Every once in a while, a person gets to experience something totally different and out of the realm that they are used to. Such was the case with me a couple weeks ago when I experienced "fry night" with a group of farmers.
Farmers work hard, they do not have 9 to 5 schedules, and each of them has their own agenda. Yet, with all of this, a group of about 20 farmers around here gets together every Friday night. They have been doing this for the past 20 years or so in one of the farmer’s barns. Sound really crude? Not to worry, this barn is equipped with a fridge, microwave, and pool table, just to name a few of the amenities.
They all have nicknames (to protect either the innocent or the guilty, I’m not sure which!), and the one known as "Cliffy" does most of the cooking. On any given Friday night, the fare could be goulash, pork loin, fish, or any number of other choices. It is definitely not just hotdog night.
So, these farmers spend the evenings eating, drinking a few beers to wash it down, playing cards, and catching up with each other and the latest area news. That’s the agenda for normal Fridays, which are every week during the year including through spring planting and fall harvest. Some show up all the time, some hit and miss, but what amazes me is that a group of farmers have gotten together for this many years and gotten along for so long. Oh, sometimes there is a disagreement, but all in all it irons itself out.
If this isn’t amazing in itself, fry night surpasses all the other Friday nights. This occurs once a year, always in December, and it is so named because everything (and I mean everything) is fried. By the way, did I mention that this is the one night that the wives and girlfriends are allowed to come? Otherwise, clubhouse night is off limits to the women.
Now, why are women allowed this one night? It all has to do with one fact: women bring food, more food that complements the fried foods. They bring appetizers, snacks, and desserts. This was my first fry night, and I was amazed at all the deep fryers. They were frying fish, tenderloin, mushrooms, turkey, and even dill pickles. It was no holds barred on anything that they would put in a deep fryer.
The one that they call "Flash" was doing the pickles, and I nonchalantly tried to walk right on by, but he caught me and asked if I was sure I didn’t want to try one. I decided to buck up, even though the thought of it did nothing for my taste buds. But, lo and behold, the pickles were actually pretty good!
These guys know how to cook. One member even brought a chocolate cake made from scratch with homemade icing. There were shrimp appetizers, cheesy potatoes, and all kinds of salads. Many women brought “kinder to the stomach” food. You know, some mellow dishes that were not fried, like cooked corn, green salads, and the like. These insured that "bellyache Saturday" did not follow fry night.
Because there are so many more people attending with the women involved, fry night was moved from Goober’s barn to his brother Barney’s shop. This isn’t the ordinary shop because — outside of a few tractors parked in the back — this looked more like a hall. Attached to it was the office, which consisted of a full kitchen, bath, and lounge area. These farmers are serious when it comes to their parties.
Having a chance to talk to some of the wives, I was curious how they felt about losing their husbands every Friday night for the last 20 years. I was thinking they would feel cheated out of time with their hubbies, but quite the contrary. Most of them couldn’t wait each week for Friday nights to come. They were all pretty unanimous in their enthusiasm, explaining that for one night each week they did not have to cook or clean and they could basically do anything that they wanted to do. Yep, I guess this isn’t such a bad arrangement after all.
I did thoroughly enjoy fry night. There is nothing better than farmers and farm wives getting together for merriment. But there was something more. Farmers are no different than any other group. There are varied opinions on how to do things and when to do them; what is the best brand of seed, the best make of tractor, and a whole host of other issues to disagree on. Yet they come together, sometimes disagreeing and sometimes not, and remain friends through all this time.
If you know a farmer, you know there is always something to do. If they are not in the fields, then there are repairs to make, chores around the house on the honey-do list, and other general upkeep items to attend to. Yet they take a few hours off most weeks to relax, socialize, and get away from it all for a little while.
Maybe they have something here. Whether you are a farmer or not, what group of friends couldn’t use a night just to kick back and enjoy each other? After all, isn’t that what work is all about — working hard so you can enjoy the special things in life? Maybe more clubhouses ought to spring up over the country. Everyone could use a "fry night" once in a while!