You probably don’t know anyone who enjoys visitors as much as I do. You might argue that this is no more than unvarnished vanity and that the number of people who show up in your dooryard on a given day is a measure of your self-worth – much as performers are valued by the number of people willing to pay to crowd into a hall to hear them sing, speak, preach or play.

Few things are more flattering to a man than having friends who think that he is worth visiting. We are talking here about an average man and not those who erect walls around their homes to keep out autograph seekers or assassins.

Even if people are not lined up in your dooryard waiting their turn to clutch at the hem of your garment, you might have so many important things to do that even one visitor per day is too many. Even then, Mrs. Grundy might dictate that you ignore your chores and set out coffee, all the time wishing that you’d trotted out back with the kitchen scraps for the crows just before they drove in.

For some reason I have never understood, some folks feel they have to stop painting the barn door when a visitor arrives.

I don’t.

You have no idea how many times my eyes have lit up when a car appeared in the driveway. Visitors can see that they are truly valued when I ask for help hanging a pair of oars on the garage wall, or lugging a filing cabinet up out of the cellar.


I have even posted reminders to myself: “Move picnic table when next big man visits.”

Yes, I know. We all have friends who feel they should visit us who really don’t have time to stop. They are friends who just happen to be in your neighborhood. They drive in your dooryard, knock on the door and rush off, relieved that they can send you an email saying that they stopped but nobody was home.

For years, one of my pet peeves was looking out the window just in time to see someone driving out of the dooryard. I didn’t hear them scratching on the door.

For years, I dreamed of installing a wooden gate that dropped behind every car that drove in. By the time I got out of the house, they’d still be there.

The closest I came to trapping cars was getting an old-fashioned gasoline station driveway bell. Drive over the hose and a bell rings. Some people would surprise me by suddenly showing up in the house. I’d see their car parked out by the road and they’d explain that they didn’t want to drive over my hose.

This problem was overcome with an electronic eye. When a car goes by, a small speaker in the home makes a squealing sound. The eye is also activated by the wind and squirrels.


You have welcomed your guests. They have helped you find the leak in your Model T inner tube and made three runs through the rhubarb patch with your Rotavator. They’ve finished off a plate of your wife’s brownies and put down two cups of coffee. It is time for your nap, but they are captivated by your conversation and you’re wondering if there are enough apple dumplings left over from dinner should they still be seated at the table come suppertime. As you know, one of the nicest things in the world is a guest who thinks enough of your company to stop by for a visit, and also knows how to get out the door when it is time to leave.

Leaving is an art. When visiting friends, I can thank them and be on my way home in less time than it takes to read this sentence. My wife, Marsha, however, puts down some kind of invisible roots, and has to be extirpated and gently talked out to the car. You have two or three friends just like her.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote of visitors who want to leave but don’t know how. He said he lubricated his “ceremonial inclined plane” with smooth phrases and launched them into the great outdoors. You can easily turn up his exact words on Google, and I would encourage you to do so, as Holmes was a master of witty, articulate prose.

There is never a need to remind my guests that their visit is over. If they choose to ignore my old clock striking 4, my chin drops, my eyes close and I sleep in my chair.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

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