Perseverating, it pays to know your audience. Baffled when a local lady informed me that her father sold mine some lumber more than half a century ago, I felt the fog lift with the denouement. She expressed hope that my father appreciated the discount.
Though this transaction took place before my birth, I can say with certitude - as my father's only child - that not only did he not think he was getting a deal, he most definitely thought he paid too much. If you knew my father, you know it, too. I broke it to her gently. Had it not been for my mother, Daddy would have died with his first dollar.
A mix of the two, I am conservative to a fault, but I recognize truth in the old mantra, "You can't take it with you." I learned that lesson from a local lawyer - Ron Brumfield - who kindly came to my father's death bed, not once but twice. The first time, Daddy signed documents, what we thought was the end of estate planning. But something more, overlooked by my mother and me, belonging to my dad turned up so we asked Cousin Ron to return before the leave-taking. When he entered the hospital room, Daddy greeted him with, "Ron, you came back for the rest?" Not missing a beat, Ron wisely informed Dad that if he timed it just right, he'd depart this world the same way he came in - with nothing. A great goal, for anyone.
And I'm right on track, following renovation that sprouted out of sheer boredom during the pandemic, at both home and farm, and now home restoration, following Ida which brought a massive pine crashing through the roof over our back bath and closet. Our neighborhood, once replete with majestic trees, looks like a bomb detonated. Here at our home, we are in the midst. As I pen this piece on a late September morn, I recognize the difference - and it is substantial - between a renovation project which we pursue of our own volition and reconstruction not of our choosing. Thankfully, our upstairs was unimpaired as during the summer Mike Parkerson's fabulous flooring crew had replaced the carpet, and Van Varnado had expertly transformed the walls with fresh paint.
And before that, mid-pandemic, we had our tiny powder room under our stairs redone, an easy task for Kenny Martin's daughter Enjolie, granddaughter of locals Charles and Mirtha Martin - she works aesthetic miracles. Digressing, it was where Rodney and I sheltered off and on during Ida, which brought sustained wind up to 90 mph, with wind gusts of up to 115 mph, in Mandeville. Praise the Lord, our contractor Pete Burkhalter showed up at daybreak on August 30 with two crews of workers to remove the tree, reconstructing and re-roofing the back wing. It was de javu, reminiscent of Katrina. It's worth noting that Pete, a friend and fellow attorney, has become one of us, with his own piece of paradise in Washington Parish.
But back to the projects pre-Ida, my better half had function in mind at the farm. There, the project was all electrical. We consulted with a cavalcade of electricians late last year - mercy, they were in demand, much like roofers now - getting quote after quote. One guy bid the job sky high, in hopes that we would not proceed - he said so as he got in his truck. But he didn't know us very well. I'm back to knowing your audience. After endless research and sleepless nights, we blazed full steam ahead with a fellow who wanted the work.
And a few months later, we bid James, and our funds, farewell. That's how it is with home renovation and restoration - you're glad to see them come and, perhaps more so, to see them go. While Rodney enjoyed the fruits of the electrical ensemble's labor, I spent my time piddling in the pantry, the one room of the farmhouse that had not been redone with the rest of the place a decade ago.
I laid down an old hand-hooked rug after I swept the floor with the hand-tied straw brooms. Finding an old Ohio milk paint chest from the late 1800s, I spent a weekend lining the drawers and layering its contents. Foraging through the built-in cabinets, I reorganized as I went. And I fell in love with the cast iron, my grandmother's cookware that I never would have rediscovered but for the pandemic and the projects.
My Ga-ga used the skillets, cornbread mold, and muffin pan to make her magic in the kitchen. Pulling on her apron strings, I can picture her in front of her old gas stove. Before that, it was wood-burning. My late mother always said the reason she wasn't as good (though she was an excellent cook) in the kitchen as Ga-ga was the skillet - she didn't have the cast iron. Ga-ga said it wasn't the skillet.
Investigating cast iron, I found a column penned by Mrs. F. D. Sylvest in "The Era-Leader" in May of 1987. She advised "Seasoning" cast iron pots and skillets to ward off rust and make them easier to clean. According to Mrs. Sylvest, you wash and dry them completely to prevent rust from forming. Then coat them with unsalted vegetable shortening or oil on the inside, including the lid. Place either on top of the stove over low heat or in a 250 degree oven for a few hours. Periodically wipe the pan dry with a paper towel and reoil it. Following said "Seasoning," the pot or pan is ready for cooking.
Continuing her column, Mrs. Sylvest touted the merit of cast iron, reporting that using hers every day, she treated them "like they were gold and China and silver…." Having found my Ga-ga's, I plan to do the same. At this rate, cast iron may be all I leave behind.