Growing up on the Lett family farm near Sanford I learned from Mama and Daddy (Ruby and Bud Lett) that work was considered a top priority. I was prone to day-dreaming so I resisted the daily chores and hard labor required to raise animals, grow produce, and harvest crops.
When I took breaks during tasks like planting tobacco, pulling weeds, pickin’ peas, or gathering corn I learned to banter with the folks who taunted me about being lazy. As a teenager I’d quip: “I ain’t lazy…I just ain’t found a suitable occupation yet.”
While enticed with the idea that if we could get the tobacco out of the field and in the barn by noon, we could gorge on a big meal, take a nap, and watch “The Guiding Light,” I would work my fingers to the bone. Musings of such rewards inspired me to help accomplish the family’s morning goals on the farm.
As the summer heat lost its fire in late afternoon Mama, Daddy, and we “young’uns” headed for the garden or fields to continue our chores. Before dark sometimes we moved cured tobacco out of the barn to the pack house for later grading, tying and preparing for market.
Daddy especially enjoyed raising tobacco, nurturing it from the seeds he placed in the plant bed in January to the golden leaves he took to market in late summer and early fall. When Daddy dug his fingers deep into the soil he seemed to gather energy and power from Mother Earth. Like a prince on the palace grounds Daddy admired the fields plush with rows of green. Daddy’s love of the land nourished his soul. On the Lett farm Bud Lett found his kingdom.
The fruits of Daddy’s labor provided blessings for many people. His watermelon crop was a spiritual ministry…nothing delighted him more than filling my car with red and yellow varieties for me to distribute to friends. Daddy planted apple, peach, pear, and pecan trees and blueberry bushes so he could relish their growth and yield and have more treasures to share with others. He found pleasure in growing vegetables and fruits, treating each bean from the garden, fruit from a tree, or berry from a bush like a gem from a mine.
Meanwhile, Mama perfected her culinary concoctions by standing over a hot stove daily so that Daddy, family, and friends could relish the many delicious delights from her kitchen. Just as the tobacco crop peaked so did the garden, and the whole family pitched in to pick tomatoes, shell peas, snap beans, shuck corn, and help Mama with canning and freezing fruits and vegetables.
When Mama cooked in the kitchen she reigned like a queen of dining. In what everyone called Ruby’s Restaurant, she was the chef, the hostess, and the waitress. She excitedly fed her guests joy and contentment as well as favorite foods, and they constantly praised her cookin’. In her kitchen Mama felt passion and pride.
Mama’s food fixin’s and Daddy’s garden pickin’s were always greeted with appreciation because they featured a flavor and an aroma that went beyond all expectations. Through their love of labor Mama and Daddy experienced life’s most powerful secret. I feel fortunate from being around them, each working to his or her heart’s content.
Like Daddy, like Mama I am honoring my heart and feel fervor for my work. To love labor is life’s greatest blessing.