March 12, 2017
Last night, I finally made it home and headed out to the barn to see what I needed to do and hopefully let Elliot go home. As I walked around the corner of the barn, I said, “Sorry, Elliot, I got here as quickly as I could, but I …” and my eyes landed on the most beautiful face I’ve ever seen. Her hair was trailing out of her pony tail, and her eyes drooped slightly, as she sat up on her bale of hay to stretch, yawn, and pull stray bits of straw from her clothes. She was gorgeous.
“Sorry, no Elliot. I’ll have to do for now.” I recovered enough to push one of the mugs towards her. “Oh, this is just what I wanted!” She tested the cocoa and took a long drink.
I glanced around the barn, and there were two fluffy kids nuzzling their mother, one of them still a little damp.
“The other babies are out in the loafing sheds with their moms. I think that about six or seven have freshened. I got here just in time for this one.” She pointed to a kid in the corner. “So far, all females but one.”
“That’s good, right?”
“That depends.” My brain was on overload, so I let that one go by.
“Okay, so what’s the plan?”
“Well, Elliot showed me the routine, shots and dip, etcetera, on the last one, so we can do it for the next one, as long as there aren’t any problems.” She got up, dusted off her pants, and grabbed a bottle from the top of the barn wall. “Want to help me dip him?”
I wasn’t sure what she meant, but I went over to the kid and stood against the side opposite Jodie. She unscrewed the top off the bottle and pushed it over the kid’s umbilical cord.
“Did you cut the cord?”
“No, either it pulled loose or momma goat chewed it. But I got some clippers to do it if it’s needed.”
Her comment from a minute ago finally caught up with me. “What kind of problems?”
She screwed the lid onto the bottle and put in back on the shelf. “Well, ones we can deal with, just normal stuff like helping her or turning them. Anything we can’t do, we call Elliot or Sheila or the vet.”
I liked the sound of this “we” thing. “So, you’re staying?”
“Yeah, that was the plan. I asked for the morning off, so I’m good until Elliot can get back. I hope you don’t mind me inviting myself over. I figured you could use the help, unless you got this?” She handed me a rag, kept one for herself, and we rubbed the damp kid all over, as it continued to nurse its mother.
“Oh, God, of course not. We’re staying out here?”
“Well, we could, but you have a baby monitor.” She pointed to the monitor on a shelf behind me. She made no attempt to move, so I sat down and sipped my cocoa. We stared at the newborn kids.
“Does anybody look … ready?” One of the does, her belly pooched out like an overloaded pack mule, looked at me and chewed her cud in a blasé fashion.
“Elliot said there were a bunch in line, but no one is in labor right now. Believe me, you’d know.” She kneeled down, put her forehead on the mama goat. “I love that they have been handled so much.” She scratched the goat’s neck. “No, they’ll wait ‘til 3 a.m. when you’re dead asleep. Or they may not go at all tonight. Elliot says when they start coming, there’s not much of a lull, though.” She hopped up. “We can go in no, if you’re ready?”
Jodie flicked on a flashlight and pulled the chain on the barn light. In silence, we walked along the edges of the circle of light and into the house, then pulled off layers of farm clothes and boots and hung them up in the mud area.
“You hungry?” I started to open the fridge, afraid what I would find there.
“Starving. I brought some leftovers from my dad’s Elks meeting. I’ve learned to bring food when I come out here.” She shoved my arm with her elbow. I made a mental note to stock the fridge.
After dinner, I put on a movie for background noise, and we talked about my trip and local happenings for a while. She piled on the couch, legs shoved to the back middle, which left enough room for me to face her from the opposite side of the couch. The rest of the evening I felt this crazy mix of utter content and nervous longing. I am certain she picked up on my nervousness, not knowing whether to get up or stay put, so at one point she hopped up and grabbed a couple of blankets for us from my bed.
“I guess I should go to bed.”
“No, you’re fine.” She laid the blanket over me, and re-positioned herself on the couch and covered up with her blanket. I fell asleep moments later, dreaming about her sock-covered toes curling up against my shins.
March 18, 2013
I have been running non-stop between two new work projects, the regular farm stuff, and bringing numerous ovine lives into the world. Jodie has been over several times to help, and so far, there has been no trouble that she or Elliot (or even me a couple of times) could not work around. Sheila is back now, and she came over to look at the new recruits. She said she is always impressed by my dad’s and Elliot’s herd, “Now yours and Elliot’s,” she said. I don’t know why, but I actually did feel a little pride. It’s not like I had much at all to do with it, though.
March 19, 2013
Liv came by the other day and finally brought Frodo home. He smelled like a flower shop, but he did lick me and immediately curl up next to me on the couch.
Liv called him a traitor, jammed herself into the other corner of the couch, and folded her legs up. “Sorry it took me so long, we’ve been swamped. We’ve been meaning to get out here to help you with some of the house stuff.” She looked up at the ceiling and over to the loft where Nate sat when they were here last. We’ve been waiting for some warmer weather, too. It looks like we might be near the end of the bad stuff, at least in a couple of weeks. I’ve been thinking about it. I like avocado for that wall,” she pointed, “where the sunlight hits it, it would be beautiful. But you want to do neutral tones to increase the number of likely buyers.”
I stared into her face and raised an eyebrow.
“Would it be the stupidest thing ever if I stayed?”
“You know, it may not be stupid. It would actually be really cool to have you close by. Can you handle all this?”
“Well, yes and no. I think I almost have my head out of my ass, but I know I can’t do it alone. Everything on the farm would be dead if it weren’t for Elliot and Sheila and Jodie.”
“Hmm. That name, Jodie, keeps coming up. What’s going on there?”
“I wish I knew. I have gone from enchanted to obsessed over her, or maybe the other way around. She doesn’t seem to mind being close to me, and she has been over here A LOT.”
“Sounds like she’s into you, too.”
“Well, I am picking up a vibe, but she is not making any moves, and I have put myself out there more than a few times.”
“Maybe she wants you to make the first move?”
“She’s pretty direct on everything else.”
“Does she talk about boyfriends, girlfriends?”
“Nope, not once. But I don’t really talk about Ton-ton or anybody else I’ve dated. I mean, she knows I’m gay, but that’s about it.”
“See, now that’s weird. She helps you with all the farm stuff, is over here all the time, and she never mentions past relationships. She has the hots for you.”
I burst out laughing at the prospect. “Well, there was this one night that we slept on the couch together.”
“This couch?” She looked down at the hallowed vessel. “Show me how. Like this?” She shoved her leg out and her toes into my crotch, sending Frodo to the floor with a questioning look.
“Har, har.” I shoved her foot off the edge of the couch. “No,” I scooted down and showed her. “Now, she was in a yin yang opposite me.
Liv wriggled into position and started rubbing my leg seductively with her foot. “Oh, Billie, I love having leg sex with you. You’re the best!”
I sat up and glared at her. “Have I mentioned that I truly hate you.”
“Look, I wish I could live here with you and play farmer Sally, but I can’t. However, comma, I think you would be great at it, and I would love to come help sometimes. I don’t care if this Jodie chick is as clueless as she seems …” She made a circular motion with her hands. “At least from my point of view, Geez, don’t get your panties in a wad. But you have been more like yourself since you got here. I think you were getting bored with Seattle and school and stuff. I mean, why else would you end up with Ton-ton. Just sayin’. If you want to go back to Seattle, I will miss you, but I do like seeing you from time to time. Also, I will be happy to take Frodo back, permanently, if need be.” She snatched him up and stuck her nose to his while scratching his ears.
Dammit Liv. It’d be easier to take your advice if you weren’t always right.
March 21, 2013
Yesterday afternoon three does freshened, meaning they’ve delivered their kids. Two of them were in the barn of their own volition, as with most of the other does, but the last one bristled at the idea of giving birth around people. Elliot and I had to corral her into the barn and then close it off with a fence panel so she wouldn’t be out in the cold all night. Elliot and Sheila were there all afternoon, and Jodie joined us after work, just in time to see the last of a second set of twins pop out.
After the last baby was dipped, rubbed down, and suckling on its mother, we all sat around on bales of straw (not hay) and buckets, talking about the weather, Jodie’s kids at the library, and Sheila’s grandkids. Try as I might, I couldn’t think of one thing about my friends in Seattle that would be of any interest to any of them. I did tell them about my new “sister/niece” and my new stepfather. Harvey is starting to grow on me. Even Elliot, usually quiet in a group, told us about calling the veterinarian about a dog that was hit. It was over the weekend and she didn’t have any staff, so he went to the clinic and helped her set the bone. Just sitting around swapping stories was really cool.
I was actually sleeping in, when Bill called me this morning and asked to come over. He got another offer on the place, and he laid out a strategy for hay production based on potential buyers that I had not thought about. Just as he was about to walk out the door, he turned back and asked me if I’d read my dad’s journals yet. I told him Mom had not shared them with me, and I hadn’t asked, but he said he meant the ones here at the farm. My mind went back to my Dad’s bookcase in the bedroom. Yep, the older ones were all in there, except for his last one that was on his desk. Bill told me Dad didn’t mention them specifically because he wanted me to find them when I was ready to read them.
After Bill left I realized, I was as ready as I was ever going to be. I went to the desk and read the last few entries. Here is one of them:
Monday, 5 July 2012
I felt pretty good today 4 out of 5. Hotter than hell, though.
All last night I could see the light on at Elliot’s place. Whether that was trouble with his mother or all the fireworks blasting around triggering him, I don’t know, but he showed up this morning in a calm mood. I think Elliot is the strongest man I’ve ever met. If I’d gone through all that he has, I’d be a shambles. The loss of his father, bonding with his unit and losing them, all of them, the violence of war, and the injuries, so many that can’t even be seen – just one of these could cripple a lesser man. But Elliot survived with his moral compass intact. I keep encouraging him to reach out into the world, or at least to Emmett, both for his own good and because this area needs more people like him in it. He has saved my bacon more times than I can count, and there is nothing I wouldn’t do to help him. I hope that wherever I land when I leave this world Elliot or my memories of him follow me there.
They always say you can’t miss what you never had, but I miss my dad sometimes like I’ve known him my whole life. Here’s the final passage:
Thursday, 4 October 2012
The cutting’s been done for about a week now, and I had to get out of this house. One thing I’ve learned, whenever I have so many thoughts buzzing around in my head that I cannot think, I need to walk the land. And that was true today. Even though I had to stop many times to catch my breath, and my bones ached like I was in an Iron Maiden, I still felt the same sense of peace I felt when I landed here back in 1992. The sun was kind and shone down upon my tired bones and somehow my muddled thoughts were clearer, too. I thought about all the people, animals, and even down to a delicious ripe pear, all of the beautiful things that have made this life a wonderful place for me. With the bright blue ceiling, the snow caps in the distance, and the verdant valley around me, it would not be hard to believe in a creator, if I were so inclined.
Elliot found me on the edge of the field and helped me back to the house. I wrote out some final instructions for my will and called Bill to get things set up. Even though our love affair has long since faded, I want Karen to know my love for her is eternal. There has been no time during my life that I would not have welcomed her with open arms, but, alas, the life of a farm wife was never one she wanted. I want Billie to know how much she means to me, and this farm is the only gift I have to give her now. Whether she keeps it or uses it to fulfill a dream of her own, I care not a whit. I have done my utmost to protect and aid my dear friend, Elliot, in recompense for his service and abject loyalty to an old curmudgeon, but all that I have been able to do is plant the seeds that I hope bring fruit to his moving beyond the scars that war has inflicted upon him. I can feel myself slide back into that other realm, the one where my thoughts turn dark and gratitude wanes. My grandest hope is that I spend as little time there as possible before moving on. I doubt there will be further entries in my journal, so so long. Or as our old friend Louis L’Amour says, “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.”
How do I process all this? As I sat at Dad’s desk, making an attempt, I saw Elliot through the window, carrying a bucket of water to our new second home, the goat barn. (By the way, the new pump works great.) I threw on my outside clothes and caught up with him trying to keep the goats from knocking the bucket over until he just gave up. “What’s today’s count?”
“44.” He grabbed a file he carried with him all the time, lifted a random goat hoof and filed on it for a minute or so.
“How many left?”
“5 or 6. A couple of ‘em’s stubborn. But we been lucky. A coupla puny ones, but they’ll live.” He started filing on another hoof.
“Elliot, are you doing okay?”
When he finished the hoof, he stood upright and looked at me. “You know, I think I’m getting better.”
We hadn’t had much time to talk since I came back from my trip. At least, there wasn’t a time I had felt comfortable asking him personal questions. “That’s great.”
“I been going in and helping that vet lady a coupla times a week. Doing trimming and large animal stuff she’d just as soon not bother with.” He looked intently at the herd in the middle of the pasture. Because of everything with his mom, I never questioned when he did or didn’t show up early in the morning. But that made sense. It was actually a relief that he was getting out into the world.
“That’s really cool!”
“You know, I been meanin’ to talk to you about that.” He paused. “She wants me to help her full time, but I been fightin’ back on it ‘cause of the kiddin’. I guess I’ll be having to cut back on stuff around here. Not everything, but a bit. No worries. I can set you up with the egg customers and I know a guy that can help out if you need him. He’s kind of a horse’s ass but he works good. And I’ll help you when the time comes to sell off the animals.”
I felt dizzy and thought I might pass out. Elliot had not gotten the memo that I was considering staying. Heavily considering staying. I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to blurt out a million things at once, but instead, I swallowed hard and asked him more questions about the vet. As he spoke, I tried to calm my mind and step back from the situation, but all I could think was How can I make this work without Elliot? I had the sinking feeling that the answer was I can’t.
After he went home, and I finished up the chickens, I ate a bowl of stew, thinking back on all the meals I’d shared its Elliot and how that was already coming to an end. I checked the baby monitor, but nothing strange going on there. I turned on the TV, shoved a western into the VHS player, and curled up on the couch with Frodo. I fell asleep just as the bad guy rode into town.