By Leigh Walkup
I still remember my grandfather meeting his friends and colleagues weekly at a local joint called “The Bun Boy.” They would sit and drink coffee, smoke pipes, and of course, solve all the world’s problems. It was something that he looked forward to every week. But, unfortunately, they eventually closed down The Bun Boy and moved their gatherings to the local Druther’s. Of course, he said it was never the same after that.
My father always met his friends at the local filling station or a place called Maw’s Kitchen. It was a compilation of childhood buddies, transplants, and everything in between. I always found it ironic that on the days we had the most to do on the farm, Dad always managed to slip away to have coffee with his buddies. It was what I call a “procrastination destination.” In other words, it allowed people the opportunity to procrastinate the day’s work by shooting the bull with anyone who would listen.
When Mom owned the country store, the same regulars were there getting coffee and sack lunches for the day every morning. It was the meeting place for the area. I can still see people standing around that old wood stove, laughing and ribbing each other before heading off to work in the local factory or the fields.
Of course, one of the best meeting places was always the porch. My grandparent’s porch was the place to be. I can’t tell you how many times I came down the long dusty driveway to find people sitting on the porch visiting with them. People from out of town, out of state, or from just down the road. My grandmother always offered tea, sherry, or bloody marys. My grandfather was sucking on a pipe and telling tall tales. I remember having lunch one day at my grandparents when I heard a vehicle coming down the driveway. It was one of my father’s friends from Wyoming. He drove right past the house down to the barn and unloaded his horses like he lived there. That farm was a place where everyone was welcome and treated like family and everyone that came there knew that. It was the perfect meeting place.
There is something to be said about the camaraderie of a small town. Friends gather to talk about the going ons of the town, who is sick, who got fired, and whose kid got the winning touchdown on Friday night.
Trust me; there was a time when I didn’t appreciate it. I couldn’t wait to get out of that stifling small town and head anywhere but there! Looking back, what I find funny is that I left my hometown to go to an even smaller country town. I fell in love with a local joint called Martha’s and spent most days meeting my friends and college professors there to complain about being broke, term papers, and bonding over corn nuggets and chicken fried steak. It quickly became my meeting place.
I remember when Anne and I bought a small farm and moved, I was worried to death that our social life was over. I thought no one would ever come to see us. Little did I know that we would often get home from work to find people sitting on our deck waiting for us. Our home had become the new meeting place, and I couldn’t have been happier.
Honestly, I feel like the days of “the meeting place” are slipping away. The past two years have caused seclusion, which has almost become routine. But I’m hoping we are coming out on the other side of it. We all need a place to go to and feel welcome and at home. A place where our friends light up when we walk in and laugh at the stories they’ve heard 100 times. It’s important to feel that in our lives.
So I hope in 2022 you get back to your “meeting place” and you feel right at home.
This was originally written and featured in our Winter 2021 issue.
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