Ed Caudill isn’t expecting a lot of traffic through the rural community of Willard during the this weekend’s first Trade Days festival, although he and the staff of volunteers at Papaw’s Country Kitchen are ready to feed a crowd with a menu including chicken and dumplings, baked steak and several roast pork.
“The idea was to have something like Mount Sterling with Court Days or the Lucasville Swap Meet,” said Caudill Thursday afternoon as a team of volunteers hustled to put meals together in the kitchen at Papaw’s place. “Guns, goats, guineas and geese ... they’re all supposed to be here Saturday. And, coon hounds, fox hounds and puppies.”
Caudill said he wanted to welcome reputable gun dealers to Trade Days, and chuckles as he recalls the string of phone calls he made as an effort to make sure everything would be legal. A firearms enthusiast himself, Caudill said he is confident other shooters and collectors will find “an excellent selection of everything that is legal and morally ethical,” during Trade Days.
With the goal of making Trade Days an annual event, vendors of all sorts have been invited, although food sales are the exclusive domain of Papaw’s Country Kitchen, where a team of at least eight people gather each morning to make home-cooked meals to generate money to fund a mobile soup kitchen, Papaw’s Chuckwagon, and for supplies including disposable bowls, plates, napkins and sandwich bags.
Caudill and his wife, Marilyn, draft daily menus and specials based on the foods they can find the best price on, as well as enjoying support from neighbors who contribute foods including fresh beans and buckets of “just-dug” potatoes. Gospel musicians have also been counted among the kitchen’s best supporters, Caudill said.
“We have the gospel singing every Friday night and we rely on the groups who want to help,” he said. “They hear of what we’re trying to do and a lot of times they just call us asking what they can do to help.”
The restaurant began as a way to make money for the local Meals on Wheels program and is now awaiting approval as nonprofit agency with a goal of getting Papaw’s Chuckwagon back on the road to feed approximately 375 in Carter County each day, or more than 30,000 meals per year delivered at no cost to those who receive the hot meals.
“By November we hope to serve 15 stops in Grayson and add stops in Willard and Hitchins,” Caudill said. “Of those, close to 50 percent are seniors and the rest are single-parent, young families and just people that is being killed by the high cost of everything. We can’t feed them all, but we do what we can.”
Without the help of volunteers, including some who come to the kitchen as part of their arrangement with local drug court programs, the Caudills work to make good food and offer people hope through church services and Friday night gospel singing events in the dining room at Papaw’s Country Kitchen. Mrs. Caudill said they appreciate the chance to work with young people who are trying to turn their lives around, and emphasizes they try to show them they can live a good life without the burdens of things like drugs and alcohol.
“I don’t know how anyone could afford to run a mom-and-pop restaurant and pay people to work there,” Caudill said, adding the operation in Willard requires at least eight people to get the job done.
In addition to the chance to swap and barter, today’s Trade Days continues into the evening with live gospel music from the parking lot at Papaw’s Country Kitchen. For more information about Trade Days, Papaw’s Country Kitchen or Papaw’s Chuckwagon, gospel singing events or The Willard Gospel Tabernacle, call (606) 474-8186 or 831-4376.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2651.