After leaving The Clover Station, I was headed for York to try to find Danny Baker’s old Victorian house.
The road to get to York goes past the farm markets, one of which is Sander’s Peach stand.
A while ago I mentioned that Dori Sanders, an 84 year-old black author, was often at her family’s peach stand between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and that I had met her one day when I stopped by.
At that time, I told her I was a writer and that I was headed to Beaufort to research a project I am working on. She asked me to go say hello to her friend, Pat Conroy, the author of “The Prince of Tide’s.” He had recently died and was buried in a Gullah cemetery on St. Helena’s Island.
I told Miss Dori that I would take a photo of the grave.
She told me to come back and we could “talk shop” about writing.
Since we returned from Beaufort,it has been too blasted hot and I was waiting for a bit cooler weather to take the photo to Miss Dori. And one day, when I did go, the stand was closed early. It is a Southern thing … you close up and go home when you are done. Time is irrelevant to that decision.
As I drove by the Sander’s stand, I looked and I thought I saw Dori, so I do what I often do … jerked the steering wheel and turned into the gravel space.
There were two women talking to Miss Dori. They had come from Greenville to visit her and they were leaving.
“Sit down,” Miss Dori said.
I don’t always do what I am told, but I do with Miss Dori.
I spoke to one of the women from Greenville while the other bid her adieus. She was delightful. They’d arrived in a convertible. They had taken this two-hour road trip to see Miss Dori.
After they left, it was Miss Dori and I.
I told her I wasn’t planning to stop today, so I didn’t have her Pat Conroy grave photo. I told her I would bring it tomorrow.
We got talking about Conroy. He was a good friend of hers. Miss For has met many well-known writers because she is one, herself.
It was beyond fun listening to Miss Dori tell her stories.
And you know what made it more fun? She addressed me by name frequently throughout the conversation.
For over three-hours, we talked about writing and life. I told her about this idea I had for my next project and she was genuinely excited. We began fleshing things out of what I needed to do.
Miss Dori’s brother came to put gas in her truck and to make certain she was ok, and also, to help close up the stand.
She told me to move my car outside the area where her brother would put up the rope to indicate the stand was closed.
Then, Miss Dori said, “We can sit and talk.”
Miss Dori told me about the time she was one of the judges for the John F. Kennedy book awards.
It was a riot.
And boy, not only is Miss Dori smart, but she is sharp and has guile. You don’t pull a fast one on her.
She told me some things that you’d tell a friend, in confidence. For some reason, she knew I wouldn’t tell. Which I won’t.
An SUV pulled onto the gravel, even though the rope was up.
It was only after Miss Dori saw who it was that she relaxed. She didn’t want more customers as the stand was closed and we were on our friend-time.
It was a young black man Miss Dori knew. She was great friends with his mother.
Miss Dori told him to sit on the wooden ledge where normally, the peaches are.
We introduced ourselves and settled in for a wonderful conversation among the three of us.
I’d say, the young man, whose name I can’t recall, was in his late 30’s. He had just come from the doctor, where he was told that he would have to have a heart catheter procedure.
We talked health for a few minutes but then I asked, “How do you get over disappointments in your life.”
What a wonderful, thoughtful, answer he gave. He broke it down into societal disappointments and self disappointments.
We moved on to Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton and the state of the country, each of us feeling very free to express our take on things.
After about a half hour, he left. Miss Dori was out of peaches, so he had to go down the road to the Peach Tree to get some.
Miss Dori and I talked some more in the shade of the peach stand and the heat of a brutal Southern sunny day.
She said in the fall she’d have me to her house, but I must play Scrabble. She said we’d have a feast. Subway. Miss Dori loves Subway.
As it got to a bit after 4, I got up and folded the few chairs and stacked a couple of other and did what Miss Dori asked me to do.
I carried her two bags to her nearby truck, and made sure they were where she wanted them to go and then I got her walker that had been placed out of sight.
She lifted and dragged her walker over the gravel which covered this old family land.
Ever since I read about Miss Dori, I have, in my mind’s eye, dreamed of such a time as this afternoon.
I was with not only a woman who was wise and smart, but was also a connection to a history that I didn’t even know I yearned for or was interested in. Southern history. The history of the people of the land, who came from slavery and whose roots have grown deep, but whose minds have become free.
Yes, I feel differently about some things since I have moved South. I am sure that process will continue as I learn more about its people, the real people, not the ones that are on television or in the media.
I never made it to York, yesterday. I plan to today.
That is, after I stop at Miss Dori’s and give her the framed photo of Pat Conroy, that I promised to bring her today.
Copyright 2016 Susan Hipkins DeBow. All Rights Reserved.