So much fun I forgot to pay!

I’m starting to understand just why trips into town were so exciting for Laura Ingles and her family. 

Though I don’t live too far from town (well I guess it would have been considered far in the pre-vehicle days), my illness does prevent me from getting out very much. But today, we decided, would be an errand-running day for the whole family. With anticipation I looked forward to the morning, particularly checking out a farmer’s market and a few produce stands we had not been to yet. (I’ll be adding a couple of these to my local producers list shortly.)

Having been warned in an email from the Ooltewah Farmer’s Market that not all farmer’s markets sell only local produce, I was curious to check that out as well. Sure enough, as soon as I saw tomatoes on the tables, I knew the email was true. But since I haven’t quite gotten used to eating only seasonally available foods, I was okay with that. 

“Where do these come from?” I asked the lady at the first booth. “Florida,” she replied honestly. Already, I had more information on the origin of the produce than I find in many grocery stores. I was also appreciative of the lady’s honesty. She could have tried to convince me that the tomatoes came from a local greenhouse, but she didn’t. We bought some cucumbers and zucchini from her.

The man at the next table was equally honest. When I asked where some white potatoes he was selling came from, he kind of shook his head and said, “I don’t know.” Then he pointed out some red potatoes at the other side of the table. “Those are local. They were dug up just this morning.” I bought some of each. I also bought some red peppers for 50 cents each and a big orange pepper for a dollar. Since these easily cost $3 or $4  in the stores, I was happy to walk away with a bargain like that, even if they weren’t local!

After that, I wanted to check out a produce stand just down the road. The story was the same there. Much of the produce was from Florida, though some of the produce (obviously very fresh as the man there was still trimming off the tops) was local. “We’ll have more local stuff later in the season,” he told me. Choosing some sweet potatoes and limes, I told them about my blog and jotted down their information so I could add them to the local producers list. (Hmm…maybe I should change the name of the list. Any suggestions?) When they asked for my blog address, I pulled out one of my husband’s business cards to write it on. “Oh, you’re a photographer?” the man asked my husband, and so began a conversation about taking pictures. At one point in the conversation, I noticed my wallet was still in my hands and put it back in my purse. We continued talking until some more customers showed up, when we wished them well and left.

On the way to our next stop, I decided to check how many small bills I had, just as I had done at each of the previous stops to make sure we’d be able to pay for the produce we purchased without asking for an unfair amount of change.

“Did I pay?” I suddenly asked my husband.

“I think so,” he responded.

“I have a ten and a one in here,” I said. “How many small bills did I say I had before we stopped?”

“A ten and a one,” he said.

“We’d better go back!” I responded. 

As we returned, I explained to the man that we’d gotten so wrapped up in conversation that I’d forgotten to pay! “I like to talk!” he said, apparently not even noticing that he almost got stiffed. I like to talk too, so after he took my ten and gave me some change, we stood there talking for another ten minutes or so until my kids got antsy. 

So, yeah. I’m starting to see why the Ingles loved going to town so much. It wasn’t just that they were buying flour or sugar or even new calico material for a dress. I’m guessing that chatting with the merchants, who were also their friends, was also something they looked forward to. 

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About Lori Futcher

Freelance writer and copyeditor
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