by Randall Beaird
I visited a childhood friend during the summer of ’94. Doug’s family was living on a farm, a place where I spent much of my childhood. With their animals and solitude, my mind drifted back in time. The grass is always greener, and theirs was a thick, plush carpet of peace. Deep down inside something snapped; I had to get back to my roots.
I traded life in a Rockwall condo for life on a Caddo Mills farm. The hard life began with a real battle to place utilities and driveway on the blackland prairie.
I sold my townhouse, bought a used mobile home, and waited for a break in 94′s fall monsoons. Finally, a slight respite from the rain, a small dry window came, just large enough to lodge the trailer in my neighbor’s ditch. With the ditch posing as my winter home, white knuckled luck struck; my dying tractor coughed to life as the blood red sun dove behind the trees. The gasping tractor limped along, pulling my new life to a virgin homesite. My flashlight stabbed the dark as rain swollen clouds circled. Utilities rose out of a muddy trench; my new life began.
While moving my furniture out of storage, I did hand to hand combat with an evil rat family. They ate my couch cushion and left me little presents everywhere. I was charged up enough to make a barbecued rat kabob; running for their lives, they safely dodged all manner of projectiles and dinner plans.
Two nights later, the Royse City cyclone almost whipped my trailer to the next county. Hooked only to the tractor, while faking sleep on the floor with the moved-in rubble, my trailer shook and shimmied like the hula girl on patrol. I had no tie-downs and figured I was a dead man. A recurring thought, as I pulled the blanket over my head, was “Lord, what have I done?” I woke to discover dozens of trailers destroyed in the area. Mine’s spastic bob and wobble dodged the wind’s vicious grip, or I had a few points with the man upstairs.
Chickens barely edged out a dog for my first barnyard addition. Visions of crowing roosters, fried egg sandwiches, and a grasshopper patrol, bounced me into the feed store. I bought the only chicks left, four, and they began farm life in the extra bedroom.
It was time to add a watchdog. A secretary was giving one away where I worked. A black and tan mutt puppy, I thought Fred would blend right in; there was peace for two months. In a cloud of dust, the savage pecking order rode naked and bareback onto the farm.
One of my roosters, a small red bantie, turned into a cold blooded teenager. He learned to crow, to pick fights, and act like the toughest thing alive. Big Red began to bully Fred who was being as polite as a Sunday School teacher.
I encouraged Fred to be nice, to turn the other cheek, while I chased the psycho rooster away. Big Red jumped on Fred like a mad kick-boxer. Fred tried to run, to lie low, but Big Red’s hobby was finding him. After a week of spurs slashing at his back, Fred had had enough. One day I found Fred and what was left of Big Red in the doghouse; a foot and some feathers, Big Red was dead.
I gave Fred a half-hearted lecture on not eating the chickens. The rooster must have been delicious, as Fred made an innocent hen his afternoon snack two days later. After one more casualty, I sent Fred packing. He taught a bully, tasted heaven, and had hell to pay. No more juicy chickens–I gave Fred away.
To replace Fred, I bought a Chihuahua. She was a tiny one, so I named her Tina–too small to eat chickens! My good friend Mark came over with his new bride, Tina. My new dog Tina was hard to explain. I think he thought I had a thing for his Tina. Wrinkled brows canceled any farewell hugging.
Normally, a Chihuahua is too wimpy for my taste. Two things: The fiasco with Fred, and by this time I also had three pigs. My pigs were always hungry; I knew Tina would be satisfied. I loved Tina, but to balance things out, I needed a motorcycle to grind out laps around the trailer.