In the world of modern day technology, I find that it is a rare treat to be engaged by someone who holds my attention with nothing but an exceptional ability to wield the English language.
Last week I had the remarkable privilege of meeting not just one, but two such souls.
P. Allen Smith and Jim Carroll are modern day storytellers.
With his elegant Tennessee drawl, P. Allen Smith told us the story of Moss Mountain Farm. He finished building the Greek Revival farm cottage just four years ago, yet the house calls out to you from beyond almost two centuries.
The painstaking detail it required of P. Allen Smith to give the house this kind of history was so fascinating to me. As he talked about the architecture, the design and the furniture, he amazed us with the many threads of old story that I would have completely missed had I simply walked through the home on my own.
Of course, I would have still fallen in love with the rambling porches, the kitchen and the children’s room, but I wouldn’t have understood which details were nods to Monticello or what the paintings were adding to the story of the South.
I’m sure I could have read somewhere about all those components, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable as hearing P. Allen Smith tell about it. His phrasing is eloquent and gracious. In the garden someone asked him if he has trouble with armadillos, and he answered,
Yes, they are insidious little creatures. Possums on the half shell is what we call them around here.
Finding myself to be tongue tied a good portion of the time, I appreciate all the more a perfectly appointed phrase.
Our other storyteller for the day was equally able to turn a head with an expression.
Jim Carroll, a farmer from Brinkley, Arkansas (to whom I later discovered that my sister is distantly related by marriage), told us stories from his many years as a fourth generation Arkansas farmer.
One of my favorite moments was while he was telling us about a dishonest employee on the farm.
He paused and said,
Now y’all don’t know me, but that kinda stuff just burns my butt up.
Now look back and read that with your best Arkansas accent and draw the words out a little to get the full effect.
I caught Jim during most of our breaks to hear more. He and his wife, Rhonda, are the kind of people with whom you immediately feel at home. You just want to walk through their back door, pour yourself a cup of coffee, sit down at their kitchen table and say, Tell me more.
Jim told us all that he wished we would come and visit his farm. Don’t even think I won’t be planning a trip there to take him up on the offer. I have about 10 boys I would like to bring along with me to soak up just a little of the character that the Carrolls are oozing from their pores.
So much of what was enchanting about both Allen and Jim is not just that they possess all this rich history, but that they are willing to share it with those who will pull up a chair and listen.
Both men are using their unique talents and captivating verbiage to benefit the state of Arkansas.
P. Allen Smith could easily live anywhere in the world, but he has chosen to stay in Arkansas because of his roots. Even our day at the farm for Bean 2 Blog was a way for Allen to promote our home state.
Jim Carroll regularly misses costly days on his farm to volunteer on farm boards that are working to make farming a viable career option for the next generation. This man who in the first years of his life rarely traveled out of state has now been to China and Russia in order to explore how the soybean industry in the US can continue to expand to feed the world.
Jim was amazed that when he went to China he saw that all the protein you need in a day could be made with a handful of soybeans and some water. He was so intrigued by the process of homemade soy milk that when he got back he found his wife Rhonda a machine so they could make their own soy milk from beans right off his farm.
I am super grateful that I got to listen in on so many stories last week and I’m super excited about how the stories will continue to unfold.