When we least expect it, that’s when an unforgettable trip turns into an experience for the scrapbook. It stays with us for the rest of our life. An exaggeration perhaps? I don’t think so. When I made a quick day trip to north Alabama last month to visit the Darnell farm family, I couldn’t have guessed how entertaining and informative the experience would be.
The weather was less than cooperative with ice, rain and snow about to hit Memphis and parts of the Mid-South for the second time in two weeks. After checking and rechecking the forecasts, it appeared that I had a window of opportunity to make the journey. Fortunately, I made the three-hour drive to meet the Darnells, who, as it turns out, might be one of the most interesting farm families I’ve met in recent years.
When you read about their operation on pages 8, 9 and 10, you’ll only be getting a glimpse into what their life is really like. Think in terms of a father, wife, two sons, two daughters-in-law and three grandchildren – all focused on making the farm run better.
As the Darnells will tell any outsider, farming is their life, but it isn’t always easy on this variable dryland soil of north Alabama. You name it, and this family has seen it. They’ve battled scorching droughts, weed problems, plant bugs, tobacco budworms and even boll weevils over the course of several decades. But better days are always ahead. Cotton yields were good in 2010 and there’s a lot of optimism about 2011 – especially with these record breaking prices.
As I sat in their farm office (a converted carport attached to Danny and Pat Darnell’s house), it was obvious that they loved being a part of agriculture. They share ideas and sometimes even disagree. But, at the end of their discussions, they are committed to a decision and don’t look back. It isn’t always easy, but this group forges ahead with contagious enthusiasm.
Danny, as the father of sons Jared and Heath, also has a keen love of history. Before leaving, he insisted that I take a tour of an old country store in Hillsboro that he had purchased. It was loaded with historical memorabilia dating back nearly 100 years. We also went for a ride in his truck to look at acreage near the Tennessee River north of town. We even stopped and read a historical marker that revealed former President Andrew Jackson had once owned farm land there. Imagine that – right there in Hillsboro.
This trip had everything – laughter, good stories, photos of grandkids, Auburn football, history lessons and lots of talk about cotton. It was hard saying good-bye. The next time you’re driving on US 72 in north Alabama, stop in and see the Darnell family.
They made a Memphis visitor feel right at home.
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