Last week, while standing by the heartburn dispenser we call the office coffee machine, I was approached by a questioning sales associate. “Scott,” she began. “My husband Duntov (not his real name) and I want to see the leaves change. You own a farm. When would be the best time?”
She stared as I waited for the rest of the story.
“I mean,” she continued. “You live way down there in Washington County.”
“So when do the leaves start to change, generally? When do they peak? What day would you go?”
I stirred my coffee for a moment, looked at the floor as if perplexed, rubbed my chin and stated, matter-of-factly, “Saturday, October Sixth. Aim for about eight-fifteen in the morning.”
“Absolutely,” I said with authority. “That’s when they’ll be peaking. Eight-fifteen. Saturday. That’ll be the optimum time for you and Duntov (not his real name) to see the leaves.”
She wrote it down.
I know no more about leaf peaks than the next guy, but here’s what I’ve discovered in the years since buying our farm house: others trust in the obviously God-given backwoods knowledge of someone who will show up in the office every once in a while with mud on his shoes.
It’s simple. I drive an hour to work. I own a septic tank and a tractor. I am an obvious backwoods genius.
Word got around about the farm. Someone from accounting wanted my advice on getting rid of a squirrel. A week or so later, a guy at a hockey game asked about buying a canoe.
Each plea included the magic words, “You live on a farm, right?”
Canoes and farming are not really connected. I know that. You know that. The guy at the hockey game probably knew that, but it didn’t seem to matter. He just wanted someone to make a decision for him.
What I soon learned was that not only did people ask my advice about all matter of topics I knew nearly nothing about, but they also believed whatever I said. The fact that I lived away from the city made me instantly an expert on all things outdoors. In some peoples’ eyes, the day we bought this place I became Jeremiah Johnson.
Without, of course, the rugged good looks or blonde hair.
It’s not just me. I’m sure that many Washington County residents (and those in Greene County, even farther removed from Starbucks) have had this same experience. “You live out in the country,” co-workers ask. “Where’s the best place to buy a pumpkin for Halloween?”
Next time, rather than shrugging your shoulders, play along. They think you have special powers of woodsy enlightenment because you’re not in an apartment. Don’t let them down. Look at them as if you’re pondering the most important question in the world and give them an answer they can depend on.
Tell them, “Saturday. October Sixth. Eight-fifteen.”
Make Duntov (not his real name) get up early.