Monday, September 26, 2011

For Whatever Reason, It Passed Through a Woman...

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of traveling to several of our asphalt plants with my father and a gentleman who has been newly hired to work with our industry organization, the Carolina Asphalt Pavement Association (CAPA). This man, who has recently been employed by the NCDOT in numerous rolls, has been going to meet with member companies of CAPA to see where we are, what we do, and to get a feel for the contractor's take on the industry. He has a wealth of knowledge, and we are very fortunate to be working with him. Since most of his experience comes from working with the NCDOT, he is taking the initiative to see what the industry looks like from the contractors' perspectives.  

As I rode and mostly listened, my father told him our basic stories: how we grew in the North Carolina  marketplace, the genesis of the asphalt plants from the quarry in Mountain City, and our family's basic history. At one point, he actually turned around and said, "I bet Sis is tired of hearing this story." And while I was glad to be included in getting to know this gentleman, I was truly tired of the story--and many of the other stories. 

I remember being in high school and being told that we should listen to the stories of our parents and grandparents because they were important to who we are, who they are, and the lessons that come from them. I remember trying to listen to stories that I had heard 1,000 times with renewed interest. There were times that I could find that interest, and occasionally times that I couldn't. 

As I rode in the back seat of the car last week, I remember thinking: "Yes, we KNOW that you had that conversation. We KNOW that the agreement worked a particular way. Yes, we KNOW..." I also acknowledge that those were not fair thoughts. The individual who my father was speaking to didn't know any of this. In fact, he knew little about us, and these stories are key to why I even have a job and why our company's geographic footprint is what it is. 

And then, as the conversation continued, our guest asked a question that I have never asked. One that seems most obvious, but I had never taken the time to contemplate: What is the family name that gets carried through the farm? In the last 3 generations, I knew the answer to this question: concisely, the answer is "Mount". Ganny and Uncle Bud were Mounts, their father was a Mount, and it just so happens that my father is a Roark because my grandmother married a Roark. 

But this wasn't my father's reply at all. He simply said, "It changes. For whatever reason, the farm has always been passed down through a woman's side." He then went on to trace the lines (which we know for 10 generations). Ganny (his mother) was a Mount married to a Roark, her mother was a Brown married to a Mount, her mother was a.... (I lost track, but could come up with the rest of the genealogy fairly quickly.) Somewhere in there are Wagners and Vaughts and a host of other local family names that all blend together to create my family. 

What a strange response. Our visitor thought so, too. He asked if there were contracts to this effect (there are not,) he asked if there were no boys (in many cases there were boys). How strange for a piece of property (whose owners date back to the 1700s) not to be passed from father to son, time and time again. For whatever reason, it is not just the Brown or Wagner or Vaught Family Farm. It's a farm that has been known by many names. 

For some reason, this resonated strongly with me. Probably because I am now a Harbin, and I have occasionally mourned the loss of my maiden name. As a woman in the family, with a new name, I was proud to think of those women, who decade after decade in a patriarchal society, kept their farm and gave it to their children. What resolve, luck, and courage that took. And what responsibility it places on Bart and me, to keep the same land intact for our families.  

As Dad concluded his stories about our family, company, and the farm, he said what he always says, "That and a quarter won't get you a cup of coffee at Hardee's these days, but we think it's pretty neat." 

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