Roland and Ida have been in town this past week and I was able to have a great visit with Roland when he stopped by one afternoon. We've known each other since 1980 when they moved right over the mountain from where I was living on Big Pine. Their idea was to farm organically, with horses, tomatoes, tobacco, and a mix of vegetables they readily shared with neighbors. They did this quite successfully, but as their two children arrived they moved to Walnut and eventually back to Roland's childhood farm in Maryland where Roland became one of the premier sustainable homebuilders.
They have maintained their Madison County connections over the years. In our case, our connection was sealed over hours together picking tomatoes, working tobacco, fighting wildfires, and various building projects Roland graciously helped me with. But what forged our relationship even more happened five or six years ago when our two sons met independently of us in Portland, Oregon. My son, Ben who goes by the moniker Banjo these days, answered a Craigslist ad for a room that had been placed by Roland and Ida"s son, Noah. Meeting to discuss the room, they began playing the "where you from game" as most young people in Portland are from somewhere else. To make a long story shorter, when Noah finally asked if Ben had heard of a place called Big Pine and Ben answered, "Heard of it? I was born on Big Pine." They knew a friendship had begun.
Now, some twenty-five years after their move, Roland comes over and it's like he never left. We are both talkers and we covered much ground, both old and new alike. Our kids, our work, outrage over the Republicans, admiration for Bernie Sanders, and details of trips out to Portland. But changes were also evident. Roland limped slightly and spoke of knee issues. I mentioned my blood sugar. We both spoke of young people doing the hard work on our job sites and teaching us new technologies and ways of doing things. As he was leaving, Roland said, "Yeah, I can't even imagine doing all that farm work with horses now." The comment reminded me of this photograph.