Forest, Virginia, USA
October morning. A brilliant cloudless day, leaves mercurochrome shades. The field of barley emerald green where corn grows in summer. Stop at the Farm & Home Store opposite for 25 pounds of black oil sunflower seeds and some K-31 grass seed. That time of year.
Stan's store supplies the horsey set hereabouts and all gardening needs, fertilizers—"Baa-Baa Doo" is one—seed packets, herbicides, insecticides, now local apples replace the peaches in bushel baskets, Virginia nuts: PLENTY OF NUTS INSIDE reads the sign out front, novelty items, bird feeders, fish food, even a little koi pond with aquatic plants. Pansies and mums for sale surround it. But with all this, business has been slow so he added a new dimension: take-out or eat-in lunches featuring all kinds of hotdogs and barbeque, pastries, hot coffee. It's a hit! The bell on the door jingles constantly from around noon on.
In the middle of the worn wood floor, three tiny tables with chairs where the locals eat and gossip, eye the customers. Familiars, most of them. But it is not lunchtime. Stan is pulling fat off a warm grilled slab of pork shoulder for today's lunch crowd. Slow-cooked it out back where the last rose bushes are. Where another pork chunk's hickory-smoke fragrance drifts into the orange and gold leaves above.
of slow greasy-fingered chat
"Remember, first time we met decades ago, you showed me your beautiful pigmy goats out back? Blonde "Goatilocks" was my favorite!"
"Yes, but after a while, we ended up with too many. A couple of friends came in their Toyota van and loaded it up with goats. Planned to take them over to Bent Creek in Appomattox. They'll cook one for a barbeque party." He plops another chunk of pork into the plastic bucket, musing. "On the way back from here, they stopped at McDonald's—and got some real funny looks!"
"Remember a few years ago when that bull bolted off a truck on Old Forest Road? They finally caught him in front of McDonald's."
The store bell jingles. The earliest lunch customers show up. The bucket of pork goes into the simmering sweet red sauce.