[Story contributed by Trip Van Noppen]
In 1975, I began working for Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM) and moved into the Ponderosa, the really old farmhouse outside of Lake City that Bill had somehow obtained for general housing needs. Jimmy Dean and Granny Loomis were already there. They needed a caretaker. Bill drafted me to pick up the food scraps from Marvin Billingsly’s restaurant in Lake City every day and serve them up to Jimmy and Granny. In archetypal fashion, Bill’s project became my project, and without realizing it I came to think of Jimmy and Granny as my pigs. This expanded my horizons considerably.
There were also laying hens at the Ponderosa, I presume thanks to Bill. You may not realize it, but these were the original free range chickens. They had no coop. We would find eggs all over the property — inside of old tires, in random spots on the ground. We had no idea how long they might have been there, but we didn’t get sick from eating them (somehow). A couple of the hens ended up on the table themselves. (This too expanded my horizons — I hadn’t killed, plucked, and cleaned a chicken before).
But despite the ad hoc-ness of the sounds of all this, Bill did want to get it right about certain things. Mainly he wanted to get it right about corn. When the Ponderosa garden (planted by Bill) had Silver Queen corn ready to harvest, we didn’t pick the corn, take it into the house, shuck it, and put it into boiling water. You all know that drill. No. Instead, we boiled a big pot of water, then one person went into the corn patch and peeled back the husks of an ear of corn still on the stalk, while the other person carried the big pot of boiling water into the field. The pot was held right below the naked ear, the ear was broken off right into the pot, and the pot was carried back to the stove for the exact amount of boiling time. Not a nanosecond of time was allowed for the corn to begin to lose its sweetness between stalk and pot.
Like Pat, I learned from Bill to go beyond my imagination, whether it was strip mine organizing, or boiling corn, or doing legal work to support organic agriculture and pesticide reform in North Carolina, or, as he says in Margaret’s wonderful video, just doing something! He was indeed a blessing to have known.