Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Massachusetts FFA Crowd Visit Again 2006

The Massachusetts FFA Crowd Visit Again 2006

Here it is, October 24th, the day after nephew Jim’s FFA students visited us on their way to the convention in Indianapolis. Here is the story, as I can remember and piece it together.

This is the 3rd year that Smith Vocational HS Instructor, nephew Jim has stopped by with his associate teachers and their FFA students. They work all summer to scrape up the cash for the Planes, Trains and Automobiles (or buses/vans as the case may be) trip to the FFA convention. The Train from MA to Chicago, the highway from Chicago to the convention and the Plane home. The convention the past 2 years has been in Louisville. This year it is in Indianapolis. They did not have as far to go after leaving here.

Listening to the Train experiences, although apparently interesting, it was pretty bad. Not much sleep. Cars that were either boiling hot or freezing cold. The Chicago arrival was only about an hour or so late (The Amtrak system in the US is bad when ‘only an hour or so’ is used to describe the arrival time, really not right). Then a time consuming period picking up the 2 reserved rental vans. After a brief stop at Navy Pier in Chicago for some sightseeing, they headed south. One van missed an I94 Interstate interchange turn off and fell about a half hour or so behind the lead van. From Jim’s discussion of the itinerary on the phone, I surmised that they would be here around 4pm or so. And they would need to leave by about 6:30PM or so. I should know better by now, that surmising Jim’s schedule is risky.

I had previously decided to move the hot dog roast out to "The Hog Lounge" (appropriately named by nephew Alan and I several years ago) in the pig shed as the weather predictions had been ‘cold, high NW winds, possible rain/snow’. Actually the weather was not too bad. The cool winds were from the NW and brisk , but the snow/rain never showed. The pig shed, in the woods, gave us quite a bit of protection, while still remaining outside by the fires. The ‘pig shed’ was used 40 years ago or so by my Dad raising pigs. Now mostly used for storage etc. As should have been expected, the entourage was running late. At least we thought it was late, although it may not have not been late for them. As a result of cell phone contact, as the they neared, and clearly hungry, my brother Carl and I put on the hog dogs.

A big reason they like to stop here, besides the hot dogs and environment, is that the BIG agriculture fields and BIG harvesting equipment is much different then they are used to seeing in Massachusetts. In the past years they have had time to stop at the local John Deere dealer where Jim’s cousin Alan works. There they were able to see and drive one of the BIG tractors. This year they did not have the time for this visit. However the neighbors to the west and to the south of us were both picking corn. This is something that the FFA group had wanted to see for the last 3 years but it did not work out. This time they were in luck. As they neared our location they spotted the neighbor to the west of us. Ken G had just finished and was getting ready to drop the head on his BIG Case model 2388 cornpicking machine. So they stopped. And of course they were enthralled. And Ken G was enthusiastically explaining the workings of his big Case. Meanwhile the hot-dogs were done and cooling rapidly up at The Hog Lounge. But the cornpicker had priority. Hunger was forgotten.

They were just about ready to break free and continue on when the delayed, missed exit, van showed up. This caused a little more delay. Finally they all arrived at ‘The Hog Lounge’. It was nearing 5:30 PM.

Jim’s cousins Alan and his son Cody with his girl friend, and Jerry and his son Jeff showed up. After an initial surge of eating it looked like I had misjudged the amount of hot dogs needed, so I made a quick run to town for more. Meanwhile they had spotted Carl S picking corn in the field to the south of us. Wow, a BIG John Deer model 9610 corn picker in operation. I had previously warned Carl S that they might want to watch him at work. So down the hill they went. And Carl S was gracious in explaining and showing them the real live, big cornpicker in operation. Including taking the students for rides while picking. Again hunger was temporarily forgotten.

Back at the fire at The Hog Lounge, things started to slow down a bit so I got out the ‘steer horn’ horn and the ‘conch shell’ horn. That got everyone stirred up trying, with many successes to come up with a nice loud long blast. Several of the students scared up some deer in the neighboring woods and evidently chased them through the woods. Fortunately they did catch them or we would have been cooking deer meat on the fire in place of hot dogs. Because of the brisk weather, I had made a nice hot pot of Wassail (no alcohol) to help kill the chill. It was surprising to me that no one was familiar with Wassail (*see below). Everyone liked it though. It was nearly gone by dark.

By now it was well after 6:30PM. It was getting dark rapidly. There is no electric power at The Hog Lounge. There are usually no lights. Based on my surmised ‘Jim’ schedule I did not even bring a flashlight, let alone, our MG set and some electric lights. Finally my brother had to drive his pickup in with the headlights on so we could see to pack up all the left overs and ‘jam’ them into the vans with all the rest of their stuff. I did manage to keep out enough for a small lunch on Tuesday. Carl passed out the ‘travel’ goody bags made by Cousin Jerry’s wife Becky for their trip on south. After teacher Jim made sure they had all written in the Outhouse Diary, we all said our good bye’s and thankyou’s and come again’s they left.

It is always neat having them come to our little place in North Central Indiana They enjoy coming and we enjoy it too.

*Wassail From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wassail is a hot, spiced punch often associated with winter celebrations of northern Europe, usually those connected with the Christmas holiday such as Christmas, New Year's and Twelfth Night. Particularly popular in Germanic countries, the term itself is a contraction of the Old English toast wæs þu hæl, or "be thou hale!" (i.e., "be in good health"). Alternate expressions predating the term, with approximately the same meaning, include both the Old Norse ves heill and Old English wes hál.

Recipes vary, but usually call for a base of either wine or fruit juices (apple being popular) simmered with mulling spices, possibly fortified with spirits such as brandy. Orange slices might be added to the mixture. (In northern Europe, oranges once enjoyed the status of a novelty Christmas fruit. As oranges come into season in the winter, in pre-refrigeration days that might be the only time of year that they were available to cold climates -- provided they survived shipment from the warmer countries in which they were grown.)


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