(All photos by Rachel J Apple)
A friend of mine took her adopted Vietnamese son on an essential journey in the early 90s. After watching international news for years, word came of the borders finally, possibly, opening for visitors from the United States. Armed with supplies, money and large quantities of prayer, they made the long trek to the Vietnamese mountains, found their son’s tribe and watched an amazing reunion. Although his adult frame stood almost a full foot higher than his siblings’ and mother’s, they connected. He saw…and felt…the place from where he came. His people.
I thought of my friend’s son as we covered the entire perimeter of Dewey County last June. Meeting Tuffy Howell was the impetus for thoughts linking to that Vietnamese trek. It was as if, while sitting in the Putnam Co-Op, I had begun my own pilgrimage. I had found “my people,” so to speak.
Our family had lost my grandmother only three weeks prior to this run. That moment in our life, intersecting with wheat harvest and an elder in overalls, brought back memories of not only my grandmother cooking meals during harvest but of my grandpa who died six years prior. And, my other grandparents who had passed during my late adolescent and emerging adulthood years.
Tuffy patiently talked through a great deal of his life with us.
And, everyone in the Co-Op helped us understand wheat sample moisture tests and “appropriate levels for various locations.”
There are so many minutes of video I’m not sharing, but my hope is that what I do share somehow lends you a hint of “my people.” I certainly know that going back through our work and editing this piece help me recall the deep comfort of The Familiar.