Sunday morning there was a message on the answering machine from a neighboring rancher who said he'd found a dead goat in the middle of the pasture. Also several of his heifers had jumped fence and joined ranks with our cows. Apparently a German shepherd and pit bull were running loose but they got out of the fence and back over to the high school before the rancher had a chance to shoot them, sort of like bandits crossing the state line.
The goat was actually a black lamb, a breed of sheep from the Navaho that evidently look like goats. Everyone seems to think they're goats, anyway. The cows were sorted out easily but the bloodthirsty dogs remain at large.
With the icy rain pounding steel shed roofs, nothing to do but continue moving equipment and livestock here and there, my son and I have been planning an excursion across the Rockies through Mississippi to good old Indiana. Our future is open-ended, you might say. We have no idea where or even if we will be farming again. So with little else to do I sit around and harken back to that first autumn in California, a dozen or so years ago when the fellow, “Fly” and I got lost on the slopes of Hatchet Mountain.
We'd passed the night snoring with the trimmers, sleeping bags unrolled over yoga mats on the hardwood floor. A mild case of panic, coupled with the excitement of being stretched out so close to the charming girl with the buzzed do. “Mirage” prevented me from sleeping more than a few seconds at a time, or so it seemed. Fly and I were technically captives, suspected rippers. The sun was burning through rising fog and the massive sliding glass doors that led to the solarium on the cabin's south exposure, so it was well towards noon by the time the other occupants started to stir.
“I can escort you boys back to the property line,” said the boss of this operation, the guy with the straight, sandy hair that put you in mind of a 70s rock band. He tossed me a crispy persimmon.
The only persimmons I'd tried up until then had been the wild ones that grow in the eastern deciduous forests and are mushy, mostly good for bread or pudding. This one was like an apple and really hit the spot where my guts were still recovering from their first encounter with tofu dogs, and while I waited for Fly to roll up his sleeping bag there was nothing to do but watch the cute trimmer girls emerge from their sacks like flowers blooming in the spring sun. I was sorry to be so abruptly saying Goodbye to Mirage.
“You want to hang to the west until you're back up there in the fir forest,” said the grower once we were back in our duds and wet hiking boots, climbing the slope. We came across the madrone where Fly's blonde dreads still dangled from a snag like a scalp. Near the somewhat mangled deer fence we stumbled upon the garbage bags stuffed with harvested buds that Fly and I had been trying to tote back to our boss's drying shed, and the grower could not resist inspecting the contents before sending us off. I almost saw his nose flair up when he assessed the merchandise. “Scrawny shit like that is hardly worth — what, did you grow it in full shade?”
The patch had been pretty shady, I assured the fellow, just glad to be absolved of suspicion. We tossed the bags over the fence and awkwardly climbed the wires next to a flimsy T-post, finally on our way back with the valuable wares.
“I really advise you guys to stay away from my neighbor. Old Man Kincaid watches his property like a hawk. The dude is aggro.”
“Good luck, boys.”
As we struggled up the incline, Fly clued me in on what “agro” means. From what he said, the word applies to people who eat red meat and probably chew tobacco, enjoy shooting firearms, and watch NFL games on Sundays.