PEDEE -- Behind the big yellow daffodil mounted on the front porch of the Pedee Women's Club, Marjorie Robertson, despite the fact that she has a great-grandson, is blushing like a schoolgirl.
Somebody from the group of men behind her quit gabbing long enough to jokingly accuse her of being the "wild one" at this monthly gathering.
"Well, you just never know what I might do," Robertson laughs as she prepares to get up from the long table to help her friends, Juandeane Skidmore, Jean Weisensee and Ethelene Osgood, in the kitchen.
More people wander in past the big daffodil to take their place among friends. The men's circle broadens and a new group made up mostly of Weisensees forms at the far end of the long table.
So begins the community potluck sponsored on the last Friday of every month by the Pedee Women's Club. Everyone is invited. It starts at 6 p.m. Bring food and good cheer. Dominoes, hearts, pinochle and other card or board games follow. Old folks, young folks, and everyone in between are welcome.
The youngest member, Page Cochrane, 11, stays close to Ethelene Osgood, her grandmother. "We used to pass her around the table when she was a baby," Ethelene says. Page just shrugs.
Sometimes, musicians show up to play the guitar or the fiddle, but for the most part, bad jokes, friendly gossip and light chatter are the entertainment d'noir.
Many of the neighbors are close friends, but live far enough apart so they don't see each other much. Over homemade hot dishes, salads and roast pork, the Osgoods and Skidmores plan a vacation together. Over strawberry shortcake made a half-dozen ways, several others look at home design magazines. One group's talk turns to the high price of fuel. Amazingly to newcomers, the men take up the dishes and wash them.
The property for the club, originally called "The Livewires," was donated in 1927 by H.L and Anna Crider. The original bare-bones building was so hastily put up that it had no ceiling and, of course, it only had an outhouse, which in the club's history books was called a "biffy."
The "Livewires" eventually became "The Jolly Neighbors." Early on, quilting became a part of the social fabric of the club for its practical applications. To this day, the women meet weekly, at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays, around the quilting frame, although Robertson admits she's not a quilter and that her work is "to talk and eat." Skidmore, the president of the club, said there are a few quilters but many of the women just eat lunch together and socialize. Some work on scrapbooking projects, needlepoint or any of the other half-dozen projects the club is involved in.
In the past, the original shaky clubhouse was the site for Extension canning and other homemaking workshops, 4-H meetings, food basket donations, and other community gatherings.
In 1979, the ladies of Pedee began sponsoring a yearly food and craft fair to raise money to improve the clubhouse. Eventually, they raised enough to completely replace it.
In 1998 they built a new clubhouse -- this one with two stories, a real ceiling and indoor plumbing. The club is located at 12491 Kings Valley Highway in Pedee, Polk County's southernmost locale.
The craft fair each year on the second Saturday in November raises money to pay for the building that is still the center of a community that has changed, but is still alive and kicking. Last year, the women baked nearly 100 pies and prepared 35 different kinds of soups. It is a favorite stop for winter bikers and tourists traveling the back way between Corvallis, Dallas and other points beyond.
The club also raises money by renting out the building at a modest $50 per day, and in addition to paying its bills, the club is adding a food service sink and buying quilting and sewing supplies for foster children in need of a comfortable blanket or stuffed animal.
The club also fills eight boxes a month for deployed soldiers and once a year -- July 26 this year -- the club bakes pies for the annual fundraiser for the Pedee and Bridgeport charter schools at the Dancing Oaks Nursery.
The club has also baked cookies and provided meeting space to help save the Ritner Creek Bridge and other community meetings. Its building has a power generator that, during an ice storm a few years ago that knocked power out for a few days, made the clubhouse a community attraction for those who needed a place to warm up, get some coffee, and take a hot shower.
The clubhouse is also the site of once-monthly blood pressure checks, free to all who want them. Jean Weisensee, a registered nurse, is at the clubhouse from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. the last Wednesday of every month.
In case you think this women's club is exclusive, men are allowed to join. They pay the $2 annual dues, and they are given the important job of sitting on the club's board.
"But they have to do what we tell them to do," Ethelene Osgood clarifies.
There will not be a community potluck in July as members are busy with the July 26 fundraiser for the Pedee and Bridgeport charter schools. The next potluck is scheduled Aug. 29.
The clubhouse is free to use for community meetings, but is available for rent for private gatherings such as weddings and dinners. For information, call Juandeane Skidmore, 503-838-5720.