It’s somewhat reminiscent of a seventh grade homecoming dance, the Wednesday morning coffee convocation at the Willow Springs community clubhouse: girls on one side of the gym, boys on the other — and cross over at your peril.
It’s mostly a gathering of men and women of a certain age, which is where the comparison to a seventh grade sock hop completely falls apart. The guys (yours truly occasionally included, depending on travel obligations) squeeze in around one round table, while the ladies (including my wife) occupy another — close enough to hear snippets of conversation across the divide, should anyone care to (we mostly don’t).
Consequently, I can offer little enlightenment as to what the womenfolk discuss. But we men talk about motorcycles, horses, new construction in the neighborhood, football, local bars with the best music, and updates on where we all came from and what we’ve worked at.
I recently met one gentleman with whom I have a connection — he’s a retired farmer from the Midwest who sold the family farm and moved to a warmer climate. We struck up a conversation about the plight of the American farmer, and we surprised a few of our tablemates regarding how much a farmer has to invest in making a crop. They were particularly interested in the cost of equipment. It’s remarkable how many people still view agriculture as a simple way of life, performed in an idyllic setting, with few stresses.
We talked a bit about modern ag technology: GPS, drones, smart phones with the capability of running irrigation systems from far away. They were a bit amazed that tractors and harvesters can steer themselves, at which point the conversation drifted off to self-steering automobiles — technology of which we are skeptical.
We are guys, after all. We like to drive. And if we didn’t want to drive, we’d take a bus. We — sometimes mistakenly — trust our own driving instincts over what we would expect from an onboard computer. We don’t have circuits that short out, chips that fail to do whatever it is that chips are supposed to do, or batteries that run down at inopportune times. (Well, I do get sleepy sometimes, driving across West Texas following a light lunch of chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes.)
The breakfast bunch comes from varied vocations and locations. I’m the only farm reporter in the group. We have military (retired), peace officers, electricians, and engineers, all mostly retired. I’ve heard stories about jobs as varied as running moonshine to working for NASA (same guy, by the way). I will not mention names, since I have not suggested to any of my neighbors that by inviting a journalist into their midst they become potential subjects. So, all names are withheld to protect me from the innocent.
Along with the conversation, we have food prepared by volunteers — doughnuts, pastries, casseroles, meatballs, and coffee. Lots of coffee. Bring your own mug or you’ll have to sip from Styrofoam cups.
And watch where you sit.