|Working Hard on Hospitality at the Lazy C Corral|
I guess my favorite thing is company coming in," Leto Curl stated.
But his second favorite thing has to be the hundreds of bottles of 16 varieties of peppers he grows and gives to many of those same friends every year.
While the name of the Curls’ country farm is the Lazy C Corral, Leto and Janie’s efforts illustrate how they are exactly opposite of their homeplace’s "lazy" name.
"I just think of all the things we let get away through the years and it’s just comfortable and comforting to try to re-create a little bit of that past here," Leto explained.
Although they live in a modern spacious house in Oneonta, it is the 1,100 square-foot cabin and farm where Leto enjoys spending much of his time.
"I grow about 16 varieties of pepper every year, at least two 100-foot rows," he explained. "We go from the mild to the extremely hot. I just started growing them about 15 years ago and it grew into this.
"I grow the usual like Lemon Drop, jalapeño, Tabasco, cow horn and more. I have some seed from Mexico and Thailand. And there’s some seed we got from a business owner in Oneonta that’s from India and it’s extremely hot.
"Rob (the Curl’s adult son) and I eat some of the hottest, but there’s some that’s just almost unbearable."
Curl grows about four plants of each kind because each plant produces so abundantly. When he bottles them for gifts, he uses cold instead of hot vinegar to maintain much of the peppers’ brilliant colors.
After Leto started growing the peppers (including even some in the shrubbery beds at his Oneonta home) and giving so many of them away, friends began bringing them "pepper" items when they returned from trips and vacations.
Janie crafted pepper-figured curtains for the cabin’s living and kitchen combined space; there’s now a year-round, lighted pepper tree in the corner behind the indoor "porch" swing, and peppers seem to "grow" everywhere inside from the knobs on the pie safe to clocks, plaques, figurines and more.
The Curls built the cabin in 1989; the year before Leto retired as a Full Colonel from the 31st Armor Brigade Army National Guard Unit in Tuscaloosa where he had served five years.
He served 38 years in the active military and National Guard, serving the first five years as a Marine getting to Korea "just as the war ended," and then served in the Guard in Oneonta, Ozark and Tuscaloosa.
A Blount County native, Leto, the son of a minister, graduated from Blount County High School (now Oneonta High), but went to Blountsville schools for the first nine years.
Wife Janie retired from Regions Bank.
Along with Rob, the Curls have a daughter, Janna, married to James Debter, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild, two-and-a-half-year-old Claire.
The cabin features varied-width pine floors, pine paneling (except for one of the two bedrooms walled with cedar), doors handcrafted by another National Guard retiree James Tolbert and the late Voyt Horton, a wood-burning cook stove bought from the Amish in Tennessee, a 1937 refrigerator, and a unique antique combination stove and refrigerator bought after a bank renovation.
There’s a collection of antique Griswald and Lodge iron skillets showcased on the wall behind the cook stove, but the Curls also enjoying cooking in iron skillets and pots at their Oneonta home.
The cabin coffee table is a "cleaned-up" antique, wooden chicken coop!
The beautiful Franklin Stove was left in a home the Curls bought and was relocated to the Lazy C Corral.
One of the twin iron bedsteads in one of the bedrooms came from the late Dr. H. Jenkins, given as a gift to Leto’s father. The bed features a quilt made-to-order with the Lazy C Corral name prominently featured.
The other twin iron bed, which is not adjustable, features a postage stamp quilt made by Janie’s mother and is one of the original beds from the old Gordon-Patton Hospital which closed in the late-1960s or early-1970s.
There’s Leto’s father’s pipes on display, a barb wire collection with the oldest being from 1874 and even a pocket knife given to Leto by Sgt. Alvin York’s son when he was a guest at the cabin!
The corral and barn house a miniature horse, a contented mule and a Walking Horse, all which pull a variety of buggies and carts which Leto drives for fun and occasionally carries to special events.
The Amish buggy was precisely decorated by Oneonta City Manager Ed Lowe in his side hobby business.
Leto enjoys traveling to Amish country in Tennessee and even further north, and comes back often with Amish pickled beets and "hot hot hot salsa."
Leto is getting ready for his spring garden, which includes most all other vegetables in addition to the two long rows of peppers!
He’d like to try having chickens again, but his one experiment didn’t go well when the five hens and one rooster took a liking to the garden plants a little too well. They went to live at another farm and the Curls get all-natural eggs from another neighbor.
There will be plenty of time this spring for cooking out and visiting on the cabin’s big covered back porch area.
"We just love to have family and friends visit," Leto explained. They may come just for overnight or for up to a week.
When asked if there is anything he’d like to add to the farm (in addition to trying to figure out a way to have garden-friendly chickens!), Leto simply said, "I guess the only thing is I’d like to build me an outhouse!
"Janie and I saw an outhouse in Tennessee. The door was cut out at the bottom and they’d tacked an old pair of boots back in there and it appeared someone was sitting inside. They would just be a fun thing to make."
Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County. She can be reached through her website at www.suzysfarm.com.