by Suzy Lowry Geno
It was our 21st Valentine’s Day back in 1999 and Roy bought me the best gift ever: a HUGE roll of chicken wire from Blount County Farmers Co-op!
No, I’ve never been the perfume and flowers kind of girl and that gift is a really special memory!
Roy, who grew up on a farm and never ever wanted to do farm work again AND couldn’t understand my back-to-the-land homesteading tendencies, knew how badly I was wanting chickens of my own. I was actually building my very first chicken coop by myself. So when he pulled up in his truck and unloaded that special gift, my heart went pitty-pat!
Did you know that Valentine’s Day is not a public holiday in ANY country – although it is celebrated around the world?
According to Wikipedia, Saint Valentine was believed to have been imprisoned and later killed for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for helping Christians, who were being heavily persecuted under the Roman Empire.
Later in the 14th century, the day began to be associated with romantic love. In 18th-century England, it evolved into a day where flowers, candy and then greeting cards (for the first time known as valentines) were given.
Now, every February, millions are spent on roses, candy, diamonds and other goodies.
But for some reason, the Wikipedia information didn’t have any mention of chicken wire as a preferred gift!
So as I pondered some of the more unusual gifts I have been given, I wondered just how close other folks stay to that candy/diamond line of thinking, not only for Valentine’s but for other holidays where gift giving is expected as well.
One other unusual gift was one I received from Marjoe Sanders at my bridal shower in 1970. While others gave fancy dish towels, dishes, and pots and pans, Sanders had outfitted a large shoe box with a hammer, screwdriver, ruler, nails, screws and other tools! It wound up being the gift I used the most as I set up housekeeping!
Facebook friends from across the United States joined me by explaining some of the more unusual gifts they had received.
Stephanie Miller received all four of these chicken houses as her first anniversary gift from her husband!
Lance and Stephanie Miller have received all sorts of honors in the agricultural world as they’ve worked tirelessly to promote agriculture through ALFA Young Farmers and so many other state, regional and national groups. They farm near the Blount/Marshall County line with Lance’s uncle, growing peanuts, cotton, soybeans and more.
When Stephanie married into that farming family, she wanted to work on the farm so they began to explore all sorts of options.
"I got four chicken houses from Lance for our first anniversary!" Stephanie explained.
Because the four houses are ultramodern and each is 43 x 510 feet. That may be the biggest gift, and one of the most unusual, I heard about!
Blount County’s Ronnie Jenkins received a very special gift one year.
"When I was very small, I wanted a small kerosene lantern that was in Mr. Weems’ store at Friday’s Crossing. It cost $1.25 and I never got it. When I got married and told my wife about it, she didn’t show any emotion. But, come the next Christmas, there was a small lantern under the tree," he recalled.
Rick Trescott also has a memory.
"One year I was at a loss for an idea about what to get Pat," he said. "I heard on a radio commercial that women always love and appreciate getting precious stones. So I bought her a truckload of crushed limestone for the parking lot in front of her grooming parlor!"
Dave Waid, a retired fire and police dispatcher, remembered Christmas 1963.
"My mama, a single parent, made $39 a week," he explained. "When Christmas morning arrived, I had a $1 set of cars and a 25 cent toboggan cap. My brother received a $1 bag of plastic army men and a similar hat. We had food, shelter and clothing. But we had something more special – love. My mama had given all she had. A lot of Christmas mornings have come and gone, and I don’t remember what gifts I got. But I will always remember that one. The year Mama gave me love."
Terri Wilson, one of my off-grid internet buddies, explained, "I don’t know how unusual it is, but my co-workers were surprised by my first anniversary gift from my husband. He got me a Browning 20-gauge pump shotgun. We like to shoot clay pigeons and his gun was too big for me; so he bought me a youth model that fit me perfectly. I still love it and still use it – next year will be our 20th anniversary."
Another off-grid friend, Heather Staas, explained, "My little nephew was given money to buy holiday gifts for relatives at one of the dollar stores. He took a long time choosing my gift. When I opened the package, he was beaming. It was a box of Band-Aids! He said, ‘It was because Auntie Heather works on the farm and that is hard work and she probably gets hurt a lot and she could really use these ...’."
Heather said, "I still get teary-eyed thinking about how precious that box of Band-Aids was. It was the most thoughtful gift ever!"
Judy Watkins has many fond memories of her late husband.
"Johnny was always looking for out-of-the-ordinary gifts for me," she said. "So, on our 10th anniversary, he got me a trampoline! We jumped on it til we hurt. Loved it!"
Judith Ashelin told of a gift from her husband.
"A tool kit, in a pink, plastic locking box!" she said. "I have bad carpal tunnel problems and he gave me powered screwdrivers and ergonomic hammer handles. Best gift ever!"
Blount’s Nancy Robertson remembered.
"For my birthday many years ago, hubby got me tin to roof the barn he had built!" she recalled. "It was either an unfinished barn OR tin for my birthday. I still have it – 45 years later. I was thrilled to get that stack of tin!"
Monica Calvert Howell remembered.
"I was about 12 years old and I loved dill pickles," she said. "Every time my Mom would buy a jar of pickles, I would empty it before anyone else would get any. So for Christmas that year there was a gallon jar of pickles under the tree with my name on it!"
Teachers get really unusual gifts sometimes as well.
"I had a student who gifted me the dental floss he got at the dentist the day before," noted Charlotte Tinsley Rouse. "He was so proud! His eyes were shining with pleasure as he handed me his special gift. I received it in the spirit it was given. Precious!"
Teacher Cheryl Green Salamone said you can never tell what you might get from students!
"A student gave me some used make-up one year," she said. "Love motivates these young ones to want to give and they truly give from the heart!"
Donnie King Gaines said, "I love, love, love the clipboard my then-3-year-old grandson (now 17) got from the dollar store and gave me. He wrapped it himself. I still use it to work crosswords and to write on. Best, most useful gift I’ve ever received."
Sara Cox was tickled when her husband gave her a pair of rubber boots!
"We had a pig farm and it was raining – a lot!" she explained. "My husband knew I needed them; so that’s what he gave!"
From out-of-state, Deb Batten Bettis remembered a special Christmas Eve gift in 1996.
"God gave me my son, Alan Michael Bettis," she said. "The significance of this gift was great to me because my due date was later. When we were children, my Mother would allow us to open our gifts on December 24 because we would usually get up early on Christmas morning and go to our Grandparents’ house for dinner. By having our gifts the evening before, we had time to play with them before going to see our Granny and Grandpa. I truly believe God allowed me to carry on that Christmas Eve tradition even though my grandparents have already crossed the bar by the time my son was born."
Terry Wood Jackson doesn’t particularly care for flowers, etc.
"So on Valentine’s Day, my husband bought me a set of ceramic kitties: a momma and two kittens" she said. "They’ve been on display in our living room for the last 35 years. That’s much longer than a flower arrangement would have lasted!"
Mickey Wood Gillespie McAlpine said, "I gave my husband a red-headed baby girl on his combination birthday and Christmas!"
Judy Gable Newborn noted, "One year my husband Larry and sons, David and Jonathan, got me an unusual array of gifts. I unwrapped flour, cornmeal, a Mountain Dew, a Pepsi and a Diet Dr. Pepper. After I had unwrapped all that, my real present was a serger that I had really wanted because I love to sew!"
Whatever the occasion, any gift given WITH LOVE is SIMPLY the best gift ever!
Suzy Lowry Geno lives on a small homestead in Blount County and can be reached through Facebook or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.