After a few hours with my eyes squinted on the computer screen and my brain cells deleted, it was time to hit the road.
It was a simple plan. Nick had seen a small sign on 49, that said Tomatoes and Cucumbers.
He knows of my quest to find a good mater, so he tried to tell me where it is.
The catch when trying to find the Tomato and Cucumber sign is that Rte 49 has a speed limit of 55, and for me to see such a small sign, I’d say I would have to drive about 20 miles per hour, which would get me killed, or called anything but a Southerner.
I turned my radio off so I could concentrate. Drove up 49 and didn’t see the sign. Turned around at the nuclear plant road and drove back down 49. I saw the sign … as I was whizzing past.
Luckily, down here in South Carolina, u-turns are customary. I did what I call the half pulling a driveway and a half u-turn. In my mind’s I and what I would tell the fine police if they stopped me was, “Sir, I was just a-pullin in that driveway, and missed.”
You have to think a head.
Finally, I pulled into the tomato driveway unscathed.
I got out of the car. The tomatoes were near the front porch. The table with the little Weight Watcher’s scale was empty.
There was a clock dial sign that said mater man or woman would return at 10:30. It was a tad after 11, but no one was in sight.
I piddled around, looking at the fine maters.
The front door opened and out came mater man. Actually, his name is Danny Baker and he is as nice as can be.
We started yawing. First it was tomato talk and then one thing led to another.
From the highway, I didn’t notice, but Danny’s yard was delightful and beautifully tended. There were huge rose bushes, trees, bushes, … all poetically placed.
My new BFF, Danny and I started talking and I learned all about his house, which he and his wife remodeled. I asked If I could see his garden and he obliged.
Another customer came and Danny sold him maters. Then, we walked toward the back of his yard and to the side and what a beautiful garden of maters there was.
He also had an old pump house and his gutters caught rain. He had his piddling shed toward the back with a fun tin sign on it. It was a bit of paradise.
The rose bushes? They are over 25 years old. They have taken them from York to Shelby to Fallston to York and now, to Lake Wylie.
Danny told me about a house they raised their children in, in York, which is about 12 miles from our house. He went inside and retrieved some photos of the 1889 Victorian where they raised their family. It was 4600 sq ft. And built by the mana who owned the mercantile in York.
We talked Clover restaurants and he suggested I go to The Clover Station and try their tomato pie.
I didn’t want to take up any more of his time, but I told him I would love to bring Nick over to meet him and see his garden.
As I drove away , he stood on his porch and waved.
That would have been plenty of a find for one day.
Something got in my craw. Danny had given me the address of his house in York, so I thought I might drive there and take a look-see.
But, before that, I’d take trip over to Clover to get some tomato pie.
Nick was busy, so he declined the invitation.
The Clover Station is across the street from Victoria’s Diner. When I walked in, I scanned the little restaurant. Ever seat was taken. I guess since Victoria’s was closed for the week, everyone scrambled to The Clover Station.
I sat on a bench by the window and waited for a table. Within a minute or two, a young man came through the door. He was looking for a table too, and we started talking.
That’s how we do it down here. We talk to each other.
A table opened up in about 10 minutes or so. I saw a lot of beef tips being delivered to bales. I love to watch and see what everyone orders. I crane my neck sometimes and look like an ostrich just to see a good meatloaf.
The waitresses were busy. They knew their stuff and their customers and thy covered that restaurant like mud sliding down a hill.
“What’s good?” I said.
“Everything. It’s all homemade.”
I was handed a menu that was limited, which I appreciate. I don’t need a choice of 4567 foods.
“I’ll have the beef tips. I’ve seen a lot of those going by,” I said.
It was time to choose the sides.
The beef tips were served over mashed potatoes. I knew I had to get the tomato pie. I said,”What else is good?”
“Mac and cheese.”
In my head, I knew that I was getting mashed potatoes and mac and cheese were not necessary but I didn’t want to appear to not appreciate her suggestion, so mac and cheese it was. Oh, and cornbread or biscuit.
I rationalized that down here, mashed potatoes and mac and cheese are almost considered vegetables, so I let that go.
As I sat there, I listened to as many conversations as I could. It is a hobby of mine. Eavesdropping.
Two women sat at a booth in front of me. When the waitress refilled one of the woman’s tea glasses, she said, in a voice that dripped Southernness, “Thank you baby girl.”
Oh, I loved that and she said it so well.
I watched ladies in pleasant summer attire, paying their bills. Groups of two or three or four. There were men from local businesses and a few younger people and many older people … couples, who were in no hurry.
My beef tips, gravy covered mashed potatoes, mac and cheese and tomato pie and biscuit came. The plate was full of Southern Comfort food.
I was eating away when I heard the same woman with the sweet dripping voice say to her friend, after her friend said she’d get the check, “I’m going to kill you.”
Even that sounded like the first bite of Juicy Fruit.
I ate the tomato pie first. I wasn’t sure about it until I slathered it on one of the finest biscuits I have had in my 64 years. Um doggies. It was mighty fine.
I did my best on the rest of the food, which was delicious. I spent a lot of my time listening and watching.
With an iced tea to go, I walked to my car and headed toward York.
And that is when things got very interesting.
Copyright 2016 Susan Hipkins DeBow. All Rights Reserved.