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It had rained all night. Usually the rain on the trailer’s metal roof don’t
bother me, lulls me back to sleep in fact, as if somebody was talking to
me. . . a soft voice. . . and it drains bad stuff going on in your head and you
can’t help dropping off but tonight I was thinking stronger than the soft
voice and I stayed awake a long time before I fell asleep again. I don’t like
this job I had to do tomorrow. So I thought about that and ﬁnally went back
to sleep and it seemed like ﬁve minutes before my father was shaking me
awake. I had already loaded the six pigs yesterday afternoon at feeding.
There was Milly and Bucky and the four others who were not so friendly
as Milly and Bucky, and they had followed me into the stock trailer as if it
was nothing. That didn’t make me feel so good as it should have because
they were trusting me and I was leading them all right. I tried to think
about that Dad would pick this day because he had been doing this since a
long time and I knew he’d picked this day because there was a hot market,
so I tried to think about the money. These hogs were some fat hogs, and I
had ﬁfty chickens, meat birds, also very fat, which I didn’t care about like
I did the hogs especially Milly and Bucky. Don’t know why, as long as I
have been on this farm and raising hogs, since I was a little boy, I guess,
hogs bother me so much. Dad says if you can’t make money raising hogs,
maybe you ought to think about something else to do. Well, I do think
about something else to do all the time. I think about playing my guitar in
fancy places in the big city, or writing my poems or stories on my computer
or just staring at my computer all day. But then I get out with my hogs, and
there they are. Same with cats and dogs and goats and all the other animals
around here but worse with them hogs. Some things there is no ﬁguring
them out I guess, except the money, even the money.
So ﬁnally after Dad shook me awake, after I lay there awhile wondering
if Milly and Bucky knew what was happening to them, like I swear She-she
did, our old family milker Jersey, who dried up one day and wouldn’t
freshen any more. . . she pointed at me her wet black nose and big black
eyes eyeing me woeful, I swear she knew. . . anyway, I gave up thinking
about thembecause I started thinking about the money I’d put in my pocket
today. Jerry had a used Wrangler down to the garage about 8 or 10 years
old, a Florida car he brought back from speed week, no rust, and I thought
I might be able to swing it. You know about Jeeps. It’s been like that all my
life. I forget the guy’s name, George something, when we lived in town a
long time ago, had a CJ he ﬁxed up fancy. Me and Dad went over one day
to look at it. Maybe Jeeps are a guy thing. Ma laughed, “That thing leaks in
the rain, cold in the winter, no heater, won’t start! Adele, three babies, must
think the world of all the money George has sunk into it.” George took us
for a couple hours ride. That was it for me. Damned, that thing could get
around. So after awhile of thinking about hogs and my dirty deed and then
thinking about Jeeps, maybe I felt a little better. Besides, I didn’t have to
look at the hogs this morning or feel their itty-bitty all knowing eyes. I got
up. Dad was eating breakfast. Not me. I went outside. As I was walking
outside, I could feel mom and dad looking at me kind of funny. I always
feel better when I’m outside, ’cept when I’m outside too long, then I want
to be inside again.
Like I say it had been a rainy night, and outside everything was wet.
But now it wasn’t raining, exactly, just a cold late autumn mist. The motion
sensor lights ﬂicked on as I walked out the house, and I walked across the
dooryard in the light and went inside the barn and sat down on a bale of
hay to wait for Mr. Blevins who was coming with a calf, some chickens and
probably a dozen or so goats, bucklings and does, which would ﬁll up the
trailer. Mr. Blevins was another goat herder, like my mom, a nice guy, Misty
Acres—all the goat herders had funny names for their farms. After all the
years of 4-H and going to the shows and helping out and loitering around
the goats you’d think I’d think about Dolly and Sarabi and Circle, all of
ma’s champions, but no not me, I’m thinking about Milly and Bucky and
what was gonna happen to them today but I tried not to. Dad had already
been in the barn getting things ready for the trip and he had switched on
the lights, but all the girls, Ma’s does, were still down in their knot, pressing
against each other, but awake, glancing up at me curiously. Did they know,
too? I mean about what happens on a farm? They were champion dairy
milkers, more valuable alive than dead. None of this would ever happen
to them. Some of them might get sold, but unless you were stupid you’d
want them to stay alive and healthy enough to keep milking. After all the
centuries they must know their place. They must know about the young
pigs frolicking in last summer’s garden one day and gone the next. Some
of them goats, on the other hand, would die here on this farm where they
had lived all their days. But not Milly and Bucky, whose life would be a
ﬂicker of a summer. Like Pa says, wouldn’t I be smarter to give a name to
what might stick around awhile? I guess I would, but sometimes it don’t
work out that way.
The milkers made a funny uneven pile as if they were knit together.
Then Circs got edgy, yawned, shook to her feet, wandered to the barn door,
took a look outside, yawned, stretched, funny like, as if she were joking
with me, and then wandered back to the uneven circle of goats, shook
again and ﬂopped down, creating a moment of consternation, like a pebble
dropped into a puddle. There were a couple of snorted goat complaints.
The mist was light now against the edge of the darkness outside and the
barn was brightly lighted and the damp cold stirred up the smell of animals,
a soft, clinging musk. The bucks were up already and hanging on the fence
around the back pen, waiting for the girls to get up and show some interest
in them because it was time for the rut. The bucks smelt some too, as they
had nasty habits this time of year, but pigs would embarrass you with their
smell while some people liked the bucky musk. The barn was well lighted,
the way Dad liked it, because lots of times early in the morning he’d come
out here and anyone could see how happy it made him. Mom and Dad
loved barns. I tried to love barns too but I couldn’t the way they did. Maybe
it’s just the way kids are, happier about taking care of themselves than
taking care of other things.
So I guess after awhile of sitting and thinking Mr. Blevins drove in, and
then Dad came out, and I pitched in to help them move the bucklings and
the does from his little trailer to our big one. By then we had a good load
and Dad was hoping the market would be good. And as I was helping
them I had to look at Milly and Bucky because Dad pointed out that they
were mine and they must deﬁnitely bring a good price. Mr. Blevins was
a stocky, friendly guy. He thought that was a great thing because now I
could make a deal for myself. He was a car salesman. Maybe I was getting
desperate because we were almost ready to start on our trip, and I thought
if we left Milly I could get a boar for her and she’d pig out in the spring,
and wouldn’t that be a smarter idea, just to leave Milly and I’d sell the
other ﬁve today? That would be an investment, wouldn’t it? But Dad said
Milly wasn’t a good enough sow, she was just ordinary, and if I wanted to
breed pigs, we’d look around for a good one. I couldn’t see anything about
what Dad said about Milly. Not open enough, rough around the shoulders,
could be taller, and so on. Well, I guess I could because I’ve been hearing it
all my life, but to me then everything he said was just being picky. Then
Dad said, “Get in the truck. We have to go.”
Mr. Blevins said, “Fellow I know breeds Durocs. He might have a good
one you could buy.”
“Sure,” says Dad.
“I want Milly,” I said.
“Milly!” Dad said. “Milly’s nothing. You want a good sow if you’re
gonna raise piglets.”
So I guess there wasn’t any time for arguing with him because we were
getting in, me in the middle beside my dad, and in a second we were
moving down the driveway. Then it got light out fast and I was thinking
about Milly and I was beginning to think I’d put up a big argument with
Dad and bring Milly home but knowing of course that I wouldn’t. It was
all decided, but I didn’t have to like it.
It was a long drive downcountry to the market. At ﬁrst I fell asleep.
Then I woke up and I liked to watch the big hay ﬁelds pass by, and some
of them you could see cows grazing in the distance. And I thought how
much there was to do around here that you could not do anywhere else.
There was a lot to think about. Jeeps were always a good thing to think
about; I could think about girls any time. There were lots of broken down
houses alongside the road in Maine, and then you’d come to a beautiful
house. I ﬁgured one way or another I was going to build houses. I knew
this girl, Abby, who was more of a backwoods girl than anybody I knew.
Her driveway, when she was little, ended a half-mile from the house. And
still to this day there was nothing around her house for a long way but
woods, old woods, and I knew she would never leave, and with all the
broken down houses we were passing by maybe it meant I’d always have
some kind of work to do. Dawn, my sister, was at college at Farmington,
and she never wanted to do anything but get out of Maine. She hated the
broken down houses; she’d never gone for a walk in the woods with me,
not one time. And some of the people, to be honest, Dawn thought were
ignorant. She didn’t want to go out with them, they were all drunks, she
didn’t want anything to do with them. Whenever she had anything to do
with one of them, she came back stomping and snorting like a horse. But I
thought Abby was okay; her house was old fashioned and sweet; her Dad
read The Bible, and they said prayers at dinner, and Abby painted pretty
pictures and knew more about the woods than I did. I had to think about
making some money. Abby might like me better if I owned a jeep. I thought
it must go that way. And that’s how I decided I’d have to give up on Milly.
“Well, I don’t like Durocs,” I said after a long time considering. “They’re
grumpy. I like Milly.”
“They’re only grumpy,” said Mr. Blevins, “if you get between them and
I also had two calves which would go later on in Winter just before
Christmas. And they had been cheap raising because I had not had to pay
for much grain. Mom had milk from the goats that she couldn’t use in
the cheese making, so she gave me enough to bottle feed them with until
they weaned, and Dad let me take from the hay in the goat barn. And
there was the big pasture behind the hay barn the goats weren’t using
this year to help out. The pigs got extra goats’ milk too, as well as lots of
whey from the cheese making. And I really thought that I ought to shut up
because without Mom and Dad I wouldn’t be getting anywhere today. But I
couldn’t shut up. . . it is not me to shut up anyway. . . because I had one more
question even though I had already had answers to that question enough
already, and Dad might think I was putting up an argument. “What’s the
matter with Milly?” I said. “Milly’s no worse than lots of pigs.”
“She’s a blob that happens to have the miraculous ability to stand up
on four legs.”
Mom and Dad culled, and they didn’t spend much time mooning over
it. Except Mom’s champion dairy goats.
With that I signed Milly over to the executioners. I sighed. In truth Milly
had drawbacks, and I sure couldn’t understand because there were other
hogs that I had not felt like this about. Finally, I arranged my shoulders,
and leaning on my dad I went to sleep for awhile.
I woke up we were in the ﬂatlands and almost at the place. It was like
when you wake up from a nightmare into a for real nightmare that was
worse. Mr. Blevins was trying to get his wife on the cell phone. There was
no decent land to grow things on anywhere. Even the air smelled funny.
Trafﬁc, houses bunched up tight so you couldn’t even put a garden between.
Made you feel like you’d get sick from breathing air that’s already been
breathed twice before. And they say there’s no global warming, oh how
they carry on about it. I had to take off my jacket. “Where’s the oxygen
mask?” I said. The sky was a blob of thick grey. You sure wouldn’t know
it was mid-day by the light. We ﬁnally got there. The building was brick,
it was long and low, shaped like a football ﬁeld. They had the auctions in
one end and on the other end was the slaughterhouse. But they didn’t do
the cutting there any more. Dad said they used to. But now they piece it
out. The butchers come in, buy the meat on the hoof and truck it to their
establishments where they hang it and cut it when it is prime.
We backed up the trailer to the loading dock. I went inside to look
to see if somebody was around. It didn’t smell or anything, nor was it
unclean. They had put fresh shavings in the pens for bedding. There were
not many animals in there then, but we were early, and in a few minutes
there were ﬁve trucks and trailers in line waiting to unload. I looked around
for somebody to tell me what pen to put our load in. Two kids showed up
about my age who looked like week old roadkill, a tall one and a short one.
Ah fuck, I thought. It was all right the way they were unloading, I mean
they weren’t beating on anybody. I told them my pigs had been together
all their short lives and I didn’t want them to be separated because they’d
make a lot of noise about it, and I didn’t want to hear it. I explained that
there was no reason why they couldn’t be together these last few minutes
before they got sold and then what happened would happen. The young
LaMancha buck I called Whitey, who was pure snow white, an expert
escape artist, maybe the greatest escape artist we ever had, the way he
could work his way through, around, under, over fencing, who became
a buddy of mine as he was always escaping and joining up with me if I
happened to be outside, had a nice rack of horns. We couldn’t keep him
because he was smallish. I told them don’t touch his horns as he gets all
excited about it, which was why I put the collar on him, and what was the
ﬁrst thing the short road kill did? So Whitey went nuts, he was twirling
and slamming everything nearby and raking everything, and we lost him
among the pens and had to chase him down, caught him after awhile, and
he was all in a sweat and upset but calmed down after we put him in with
the others. Then Dad says, “Lets go get some lunch. We got an hour before
the auction, and anyway, they won’t need us for that.”
It was not the kind of place you’d go for a vacation. It was tough. You
wonder where they came from; it was a gang, and you really wanted to like
some of them. Some of them spoke labored English, all twisted up in some
foreign language, Italian or something. But they had that brusque way of
acting like gangsters. Even the two road kill kids. Don’t get me wrong,
some of those trucks had ﬁfty pigs to unload and none of them were in
a good mood and some of those pigs were awfully damned sorry. Some
were okay though. But they might not appreciate getting handled. So you
had to be on your toes to get them situated or you could be chasing them
around all day. The roadkill twins hopped around at warp speed moving
fencing, the truckers were in a big hurry and there were boars must have
been close to a thousand pounds. And big nasty steers, too, hadn’t been
handled in years. The boys spoke some foreign language back and forth to
each other. I wanted to help out but they pushed me away, and then Dad
pushed me out of the way because I really did want to stay because it was
a thing and challenge for a kid to handle that many animals that big.
We found a sub place not far. It was a grocery store and they made big
excellent subs and I was hungry by now and Dad had parked the truck and
trailer around to the side of the building and somebody came running out
and he was all hot to trot, all in a sweat explaining to Dad he couldn’t park
there because it was a ﬁre lane and against the law. Dad tried to explain
about the trailer because you can’t park a sixteen footer just anywhere if
you expect to get out. Then, “I’ll call the cops!” Sure don’t know what was
the matter with that guy. Finally he pointed out a place we could park,
and Dad drove there, turning around. It was on the edge of the lot, some
distance away, but we didn’t care about a short walk. But damned if I know
where these ﬂatland people come from, they seem so damned grumpy and
in a hurry and not too bright about a lot of things either.
Mr. Blevins was still trying to get his wife on the cell.
“Damned, where is she? I leave for ﬁve minutes and can’t raise her
anyway. She must have gone into town.”
Then he and Dad argued about cell phones, what a big pain in the ass
they were that anybody can bother you any time. Good thing Nanny, which
was his name for my mother, didn’t like the damned things, but you wait,
he said, in a few minutes I’ll have a mouthful of Italian sub and be chewing
away and then the damned siren will go off. “Sucks, don’t it?” Says Mr.
Blevins. It was sort of funny the way they argued about cell phones like a
couple of hicks from the middle ages.
Then sure enough Ma called. She wanted to know this and that, about
if the goats had water or the pigs were in clean shavings, like they were
gonna live till tomorrow, and she wanted to know how I was doing, which
I was doing ﬁne, you know me, even with thinking about Milly.
So Mr. Blevins is still hacking on his cell, no answer. So ﬁnally he says,
“Swear to God. That woman is up to something.” Meaning, you know what
Dad says, croaking on baloney, “Diane?”
It was sort of funny because you have to know Mrs. Blevins, who would
no more think of doing anything funny than the Virgin Mary, and she had
the three kids and she wouldn’t part with them for ﬁve minutes never mind
long enough to do anything funny.
So Dad is giggling, and Mr. Blevins staring at him not too pleased.
Then they both agreed how modern technology was the big problem,
that none of this bullshit would have transpired without modern technol-
ogy which separated people from each other. So ﬁnally Belvins’ phone
rang and it was Diane, who had been in town grocery shopping, and if he
would ever think about getting a second cell for her and do away with the
damned land line, then these things wouldn’t happen, and she also met
a guy at Walmart, and so on. “Whad he look like?” Says Blevins. “Do I
know him?” And so that’s how they went on for a half hour before we
went back to the livestock place because the auction was about to start and
Blevins wanted to see it because “they would be making deals, and there
was nothing like making a deal”.
The auction room had a big platform and a gallery overlooked the plat-
form, and the auctioneer stood at the side talking briskly in the auctioneers’
loud monotone, and the gallery was full of characters from old farmers in
bib overalls to guys who looked like they were taking a quick trip on their
private jets, and there were some young girls too. One of them was sort of
cute, a chubby, round-faced brunette and her skin was very fair and clear.
She said she was getting her Dad some animals, he had a small farm and
he liked to play with the animals for awhile, fatten them up and sell them.
So we talked about milking animals. My mother had sent down a young
doe that had a beautiful udder that gave plenty of milk but she was not
otherwise good enough to show. Her father would get plenty of milk out
of that doe, I explained. In fact when she came out the old farmers were
oohing and ahhing “look at the size on that udder”. But the girl said her
dad was looking for birds to work right now. Despite chatting with the
pretty girl, I soon got tired of all the blunt comments of the big wheelers
and dealers, which half of them must have been loaded anyway, and I
headed out to the barn where the animals were because it was almost time
to set up the shoots and herd in the pigs. There were horses and big cows.
Horses have such damned intelligent faces. Shit, I knew I shouldn’t go in
there. But I was hearing pigs screaming, and I went over to the pig pens
and there was Milly, and she was standing up on her hind legs screaming
and looking for Bucky who was standing up on his hind legs pushing on
the fence looking for Milly. Which I told them not to do that. So I come
along, and I was gonna open the pen because I knew Milly saw me and
she’d rush toward the gate and I’d let her out and she’d follow me across to
where Bucky was. I didn’t think it was a big deal. Milly would rub against
my legs and I’d stand near Bucky, and they’d be able to see each other. And
then all of a sudden shows up the tall roadkill. He says, “What are you
“I explained to you not to get my pigs all mixed up and separated,
because they’ve been together all their lives and they’ll just get all in a
sweat, which is what has happened, as I am sure you observe.”
“I observe, kid, that you are bugging me. They stay where they are
because this bunch is going in ﬁrst. They’re the best looking ones. And
they might make you some money today if you don’t bug me too much.
Now scram and ﬁnd a tit to suck on. I got no time.”
Before you know it, I admit, I slugged the guy. He staggered backwards,
but didn’t fall over, which, I knew immediately was not a good sign. And
somebody grabbed me by the collar and the seat of the pants, and I couldn’t
move. It was my dad. My own dad! He says to the road kill kid, “Go on.
Take your shot.” Which he did. And it hurt, too.
“Come on, Ray-ray. What has got into you?”
I started blubbering about Milly.
Dad says, “What does he have to do with Milly? He’s just another
clown with a boss, just like you are and the rest of us. Stop acting so stupid.
Your sister is the same way. Where did you learn this shit?” He looked up
as if he were asking himself a very important question and he needed some
help from upstairs. “Not me or your mother. School? I don’t know.”
Dad dragged me back to the gallery. Mr Blevins kept punching me.
Even the kid goats were doing all right, and my pigs were coming onto
the platform with the roadkill kid. Blevins was smiling and all excited.
He ﬁt right in with that bunch. Milly had quieted down, there were so
many other things to keep her busy. My pigs, compared to those others
who get fed all sorts of waste food, looked beautiful. After the gallons of
whey and extra goats’ milk and the sacks of grain they had got fed, why
shouldn’t they? Milly went for $300, and I was up to almost two-thousand
dollars just on hogs, and another four hundred for the birds. So Blevins
was slapping me silly, laughing, and he made me stand up every time one
of my pigs come out because he could tell the difference so easy. Just about
only one guy on the side in a fancy suit bought all of them. The bidding
would stop dead, and the auctioneer would glance over at that guy and
he’d calmly top every one. Milly went down the shoot, and I knew that in
a few minutes she’d be dead. But the old folks were nice. When we were
all leaving, they come by and slapped me on the shoulder. I think they
understood, some of them, the dairy farmers maybe, my eyes were all red,
and I fought back the tears by thinking of the money I had just made, and
the jeep I might just buy soon, high school graduation coming up in the
spring, and hopefully ﬁnd a carpenter job, and there was Abby, gee, she
had a lot going for her, so I had a lot of things to think about to help me
ﬁght back the tears, but you know me put me in with a bunch of hogs and
I ain’t the same.
Dad made me strike up a friendship with the tall road kill before I left.
We both had good-sized black and blues. But he was a good natured kid,
“Maybe get a chance to do it again next year?” He smiled.
“Don’t see why not,” says I.
It was a long drive back to civilization. Finally got back into the crappy
houses and broken down barns and big cow ﬁelds with the cows little
specks against the trees.
“Not much of a farmer, Ray, is what I hear,” Ma said.
I just walked by, slammed shut the door to my room, knowing I’d
eventually get it but not necessarily for Milly, but the other thing. Dad
was big on the other thing. When we were in a restaurant and the waitress
looked a little overloaded, Dad would always jump up and help her out.
But Milly, I guess I could eat lettuce, but they say when a ripe head of
lettuce snaps off the stem the sound is like a little shout “No!”.
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