Chapter 8: Some Proud food to eat

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This is this is the eighth in a series of literacy enhancement articles that will appear biweekly in The Sentinel-News.

"Don't even think about it, son," Pa commanded when he saw me getting ready to kill the slithering black snake I had found in the barn. "Leave him alone."

"You mean we aren't going to kill him?" I asked, proud I had gathered enough courage to even get close to the creature.

"Wouldn't dream of it," Pa said. "Snakes are good for farms. This little guy is a rat snake. He lives here in the barn and eats mice and rats. The snake gets his dinner, and we don't have rodents."

"Can I pick him up?" I asked.

"I didn't say that," Pa said, chuckling. "This snake might bite you, but it isn't a venomous snake. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between venomous and non-venomous snakes. That's why it's best to leave them alone and let an adult know a snake is around."

"Should we tell Mr. Parker?" I asked.

"He knows. This snake has been here for years, which is why you don't see rats or mice."

"How about I take the eggs you've already gathered and give them to Mrs. Parker," Pa suggested. "You keep gathering the eggs, and we'll take what's left to Granny. Mrs. Parker always insists we take some home."

"We're going to eat these?" I asked.

"Of course, but after we clean them," Pa said.

 "I've never eaten eggs that didn't come from the grocery store."

"Where do you think the store gets the eggs?" Pa asked.

When we returned home, it was lunchtime. I couldn't imagine being hungry after the huge breakfast I had eaten, but I was. It was a good thing because Granny had cooked a feast, and it smelled scrumptious! The beautiful oak table was graced with pork chops, corn on the cob, green beans, stewed tomatoes, biscuits and strawberry preserves. And of course there was a pitcher of cold milk straight from Patty and Bonnie.

"We've never seen such a large delicious lunch," Chloe commented before asking Granny if we could help with anything.

"Farmers are accustomed to eating a large noon-day meal," Granny explained. "They get up early, milk and do the morning chores, eat breakfast, and then work hard all morning long, burning off all those breakfast calories. By lunch they're starved and will need the energy to make it through the rest of the day. And just so you know, everything on the table was made or grown right here in Kentucky.

 "You bought it all at a Kentucky grocery store?" I asked, trying to understand.

"No, sweetie. All the vegetables – and the strawberries – were grown in our garden. The milk and the butter came from Bonnie and Patty, and the pork chops came from a friend who owns a pig farm," Granny said. "You could say Pa and I are Kentucky Proud."

"We're proud of Kentucky too!" I said, happy I lived in the commonwealth.

"I know you are, doggies," Pa said, "but Kentucky Proud is a program that encourages folks to purchase products that come from our state. The average meal travels 1,500 miles from somewhere far away to a table. During the travel process, the food loses its nutritional value and its taste, but if we buy Kentucky products the food doesn't have to travel, which means its fresher, and we're supporting our local farmers and keeping the money here in our state."

"I wish we could eat Kentucky Proud products," Chloe said, "but we don't have any pigs or chickens or cows!"

"You can still eat Kentucky Proud," Granny told us. "When your mom is at the grocery store, have her look for the Kentucky Proud symbol on the food. That will let her know it was made or grown right here in Kentucky. And if you ever go out for dinner or supper, make sure you go to a Kentucky Proud restaurant. You can find a list on their website, Kyproud.com."

I couldn't wait to give Mom that information. She was a terrific cook, but using Kentucky products would make her vittles even yummier.

After we finished lunch - or dinner as Granny called it – we ate fresh peach pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. No doubt about it, I loved life as a farmer.

"You doggies take a few minutes to enjoy yourselves while I check the weather forecast to see what tomorrow will bring. Then we will get back to work," Pa said.

Chloe and I helped Granny with the dishes and then took a walk outside. We smelled a very interesting smell that we couldn't quite identify. All of a sudden, we saw smoke coming from a barn. We ran back in the house as fast as we could and called the fire department. We hoped we weren't too late!

For more about the series including audio versions of each chapter, visit www.kypress.com.