Like a death in the family

Published 8:11 pm Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The destruction of the S. Wallace Edwards & Sons plant by fire last week must have been like a death in the family for the Surry community.

    It undoubtedly was for the Edwards family — and by family we include the plant’s employees, for a small business is like that.

    But throughout Surry, there is a sense of loss, of something that has been a part of the community for almost a century.

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    Folks my age and older remember the days when S. Wallace Edwards operated a small slaughter house, the walls of which were still a part of the processing operation until last week’s fire.

    Former students of Surry High School have told me of rushing to the school’s windows on the day the little plant had a kill, watching as a farm wagon equipped with a gallows frame rolled through town, pulled by a tractor, with hog carcasses hanging from the frame and gently swaying as the unique parade made its was from the slaughter house to the processing plant, then located behind the Edwards home in Surry proper.

    I can recall hauling hogs to the plant for sale and then, once a year in January, carrying hogs there for custom slaughter, rather than killing our own. It was a luxury enjoyed by my father, who was Wallace’s brother, and it sure beat the toil of an on-farm killing.

    I also remember riding with the founder, my uncle, as he delivered that wonderful Edwards fresh “tray” sausage and other products to country stores in Crittenden, Hobson and Chuckatuck.

    The company has been building memories and relationships ever since, and people from throughout the county and across the country have called Sam Edwards to offer condolences and support during the past two weeks. S. Wallace Edwards & Sons has that kind of far-reaching reputation.

    It will take a lot of work to put the plant back in operation, but I have no doubt that the company and the family will come out of this strong and forward-looking when it does.

    Is spring near?

    Another January is history, but probably not another winter. February entered with deceptively mild temperatures Monday and Tuesday, but winter temperatures are expected before the end of the week.

    And that thing about the groundhog? This was written Monday, a day before Groundhog Day, but the Tuesday forecast for Pennsylvania was for mostly cloudy — shadows iffy. So, the pampered oversized rodent that the good folks of Punxsutawney, Penn. Have turned into a gold mine of publicity is dragged from his palatial quarters by some guy dressed in a tuxedo, he might see his shadow (assuming a groundhog pays any attention to such things) or he might not, and thus might “predict” six more weeks of winter or an early spring. Who knows?

    And that “prediction,” whatever it is, has about a 40 percent chance of being accurate based on previous years. If you toss a coin to predict good or bad weather, you have a 50 percent chance of being accurate. That beats the heck out of a rodent in Pennsylvania.

    So, is spring near? Heads or tails.

    A passing thought about groundhogs and spring: This highly publicized rodent so fits America in 2016. It’s all about packing and hype. A bit like presidential politics.