of course I was going. This was a simple truth. I lived here and since I was one of the few hundred people who drives by the farm with the whitewash sign telling us the day and time - it was branded in our psyches' that we'd all attend. If you didn't you were riff raff or snobs with summer homes. I told her I'd follow her car. I'll bring a pie.

But not everything is swell in paradise. Yesterday when I stopped in at the Wayside (our country store/social networking hub) I found out one of our neighbors became a widow as of 1:30 that afternoon. Her husband was out mowing the lawn and died of a heart attack. It was the silent hum of the whole store. When your village has only 381 people in it, you find yourself signing up to cook a strange widow's casseroles or watering gardens. No one asks if you'll do it - it's expected. Just like attendance at the ox roast. This is just how things are.

There are a lot of stereotypes about New Englanders. That they're a cold, closed off people. Maybe some are, but when you live in the mountains you need people. you need them to jump and tow cars, feed and care for animals during vacations, and help with small crisis. We're not Amish, and we're far from ideal, but Sandgate is a place where people keep an eye on each other. It's a good feeling, to be cared for like that. Like we're all in one big barn together being fed and cared for by the community. There is little difference between the care I give the chickens in the coop, and the food I'd make for the women grieving. It's just being aware of what's going on around you, taking part in it, tending to it, and keeping everyone as safe as possible.


Blogger Morgen said...

Thank you for sharing that. Though I now feel like I live in a huge town :-> at 2,500, we are the same way. You just watch out for each other, no one locks their doors and what I have is yours if you have need of it. I love it here. And I have to say I ABSOLUTELY love Ox Roast! Have a blast. I prefer relish and mustard! Now I can't wait for Labor Day and the big Riggles Gap ox roast.

August 14, 2008 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

hey morgen, where in PA are you located? I grew up in carbon county!

August 14, 2008 at 9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jenna! I just wanted to say that I really enjoy reading all of your stories. This was a nice one.

August 14, 2008 at 10:11 AM  
Blogger Moon said...

Interesting to see how your mind traveled from A Dry Afternoon to this post. You're right, barns, chicken coops and small towns do have a lot of similarities. I'm glad the widow has a community that's looking out for her.

August 14, 2008 at 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, by the way, how are your tomato plants doing? Are you having a problem with blight too?

August 14, 2008 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Wysteria said...

I just had to say, I found your blog through Mother Earth News. I now live in MD (last 3 years) and work in DC, but I grew up in VT (Waitsfield) and miss it ridiculously. It's comforting to read your posts! Brings home all that much closer. Thanks! Oh and I LOVE your huskies! They are beautiful!!

August 14, 2008 at 6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi - we have some property in Sandgate and love spending as much time as possible there...we are hoping to go to the Ox Roast this weekend for our first time. I'm not there enought to know details. I have siome salads I am making to bring - how do we get there? I see the one sign so far...

August 15, 2008 at 7:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi- we have some property in Sandgate and love spending as much time as we can there (never enough) - hopefully this year we'll make it to the Ox roast. I am in the works of making some salads to bring but not sure where to bring them. I see the sign for the time and date but not sure where to go from there...

August 15, 2008 at 7:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aw this is really sweet. Some day when the clouds have passed, I'll bet the widow will think back on her community banding together like that and be very grateful for all her pie-baking, garden-watering neighbors.

August 15, 2008 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger The Old Man and His Dog said...

Good luck on a great book!

I just finished reading it and left my review on my blog. I have to say I haven't read any book in less than 3 days until I read yours. Nice job Jenna!

August 15, 2008 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

whoa, comments!

christa - my tomato plants hate my guts. They are either withering from rain, blight - probably both. I still have a few stored away in the freezer for a pot of sauce though!

As for directions to the ox roast? I have no idea, i'm following my neighbor katie. But I bet you five bucks if you call Wayside Country Store, ask for Doug or Nancy, and ask them directions, they can tell you lickety split.

THANK YOU! for reading the book ol' man! Us siberian loving folks need to stick together!

August 15, 2008 at 2:43 PM  
Blogger The Old Man and His Dog said...

You better get out to NJ to sign and you better be wearin that hat of yours. My wife and I will definitely be there to see you.

Or better yet, hope we have relocated to Nashville by then and you can come there to sign books. Keep your fingers crossed.

Best wishes to you, Jazz, Annie, the chickens, the ducks.....oh never mind.... Good luck to the whole Damn Family.

August 15, 2008 at 3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes for all the gossip and pointed looks that arise out of everyone in a small town knowing each other, the brightest spot is how people step forward to help in times of trouble. When the corn harvest hits around here it's still common to hear stories of towns rising together to harvest a recently deceased farmer's fields and help the widow and family. With all the flooding that people here in Iowa experienced this spring, whole towns, sometimes even high school rivals, stepped up to aid one another. These acts show that empathy and kindness are still truly ensconced in the hearts of small town America.

August 15, 2008 at 6:19 PM  
Blogger Susan Marie said...

You perfectly describe the kind of community that my husband and I have been longing for; the kind of community that I just have not been able to find in the suburbs. When I lived in the inner city, there was a stronger sense of community than in the suburbs. It's great to hear that taking care of one another is still an American value in some communities.

August 15, 2008 at 7:48 PM  

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