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Farm To Farm

If the Giants had played host to the final two games of the playoffs, the National League Pennant series might still hang in the balance because of the deluge that swamped northern California over the weekend. On Sat­urday night the two youngest boys and I huddled with our soaking, skunked dogs around the radio in the barn, barely making out the early innings through the static on KNBR 680. The broadcast seemed to come flowing in waves as if linked to the ocean.

“Did the Giants score?” they kept asking me. These guys have never seen a live baseball game and were thrown off by the two and two count, two on, two out, etc. The score was actually two to two most of the game. The boys were real sports to try to listen through the static until my ex knocked on the barn door at about the bottom of the sixth inning.

I'd been anticipating this moment. The minute they drove off in the pouring rain, I literally sprinted down Lambert Lane to what is now called the Boonville Saloon to watch the last innings on the TV. We all know how the last innings went, and the ensuing celebration. Of course after the game I had to stick around and bull­shit until nearly closing time when Marsha and Shelly shooed us all out of the Saloon with a pair of brooms.

The rain kept pouring all Sunday like champagne for the Giants, and the creeks went from dry beds of rounded stone to gushing rivers laden with plastic water bottles and aluminum beer cans. In nearly a measly decade of farming in this valley I've not seen us go from dust to flushing trash in the first storm, maybe as much as six inches were dumped on parts of our watershed. It was at least a fortuitous time for the well pump to short out. Water was suddenly abundant. I'd been putting off dis­mantling fences for the big move from one farm to another, waiting for rain such as this, and with one of those ear-splitting hangovers that are difficult to achieve with mere beer causing me to suspect somebody might have treated Spec to a few shots the night before, I set out to pulling the posts from the muck, sweating inside a rain coat. The posts were so easy to pull that I could do it with a can of dog's hair in one hand, partially because these T-posts are actually tomato stakes that you can bend and twist around. They're only good for electric fences, meant to be jerked from the earth, and the soil let go its grip with a sucking pop.

“That was some game last night,” said a familiar voice. It was gruff like Clint Eastwood in his latest flick. I recognized it though I didn't know exactly who it was. The source was an old guy that I'd known but I wasn't ever sure which one because a lot of them have passed on, as they say. My mom's dad, it could have been. There are other older farmers I knew who also sound like this character. I never see the guy. He only appears when I'm working on fences with a terrible hangover. He might be a conglomeration, a hodgepodge of ancestral wisdom for all I know. Usually in the past he's told me things like, “Quit wasting your time trying to grow watermelons in Boonville. It's too cold there. Focus on carrots and beets.” Practical stuff in that gruff, sing-songy old voice. It sort of comes from nowhere. “There's no need to buy chicken feed. Let them forage,” he said when I was spending over two hundred dollars a week on organic chicken grub. In all these years of farming I've screwed up plenty, but no doubt I would have screwed everything to hell without the help of the old ghost.

“So you're a Giants fan, now?” asked the Voice.

I had set my beer can down in the cow path to wres­tle with an obstinate post.

“What about the Cardinals? St. Louis?”

It was then that I realized the old gruff voice actually was my grandfather and not the other old farmers I knew who'd passed on. Those guys were mostly Indiana Hoo­siers basketball fans and didn't give a hoot about pro baseball, but my grandfather had grown up on a farm only 20 miles from St. Louis and pitched in the farm leagues until going off to war and getting married. I don't think he could imagine being anything but a St. Louis Cardinals fan, even in the afterlife, apparently.

“Well,” I said, moving on to the next post in the pour­ing rain, “ever since Tony LaRusso [the St. Louis Cardinals manager] attended that damned Glen Beck rally in Washington DC and my brother went through the roster and realized there were no black players on the Cardinals I had a change of heart, Grandpa.”

That was it, this time. No farming advice. He van­ished.

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