There is such tranquility living on a farm. The smell of stacked burlap bags. The power of the merciless bush hogging blades. To flow with the golden fields of oats and barley, dancing to the whims of the wind. Gray and weathered barns of magnitude, made of gracefully-aging, long, red oak boards. Barns and sheds and coops and cribs full of hay, tobacco, corn feed, dust, spider webs and human toil. Hefty, rusting gate hinges nailed on leaning chestnut trunk posts succumbing to the pull of ancient, yet unyielding, strands of barbwire. The soothing distant hum of a worn Ford 2000 diesel tractor, as those large, rear, treaded wheels dig effortlessly into the freshly tilled soil...

Check it.

Enough of the surreal crap. I have got too much time on my hands. The pace here is dying and the life feels deceased. Same old...Like the seasons are the only things that really change and even then, it's one extreme to the other. Hot, cold. Ice, flies, ice, flies, back and forth. I like the outdoors and for me, that is a good thing. Let’s get to it. I do not mind being black. Check it. I am black and so what of it?

Out here, what color you are don't mean nothin’. Well, not to me anyway. I accept this just like I accept the life that is all mine. Call it fate, destiny, karma, call it what you will. I have no hate or prejudice except, what does it matter? Check it. I am branded like everybody else here. Branded at birth and that will never be right. It's a human thing. Gotta be. We live with the rules we get when we are born. You are what you are and nobody gonna give you no slack less you got something special or they think you do. Nothing round here's gonna change nothing. Enough self-pity. It's not my nature to complain or get excited about anything.

Check it. I'm not expected to do much of anything, so I don't. I have been the brunt of jokes for years. Ain't nothing to me. I've never been accused of being too affectionate, either. I consider myself real casual-like. Sometimes hanging out on the farm under them old elm trees on the back-forty or sometimes just standing in the middle of a fescue field. Don't call me lazy. I mean it. I'm not lazy no more than you are lazy. Don't come with that. Check it. I guess I do have it made. But you know, having it made does have a price.

Of course, you hear guns go off, mostly at night. You figure a raccoon or a road sign got some lead. It's just the way it is. McPherson calls it "puttin' lead in their ears." Real funny! I hate guns and gunfire. I hate blood that comes when the bullets fly. You see that. That frenzy of death that keeps you humble. I had a friend that got shot up in a drive-by. He was just minding his own, standing over there by that fence, and these white, young rednecks screech by with a deer rifle. Left him laying there dying as they drove off laughing. Now that was a sight you never forget. It does something to you and puts a certain order to things. You live or die and there's those that have control. Like McPherson!

Who is McPherson? Old "tight and white" McPherson, that white dude slacker who owns this here farm, is as tight as they come. He got money buried all over under dead tree stumps and stuffed in old canning jars. Yes, he is white. I am black. I'm just laying out with facts 'cause that's the real honest truth. He makes life around here interesting. He owns the place. Round here you have and own or you don't have and own. That's the way it is. Old McPherson owns stuff. McPherson's Farm.

Impressed yet? McPherson thinks he owns us. Thinks we think he's God or something. Everybody eats when and what he says or for all he really cares about it, don't eat. He has his favorites, yeah. No, I don't rate. Not with his crazy way of thinking. I'm always observing things out around here. Like, check it. He don't say much to me and tries communicating in his own dumb ignorant way. Communicates by hollering and waving them nasty hands around. Them hands with those yellowed fingernails. Those filthy fingernails with so much black farm dirt under them an earthworm would get off.

He is foul that's for sure. Nasty, nasty man, that McPherson. Runs in his family. McPherson's grandkid, little Timmy, is O.K. O.K. for a punk. He jumps out the school bus door and runs up by the side fence almost everyday. I notice him coming up, I walk over to check him out, and he freaks. I mean he freaks.

Runs off shouting for his granddaddy, old McPherson, who charges out the house half-ripping off the cheap, rusted screen door like he's some kind of big bull, gonna take on a bullfighter. McPherson the bull. He wishes. More like full of bull. He stands there on the porch with them hands on his hips and then yells at that litter runt Timmy to shut up and get to his chores. It is just like McPherson to yell at everybody. However, I cannot figure the kid Timmy out. Some of that dysfunctional home stuff. So what if I am bigger than him, but I ain't never hurt nobody. Never done a thing to make him not like me. Goes back to what I told you earlier about the way things is round here. Why is that Timmy so scared all the time? Scared both of me and McPherson? Hey, but check it, he's just a snotty white kid and I really don't have any real important-like business with him no how. Just the way it is.

Like McPherson hates it when I'm in his barn. He has got livestock like horses, goats and chickens that cover that place with the most God-awful smell of crap and pee. But don't you know McPherson is too lazy to clean a barn or a stable. He yells at me every time I come in that big barn. His barn. Thinks nothin' about anyone but his self. He don't understand how cold that early February wind is. 'Nother reason to hate him. Check it. You will not believe it but he'd rather put horses in the barn than me. That tells you a lot right there. No matter how cold, he wants me out of his barn. Walked in one time just to check things out and he gets all upset. He yelled and threw rocks at me. I didn't mind the rocks hittin' me as much as that cold wind. It was biting cold. Sometimes to keep warm I still sneak in there to that barn when he is off to town. Oh yes, getting to go to town. Now there's one tale that should be handed down. How we might gets to go to town someday like McPherson. He's promised a bunch of us that we would go to town in that truck of his, as if he's doing us some favor just letting us think about it. Check it. He keeps putting us off. Yes he does. Says it ain't time. And his truck. That truck. Trashy is all it is. Man can you imagine that truck in one of those big billboard advertising signs like out on the highway. One of those real high signs with that truck in the ad for coat hangers and tape. A big ad. Buy coat hangers and tape. Might lead to TV commercials. Tape and coat hangers is all that hold McPherson's truck together. Cheap-rigging, buy-nothing miser that he is. He won't fix a thing up right. Like an example is, his truck tires need a new truck. You think I'm trying to be cute or something. Think you got me figured out? Keep thinking. You ain't seen this place and don't know nothin'.It's the way it is. I'm not that funny. Nothing funny about me. I'm always reminded of that. What happens and goes on round here is funny to me but nobody else gets it like I do. Listen to this. A girlfriend of mine and I was walking and talking one afternoon. Nothing special. It was a great day. Not much breeze and no McPherson around. When? Spring, I think it was. We was hanging out. You know, like I said, nothing special. A minute or maybe an hour of hanging out. Anyway, her little one-year old walks over and the kid looks kinda hungry. Real hungry. So without paying me no mind, like I wasn't even there my girlfriend up and just starts feeding the kid right there. Wait a minute. You don't understand. I mean feedin' that kid with her own milk. I mean from her own breast, not a bottle or nothin'. Check it. Now that was a sight.

Picture this big black...well, anyway there's milk running down the youngster's mouth while he's making with that nursing, sucking sound. You know. Loud and loud as any rooster crow or bellow or sound you ever heard on any farm. That was it for me. I could not help it. I really let go when I started laughing and my how I laughed. I mean it was something to see. But, my girlfriend, she goes and gets angry at me. In a big way. Came running at me and of course, I had to defend myself at first. Not that I was scared, it just shocked me, her reaction to my laughing. Then I just ran. I ain't that fast, but she ain't too fast either and her kid was hollering.

Must have been a total sight. They were acting out like they was crazy or had that "mad cow" bovine disease we all heard about while back. Wasn't nothing. Just more of the crazy stuff I am telling you about. When something goes wrong or something ain't right here on McPherson's place, he goes into some kinds of control thing. I didn't mean to laugh at her. It was funny, I swear. Nevertheless, nobody forgets or forgives around these parts. Anyway she, "the real crazy momma" as we called her, and her young 'un went to town with McPherson a couple of weeks ago and I guess she had enough of him and his farm living. She did not get no ride back.

Guess she had enough, period. Enough of this place, for sure. She didn't come back to the farm ever again and McPherson, why he never mentioned it, or her again, and nobody asked. Don't get McPherson started. We just always say about her "You go, girl!"

Hope where ever she's at, she ain't still mad at me. If I could drive I'd be outta here too, that's for sure. I don't got no truck or tractor anyhow. Ain't never drived ever, if I did have one of them. Ain't that bad, though. If you wait long enough you will get your chance. Go when it's time to go.

I finally got to go to town in McPherson's truck. Check it. It was so crowded and if you've ever seen a pick-up truck, you know that there ain't that, I mean that, much room. Anyway, not for all four of us. Five, counting McPherson. Yeah, you got it right. I am riding in the back. Don't you start judging me now. If it means riding on that truck hood to get outta here, I would. It must of been a go-slow day because it took forever to get anywhere away from that farm. At least it's away.

Everybody was passing us. And being 'bout as rude as I’ve seen.

They was giving us the middle finger and puttin' us down with things they yell from their car windows, holding their noses as they sped by. Rude a people as McPherson is. I tried not to look or listen. We was almost to town.

Finally we stopped off at a few places, but we all had to stay in the truck. Of course, everybody except McPherson. Guess he needed to get more tape and coat hangers to patch his ride. If you want to call that truck a ride.

Anyway, we head to the south end of town and stop again. Finally, it's our turn. We can get out. Everybody gets out. Finally. I gotta go real bad. My bladder is bustin'. But nobody cares. Just like on the farm. We hung around for a couple of minutes or something and then I got a whiff of this most horrible stench.

It was an odor like something I knew, but did not know. And where was we going anyway? We was all together and McPherson leads everybody down this alley way near the back of the truck where we all got out.

Who knows where we are headed? Nobody bothers to ask. It's 'cause McPherson acts like he knows where we are headed. I didn't know what was going on, so I figured I would check it out, you know. Then, holy cow, what a shocker! Almost out of nowhere. Pow! I mean it. These big redneck white dudes with sticks came out from behind a big gate-looking door and started yelling. And louder than I ever heard McPherson yell. They are yelling at us. We freeze. I am not no chicken, but they was too much to handle. I was scared like I never been before. They hit us. Then they hit us all on our backs, except for McPherson. Check it. He was smiling. Something's up.

We was hollerin' and they was yelling. Hitting and yelling. 'Cept McPherson. Old "tight and white” done set us up maybe. Who knows what’s goin' on. He ain't scared. He looks all happy and...heck, one of the dudes was giving him some money. McPherson was counting it in front of us as he walked back out the alley to the truck. These dudes made us go into these doors and down this path with hard, really hard floors. One dude was yelling and waving the stick like he was going to hit us again, some more. In the distance, we could hear McPherson's truck crank up. That damned truck. Coat hangers and all. That is about the time I saw this large, muscular white dude with a rifle. I already told you what I think about guns. He was covered in blood. I now knew that stench. It was blood! He had "Butcher" tattooed on his blood gore-stained right arm. He was coming at me. I froze. I felt a lump in my throat. I could not run. I was trapped. He raised his rifle. Dudes were yelling. The blood, fret and fears.

Then, at that very moment, I started laughing. Me. My laughing. Now that was a sight. Some timing. I had to laugh. Really, check it. Ain't pulling nothing over on me. It had just dawned on me what old McPherson was up to. I figured it out, finally.

I may be pretty damn smart after all, for just being a cow.

©Copyright 2005 David Ray Skinner/SouthernReader. All rights reserved.