Because an imbroglio between print and electronic media temporarily impeded the cameramen somewhat, the following verbal picture may have to suffice to portray today's big news on the Kennedy-for-President campaign:
Scene: In the backyard of Andasia Bennett's Tung Acres Farm, soft breezes rustle the gray tendrils of Spanish moss drooping from the boughs of an enormous old live oak. A half-dozen picnic benches are nestled cozily in the shade of the tree. The piquant fragrance of barbecue cuts the muggy air.
Action: The rural serenity is disturbed by clouds of dust and the roar of engines as a 10-car motorcade pulls up. From the lead car steps Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). He strides quickly past the pear trees and pyracantha to greet the people waiting in the backyard.
And now comes the news: Among those waiting is the candidate's wife, Joan Bennett Kennedy, who has been visiting here at her grandmother's farm but now will join her husband for a day on the campaign trail.
She is to accompany him to a clothing saleman's convention and a fund-raiser in Miami tonight and to a reception in Boston Wednesday. Except for a few hours in Hartford at the start of the campaign, it is to be their first campaign trip together.
This is news because the status of Mrs. Kennedy, who has lived apart from her husband for nearly two years while being treated for alcoholism, has been a constant question in this gossip-mad nation since it became clear that Kennedy was running for the White House.
The Kennedys, who seem to have given up hope of being left any family privacy, have been searching for a way to get past "Joan's first day" in a way that would satisfy the public curiosity without turning the moment into a media circus.
They came up with this solution: Mrs. Kennedy and her grandmother would host a barbecue lunch at Tung Acres for Kennedy's entire entourage, including the press. Reporters could ogle and interview all they liked, but to keep things within limits, only still photographs would be allowed -- no TV.
This seemed perfectly reasonable to print journalists, but the network people fought it tooth and nail. The Kennedy staff held firm, and finally a compromise was worked out -- nobody could take pictures.
For the first few minutes after the press arrived today, some Kennedy staff people tried to enforce this impossible rule, but it was hopeless. Each time the cameramen, still and TV, were shooed away, they just moved back a few feet and kept on shooting.
Mrs. Kennedy's grandmother, Andasia Bennett, a peppery, white-haired octagenarian, settled things down by insisting that everyone line up for barbecued chicken and ribs and pecan pie. Everyone, except the Secret Service men who cannot eat on duty, lined up, permitting the Kennedys relative peace while they ate.
After lunch, Bennett led the Kennedys and their son Patrick, various guests, and four truckloads of reporters on a 20-mile tour of farms in this marshy, scrubpine region of north Florida. She explained that her farm was named for the tung nut trees planted here by the thousands 50 years ago. After imports of tung oil, a wood preservative, undercut domestic producers, the Bennett farm was switched to a more profitable crop: hay.
Bennett and her partner, J. V. Edwards, proudly showed off several tons of hay stacked in a field. As Joan Kennedy romped over the bales, Bennett declared, "This is beautiful hay -- if you knew hay."
A wise-guy reporter, invoking one of Kennedy's campaign themes, asked Edwards if solar power is used to dry the hay. "No, no, we use the sun," Edwards deadpanned, and Kennedy seemed to laugh louder than anyone else.
Both Ted & Joan Kennedy appeared to enjoy the farm tour. The candidate, who always gets a kick out of off-beat byways on his campaign travels, gave up his limousine to ride in the open bed of a pick up truck for a better view of the countryside.
Joan Kennedy said she had come to Tung Acres every winter during her childhood. "We used to play with the chickens," she said. Asked how one plays with the chickens, she replied, "You squeeze it until it drops an egg."
The tour also included passing views of several dairy herds. Back at Tung Acres, about to depart, Kennedy asked Edwards what happens to dairy cows when they can no longer deliver the goods. "In the end," Edwards said, "they all get ground into hamburger."
"Sounds familiar," Kennedy muttered.