Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
My sense of release upon leaving work before 6 was thwarted the moment I saw it that Tuesday afternoon: a busy main road, chronically backed up at one of its lights, had a slow line of cars stretching maybe a half-mile east. Darn. I wished I’d picked a different route. But then I spotted a way out: a looped driveway beckoned a few hundred feet to my left. It wasn’t some private homeowner’s access, the residence of a guy just wanting peace and quiet but subjected to a parade of vehicles exploiting the convenient turnaround. No, it was kind of a business, I reasoned. Large signs year-round announced that this was a Hutterite farm. There were eggs, fresh fruit, and sundries for sale. Come on in!
Okay, I’ll stop by. I thought. I’ve got a little cash on me, and maybe I’ll pick up some eggs and then gratefully exit the loop to turn right. I’d escape the creeping car line guilt-free and bring home some fresh food in the process. After some effort locating the right opening to swing into–Montana doesn’t always delineate driveways well– I left the queue and nosed my Subaru down past two fireworks stands that surely were having a post-July 4th clearance event. Not interested, I kept cruising, looking for a stall of some kind. No market stall appeared, but there were two small houses, one with signs indicating that this was the seller I was looking for. But I didn’t see a soul. Strange. With all the signage out front, I thought there’d be a stream of visitors doing brisk business with the farmers.
Well, no spending necessary, then. I’d had intentions, and couldn’t help it if the seller was absent. But as I rolled toward the exit, I caught in my rearview an older man in front of the little house, flagging me down. He signaled to me that I should back up. I rolled my window down and said I had a little cash and would like to buy something. How much were the strawberries? “Five dollars a pint,” he said. Good, because that’s exactly what I had on hand. A little high, but I could swing it. A stiff-legged dog approached, half barking and half sniffing. The man motioned me to make the loop again and pull up next to the house. This is kind of ridiculous, I thought as I complied, swinging past the forlorn fireworks stands once again. Had I stayed on the road, maybe the offending traffic light would have been in my sights by now.
I exited the car, and the man bade me wait by the door as he stepped into the building. “These are fresh and sweet, just packed,” he said. “You’ll enjoy ’em.” I glimpsed a cluttered interior before he half-closed the door behind him. I could hear him rummaging in the depths of the building, giving me time to inspect more closely the extended cab truck that had pulled up ahead of my vehicle, disgorging a man in suspenders. A woman in the back, head covered, stretched her arm out the window and dumped out the contents of her fast-food Coke cup.
The farmer emerged with a green cardboard pint container, the ruby fruit pressing against the clear plastic top. I exchanged my five one-dollar bills for the chilled box, noting that the strawberries, stacked in a dark refrigerator, were now a lustrous crimson in the light of day. The suspender guy was walking around the truck, as if gauging how to load something. Instructions were called out, words that I didn’t catch. I thanked the stranger and started my car, now noticing the second house, where either the same elderly mutt who’d inspected me before or a different dog bawled and jumped behind a gate. A middle-aged lady, oxygen cannulas in her nose, stood on the porch beaming, waving, and mouthing Thank you! Thank you! I waved back before cresting the top of the driveway and turning right, free of the car line that was even longer than before I’d entered the compound.
The cool berries have been my dessert for the past couple of days. The man was right–they are sweet and fresh, tasting sun-ripened and grown in rich Montana soil.Published in