Week #8

Dead Leaves

The leaves seem to have gone from a vibrant green to a rotting brown overnight. That at least seems to be the case with the tree closest to my window.

The same tree seems to be the center of animal communal life. A woodpecker spends a good part of his morning driving me nuts with his incessant drumming, squirrels run up and down the tree shaking it's branches as they do, and the cat has come up to chase all of them.

I suspect the restless nature of the animal kingdom portends the approach of winter.

The cattle were once again gathered at the closed gate this morning. They all were staring at me as I left the house, with eyes that lazily pleaded for me to come and open the gate. After a few hours of patient waiting they will disperse to the green pasture behind them.

They have been doing this morning gathering daily now. They all get in neat and orderly line and march to the closed gate and wait.

King Richard the boy pig has disappeared. I haven't taken the hike out into the pasture to see if the cattle might have killed him, but he has not returned. Princess does not seem to mind. She just sleeps unless she hears me approaching and then with a loud grunt and obvious distaste for having been disturbed gets up and begs to be fed.

No more dead chipmunks have shown up, then again I haven't seen any live ones either.

A friend visits today, someone who is definitely not a farm boy. I'm sure he will have a restless sleep in the "peace" of the country. Dogs barking, squirrels rustling and pigs grunting.

Failed Projects

I've spent the morning trying to edit an old web page that was entitled "Articles and Ideas That I'm working on."

It's a rather sad sight. The page is several years old. I'm still working on one of the projects listed on that page and I seem to have less done on the project now than I had two years ago.

One of the other projects listed caught my interest again, the same experience that I have anytime that I peruse my bookshelves and find a book that I once fell in love with at a bookstore, bought and promptly forgot.

Sometimes it's just not the right time. "To everything there is a season" so it says in the Bible.

Living in Florida I kind of got out of touch with that. There was one season there, one long hot summer.

Here the leaves are changing, soon they will fall and the trees will stand naked against the cold winter's wind. I will long for the beauty of their green vesture and count the days until warm weather returns.

There is something in longing that fuels writing. If there is a felt need, then I find that words fill my head searching for meaning to fill the void.

It strikes me that it is better to long for warmth rather than cold. A fireplace blazing is not bad and certainly more comforting than the loud hum of an air conditioner.

So anyway the projects remain unfinished and like a farmer trying to make sense of a bad harvest, I'm left blaming the weather.

Requiem for a Chipmunk

The joyous voices of Christmas may have taken a hit this morning as one of the farm cats, rubbing up against my legs, deposited her latest conquest.

Looking down there lay a dead baby chipmunk. I brushed my foot up against it to make sure that it wasn't just playing dead, but it did not move, it clearly was dead.

The only reason I checked was because a few days ago as I was driving out of the yard I spotted the same cat coming out of the woods with what appeared to be a rat in it's mouth. Now I'm no big fan of rats, (although I will admit that "Ben" is the only Michael Jackson song that I've ever sang in the shower), so if it was a dead rat so much the better.

I stopped the car and the cat came up to me and dropped its prey from its mouth. It was not a rat but a baby chipmunk, which promptly fled the scene.

Now I'm no fan of singing chipmunks either any more than I am of dogs that bark out Christmas Carols or lizards that plot the murder of frogs, but I've seldom seen any adult chipmunks around here so it seems rather unfair that with a few new ones in the neighborhood that they should meet such an untimely demise.

The squirrels seem to have grown in number and appear to be working feverishly in preparation for some type of harvest festival. I wonder why no one has invented a sound machine that mimics the sounds of squirrels scratching across the side of the house, or of them continuously jumping from one tree to another? I'm being facetious, believe me it wouldn't bother me if the cat turned on them.

King Richard, amazingly broke out of his prison Sunday morning and has not been seen since. Perhaps a walk into the pasture where the cattle are will lead to the sight of a cow approaching with a black pig in its mouth.

Farm life can be violent at times; the peace of the country is a myth. Since hunting season began a few days ago, the sound of gunfire punctuates the day.

Who are they shooting at? When I lived in New Hampshire they would place the dead deer on the hood of the car, so at least you knew they were being killed. Here, I've seen no deer being shot, but the gunfire continues as though we were living in a battle zone.

We are of course, it is a battle that goes on from the moment of birth to death, and for most of it we get to be the spectators.

King Richard and Princess

King Richard is the name that I have given to the new pig at the farm. Originally I had named him "Junior" since he was significantly smaller than Princess the fat female pig who was a poor replacement for "Gordy" (the pig used as a football by the cattle).

King Richard was obtained for the expressed purpose of siring some young piglets, who in turn one day will replace the fat Princess. I'm not sure if Princess has figured this out yet; she seems concerned about only one thing--food.

Richard on the other hand is an active fellow. He seems to find a way out of the pen every chance he gets. Then he proudly struts around outside of the enslavement camp, declaring himself a free pig. That is why I renamed him, "King Richard" (he definitely thinks he's in charge).

On Friday King Richard was spotted several miles from here in someone's front yard. The caretaker declared that it was the last we would see of the King, since no one could catch him. He figured that Richard had done what we had acquired him for in the first place, since all the pig had done is "ride" Princess from day one.

Perhaps, I thought this explained his behavior,after "riding" he felt the typical male need to get out of town. This no doubt explained his frequent fleeing the "Kingdom".

In the early evening King Richard miraculously reappeared in the pen, while I started reinforcing the enclosure. I carried heavy rocks, logs, to every spot where I knew the pig had escaped before. I tied down the fence in certain areas where it was loose. Finally convinced that I had taken care of every spot I went to bed.

The next morning I was happy to see that King Richard and Princess were still both in their places. I fed them and shortly afterwards spotted the King "riding" the Princess. A few moments later I could tell the King wanted out of the Kingdom. He was pacing up and down the enclosure looking for the weak link. I was happy when it became evident that there was none.

A few hours later I was coming down the hill and I checked out the pigpen to make sure that everything was still in place. Princess was asleep, only slightly stirring to see if I might have some food on my person. King Richard was no where to be seen.

I walked around the pen searching for him, convinced that he was hidden under some leaves. He was nowhere. I then retraced the enclosure looking for some sign of his evident escape.

A log was pushed from its place against the fence. No doubt the King just couldn't take another moment with the fat pig!

Late in the afternoon, he returned. I lured him back in with more food and then went to work reinforcing the fence with even heavier rocks. The King just watched my work and I swear that he smirked. Meanwhile Princess was eating both her and the King's food.

Orchard Camp

"Did you go all the way up?" The man who was using two ski poles as walking sticks asked me.

"No. I only went to Awchad Camp," I answered betraying a strong Yankee accent that even surprised me and no doubt betrayed that the 3.5 mile trek had taken away my ability to mask my roots.

His dog, which had preceded him around a bend, had scared the hell out of me. In the particular part of the trail which was thick with berry bushes I had been thinking about bears, when lo and behold I heard a rustle and an animal approached.

This particular bear resembled a little mutt of a dog. Its owner, the man with the ski pole could see that the dog had startled me, so I offered him my explanation. "I haven't seen anyone in about a hour." Wherein he presumed that I had made the 7 mile trek to the top of Mt. Wilson.

The hour part was a lie, I had seen someone about 30 minutes previously, a man sitting near Decker Springs who out of breath and sorts had stopped me to ask about a hundred questions.

"What time does it get dark around here?"

"I don't know, to tell the truth I haven't paid any attention to that."

The man a modern day Tiny Tim seemed to want someone to carry him down the hill, I felt energetic, but the very thought of helping someone down the hill drained whatever energy I thought I had like water out of a busted radiator.

The man continued to drone on about how he had climbed mountains before, but never one like this. His legs had given out.

I asked him if it were much further to Orchard Camp, saying it correctly at this point.

"It's a little bit further," he replied.

"Good luck," I said to him and headed on.

A little bit further turned out to be a very steep and strenuous climb for another half-mile. But finally I arrived at the spot marked by a simple sign that said "Orchard Camp."

A stone foundation was all that remained of the camp. A creek flowed loudly next to it. I sat there for a few moments as dusk was settling in the deep forest and tried to imagine the people who once inhabited this place. It struck me it must have been a peaceful existence.

Turning around I headed down the hill. After the encounter with the man with ski poles and the bear-dog, it was another mile before I once again ran into my friend whose legs had given out. He was now retelling his tale of woe to a woman (50ish) who was running up the mountain (always a painful sight), she congratulated him on his accomplishment and told him it was only 20 minutes to the bottom running. I don't think that she understood the concept of one's legs have given out.

I left them there; her momentarily stopped from her vigorous run, he having found another person with whom to share his story. As for me I was just grateful that I had made it halfway up Mt. Wilson.