I share a birthday, National Watermelon Seed Spitting Day, with my mom’s daddy, my Pa Pa, and he always told me I was the best gift he ever got.  Pa Pa (also known as Virgil Howard Black) taught me about Holy Boys, or Holstein cattle, and he let me ride on the cotton picker and the combine, and eat vanilla “icey cream” milkshakes with Nesquick far past my bedtime.  Pa Pa let me stand on the bench seat of the pickup and drive when I wasn’t tall enough to see over the steering wheel (shocking!).  He explained to me what “plastic money” was (credit cards) and instructed me on the evils, but necessaries, of the same.  Pa Pa showed me alligators, rattlesnakes, and a goat that had gotten in with his Holy Boys and thought that it was a cow.  Pa Pa told me, “if ain’t cotton, don’t wear it.”

My brothers and I spent a lot of time, when we were kids, down on the farm with Pa Pa.  But it wasn’t until I was applying for law school that I realized the impact of  those days running around on the hard Georgia clay.  In response to an application essay inquiring as to whom I wanted to help after law school, farmers were the first folks that came to my mind.  I ended up being a family law attorney, but I’m still quick to jump to a farmer’s defense, any farmer, when I hear someone who don’t know nuthin’ ’bout farmin’ rattling on about Bad Farming Practices, the methane gas cows release into the air, the diesel that big tractors drink up, the chemicals incident to feeding the world.  How little Americans seem to understand about where that head of Iceberg, that slab of bacon, and that cool gallon of 2% come from.  Write to Congress and the USDA if you don’t like farming practices – they’re the ones who make, and enforce, the regs that farmers are governed by.  Don’t go bashing my Pa Pa and my Funcle How.

Pa Pa met Honeydew just before we were engaged, pronounced him “just fine,” and told me that he was glad that Honeydew is also in agriculture.  After we became engaged, Pa Pa told me that I would be happy to make my living from the Earth and that he thought I might become more observant and more patient as a beekeeper’s wife.  He also told me, as he had since I was a little girl, that I would be an entrepreneur, which is turning out to be true.  I’m grateful that Honeydew got to meet Pa Pa, and that Pa Pa got to meet Honeydew, because it wasn’t long after they met that Pa Pa died.  One year ago today, to be precise.  He was 84, and had been diagnosed with cancer, but I was still shocked and heartbroken to find myself on a flight to Georgia for his funeral.

I miss him.

Pa Pa was a good husband, and was married to my pretty Grandma Betty for 59 years.

Pa Pa was a farmer and loved to see crops grow, especially cotton:

Pa Pa was a devoted daddy to my Funcle How, my aunt Sissy, and my Mom.  Not long after we bought Hillhouse, Pa Pa traveled to Montana to learn to kayak with my mom.  My mom was his baby, and Grandma Betty says Pa Pa cried the day she married my dad, leaving him and Georgia behind.

But despite all of these things that Pa Pa was, I believe I will remember him, first and foremost, as a dawg lover.

Thank goodness all dawgs go to Heaven – Pa Pa won’t be lonely.

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