I want to live on a farm in Vermont. Well, not an actual farm. I grew up in the Midwest, so I understand the dreamy, romanticized vision most people have in their heads when they think of farm life. Farms are nothing like that. Farms are hot, smelly places where backbreaking labor does nothing to guarantee success. And even if, against all odds, harvest time has come and everything has gone right, with no drought, or flood, or pestilence, or fire, or anything else crazy getting in the way, and you find yourself with an actual crop to sell, some motherfucking asshole from the city will pipe up and complain that eighty-nine cents is way too much money for an ear of corn that you’ve worked from dawn till dusk for an entire season to produce, and the next thing you know, you’re sitting in the county jail, charged with Murder by Combine.
Plus you’ve got to wake up early and feed the fucking chickens. You always hear that about farms. “You have to get up at the crack of dawn! Those chickens won’t wait to be fed!” Oh, yeah? Well, if I was a farmer, I’d be lying in bed thinking, “Fuck those chickens. What are they going to do if I don’t feed them until noon, file a formal protest? And if they can’t make it and they keel over and die, well then I know what I’m having for dinner, don’t I?”
Farming is a difficult fucking job. Even at the end of a long, backbreaking day, you’ve got to fill out a veritable shit-storm of federal forms if you want to stay in business. The government has a bunch of taxpayer funded programs designed to help farmers such as the subsidy for not actually farming. No shit, the federal government pays farmers not to farm. This is because the collective IQ of the United States Government is roughly equivalent to that of a rutabaga. You could put a couple of hamsters on speed in a can and then put that can in a paint mixer, and they’d be able to come up with a more rational agriculture policy, but if you’re a farmer you don’t really want that. You prefer the easy money, and although you may be tired, if you just fill out those forms you can make an extra $10,000 a year for planting hot dog trees.
Everything about farming is a giant pain in the ass. You can’t even lose the farm without fucking Willie Nelson coming over and making a big deal about it. Sure, at first it seems kind of cool, especially if you’re fond of pot smoking and head lice, but after a while his act begins to get old. Before you know it, you’ll catch him in the barn, crooning “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” to one of your horses.
So fuck that, I don’t want to live on an actual farm. I want to live in a spacious house on 500 or so acres of open fields and forests. No crops, and no farm animals. (Dogs are ok, as are outdoor cats that live in a barn and put up with the cruelty and torture my two sons will undoubtedly visit upon them with humor and grace. But any other animals that expect me to feed them and then clean up their shit are not fucking welcome.)
The fields and forests are important because they serve two purposes: First of all, they give my young boys things to damage. I remember tromping around the woods as a kid: Everything I came across I either threw a rock at it, hit it with a branch, or set it on fire. And that behavior is ok if you’re outdoors. The worst Mother Nature is going to do is send Al Gore your way, and I’m pretty sure my kids could take him. Living, as we do currently, in Arizona where the outdoor temperature approaches infinity in the summer, my kids are confined to the indoors for large portions of their day, and their destructive behavior is starting to show. We’ve got some rooms in the house that look as if they were the site of some horrible experiment involving Mongol hordes and whiskey. So getting the kids outdoors is kind of important to me.
It’s also important because growing up outdoors is fucking awesome. Wait, not growing up outdoors. That makes it sound like I’m trying to turn my kids into feral children, roaming around on all fours, lapping up water from ditches and eating squirrels for sustenance until they wind up looking like Macauley Culkin with mange. That’s not what I meant. I meant growing up and spending a lot of time outdoors. That’s fucking awesome. I spent huge amounts of time playing outside as a kid, and it’s what made me the well adjusted person I am today.
For example, when I was five, my older brother (who was eleven at the time) found me playing in the front yard. “Hey, you want to see something cool?” he asked, as he led me to a field across the road. There, in the field behind a neighbor’s house, was a bushel basket of rotting pears from the neighbor’s tree. Grabbing the basket with both hands, my brother said “Follow me!” over his shoulder as he waded through the waist-deep weeds towards the fence that separated us from the county road that passed nearby.
Quietly, we hunkered down in the weeds and waited for a car as my brother explained the intricate plan: “When a car comes and stops at that stop sign, we hit it with a pear.” And right on cue, a four door sedan pulled up with a large sticker on one of the back windows. “Oh boy, a new car! Let’s get him!” my brother said as we stood up from our hiding spots and heaved the pears. I was five, and although I had a good arm, I’m not sure any of my throws actually hit the car. But someone’s must have because the results were even better than my brother had hoped for.
The pears, while firm enough to hold and throw with ease, had rotted just enough to liquify inside, and so as they hit the car, they erupted and belched a foul, viscous ooze all over the formerly tan sedan. The driver, momentarily unsure of what was going on, paused, allowing us to reload and launch another salvo or three. Now my brother has never been the sharpest knife in the drawer. In fact, I’d say that not only is he not in the drawer, but he’s kind of more of a doorstop than a knife. So when the driver finally realized that his brand new car was being pelted with rotten pears, my brother opted not to beat a hasty retreat, but to stand tall, in full view of the driver, and then double over in laughter as he pointed at the poor bastard. “Haw haw haw haw!”
And of course, the driver executed a quick 180, and raced into our neighborhood at top speed, trapping us in the field full of weeds. My brother finally realized his tactical blunder and grabbed me by the shirt, pulling me along as he ran as far as he could from the half-empty basket of rotten pears. Just as the car was turning the corner he flung me to the ground and dove next to me. “Don’t move! Don’t make a sound!” he hissed at me. The driver hopped out of the car and began combing through the weeds for us, stopping less than five feet short of us as I watched him scan the fields for some sign of the kids who had befouled his brand new car. “God damn kids!” I remember him muttering before he drove off.
That, my friends, is living in the great outdoors! I’ve got a million stories like that from when I was growing up. Some of them involve fire and damaging property, sure. Ok, most of them do, but not all. For instance (here we go…), one time I had a friend named Bobby over and we were climbing the mammoth tree in my back yard. This tree had a branch, nearly horizontal, that was about twelve feet off of the ground, but I had discovered that if you went way off to the end of it, your weight would bend it down to the point that you could just hop off.
So I did this, demonstrating the technique to my friend Bobby, who then tried it. And of course once he had committed and was dangling from the branch by his hands, he decided he couldn’t do it. “It’s too high! Catch me!” he cried, with no small amount of panic in his voice.
“Catch you? You’re like an inch off of the ground!”
“Catch me! My grip is slipping! I CAN’T HOLD ON!”
“BOBBY! I am standing on the ground, looking you in the eye! Just let go!”
Before he had a chance to let go, his grip failed him, and amazingly the quarter inch drop to the ground was enough to severely sprain his ankle. I watched as him mom helped him into the car wondering to myself how something so profoundly stupid could have just happened. (Profoundly stupid things seemed to happen at that very spot. That same summer, I convinced a friend to help himself to the strawberries growing in the garden even though he was allergic to them. “You just have to eat enough for your body to get used to them” I told him. When I finally walked him home so his parents could rush him to the hospital, his head was the size of a fucking watermelon.)
How, I ask you, can I deny my children wonderful stories such as these? I can’t, in good conscience. So we need to move to a farm in Vermont.