Pop woodard repairs - apex, north carolina 3:46 pm
As Pop walks with me around the house, to his repair shop out back, we discuss things he'd like to get rid of. This list included a stack of tin that accumulated in the shop yard, a tractor, and the bed of an 18 wheeler left supposedly temporally - years ago, more scrap auto parts - Oh also the shop and house someday. My eyes slightly protruding from my skull, I asked "what, why, and when"? I attempted to calm my inner self who wanted to grab him by the face and quote a line from Sydney Portier's A Raison in the sun. Pop slowly articulated that he doesn't expect anyone to carry on his business when he's gone, and it's basically just going to rot away. The history of Pop's shop dates back to the early 60's, when my grandparents were one of the first black owned businesses in this town. A legacy I've always been proud of. This wasn't just any automotive shop either, it sits at the back of the "Woodard's Residence". The home I grew up in, and the place I still call home when I come to North Carolina. With so much at risk I just about slapped Pop and declared that if no one else is willing to make sure this place lives on - I will.
We continued around the shop to the garden bearing greens & peppers. This garden sits on a lot of land next door he purchased from some of our family in a somewhat half-baked deal. He got the short end of the stick, when he was told he was getting three lots - and then only received two once the truth that one had been sold from under him surfaced. They still wanted the same amount, and pressured him to move fast, due to their need to sell now (to anyone). What is family for? The incredible thing about my Grandfather, is he continues to love - move forward - and keep his piece of mind. He smiles from his heart, helps the church build and maintain, HE GIVES and GIVES without ever asking for anything. So when I told him I want to help maintain our land and take some of the weight from his shoulders - I MEANT IT.
As the sun sets over Apex, I pick some last minute greens with Pop. Trying to keep up with this man is useless. I can't stop watching the way his hands skim the tops as he effortlessly decides which are worthy of pickin'. This was a new form of meditation, a peace that doesn't find you often in New York, but was abundant here, and so were these greens. Turnip greens mostly, but mixed into mustard, and cabbage hybrids. Soon my bag was filled, and my heart content. This is my happy place, and the thought of growing my own crops made me feel those "first love gitters". The type only a boy in high school can give you when he compliments the way you wore your hair that day. Time to make the first move - I want leeks, heirloom tomato varieties, black eyed peas (cause I gotta keep it real), and every squash you can imagine. I was talking real commitment, this garden basically just let me wear his Varsity jacket.
Photos by Chris Ramiah