Over the past few weeks, I have driven by the red and white tent on the southeast corner of 20th Street and Duquesne Road several times and thought about stopping, but didn’t.
But Wednesday morning, I decided it was time to stop and chat with the folks manning the tent with the big ‘‘Sweet Corn’’ sign and pick up a few ears.
To be honest, I didn’t need the sweet corn. My wife bought some just the other day. I also didn’t need the tomatoes that I purchased, but it’s hard to say “no” to a nice stack of medium, bright red tomatoes.
But since I wanted to chat with the folks manning the tent, I figured the polite thing to do was to buy a bit of what they were selling. I figured doing so might break the ice a bit.
Turns out, they broke the ice for me. The four people working the tent — husband and wife, Bob and Hazel Winters, and brother and sister, Jimmy and Sharon Hughes — are what you would call friendly.
I told them I was with the newspaper and asked if I could talk about their tent. They quickly agreed.
The four of them said they are “pretty much retired” and that the produce gig is just a way to supplement their incomes.
Bob said they work for Daniels Produce located in Anderson. He said the corn is picked fresh daily on the Anderson property and that the tomatoes come from Arkansas.
“The watermelon comes from Texas and the cantaloupe is from California,” Jimmy said.
Bob, who grew up in a house that was located a stone’s throw away from the tent, said they usually arrive for work at 7 a.m. They don’t start tearing down for the day until 4:30 or 5 p.m., if their loyal customers allow that to happen. Hazel said they have a hard time turning down customers who show up at the last minute.
“One time, we already had all the tables packed away and we wound up selling $200 worth of produce,” Jimmy said.
After shutting down the tent, there is still the matter of driving down to Anderson to pick up the next day’s haul of produce. All four agreed it makes for a long day, but they seemed to enjoy the work.
“We have a ball,” Hazel said. “We meet a lot of interesting people.”
They told me about one woman who stopped by with her grandson and mentioned that she was thinking about putting in a garden in her yard.
“Her grandson asked if she would plant hot dogs and buns,” Hazel said with a laugh.
Location-wise, the empty lot just off the roundabout is perfect. There is plenty traffic moving at a relatively slow speed, it’s pretty hard to miss the red and white tent and there is plenty of easily accessible parking.
“Duquesne has been great. They have made us number one in sales for Daniels. You be sure and thank them for us,” Hazel said.
I said that I would.
The thermometer in my car said it was 91 degrees outside when I pulled up to the produce tent. But standing under the shade of the tent, I felt a gentle cool breeze. I mentioned that, despite the heat, it seemed comfortable enough in the tent and everyone agreed.
“But we’re still thinking about bringing a fan,” Jimmy said.
Sharon and Jimmy both graduated from Webb City High School and we discovered that we had a few friends in common. They asked me if I was from the Joplin area and I said no, but that I had been working in Joplin since 1982.
Everyone seemed OK with that information.
This is the fifth summer that Bob has worked a produce tent for Daniels Produce. He said this year the tent went up a week before the Fourth of July and that they will be selling produce until the first frost.
If you’re in the area and looking for some fine produce, stop by the tent. Bob and Hazel and Sharon and Jimmy will be glad you did.
And so will you.
Do you have an idea for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.