Oregon Dirt Farm

Our creek was about a half- mile
from its entrance to the River
an adjacent ranch pumped water
from a dam it made thirty feet
from our fence & the creek backed
up each summer to flood a feeder
ditch to a pump that rerouted the tributary
over 500 acres, lifted the water from a
Massive electric pump & poured water
on dry desert ground to irrigate alfalfa,
Deep growing legumes, & we
Leased this ranch one year while the land
Changed owners, I cut hay, raked hay, bucked
Bales of hay & we sold nearly all of it in massive tight
Stacks, where other small farms would come &
Buy this one year boon that we’d come by, in this process
I had a free run of 500 acres that was liberating at 15,
having been confined to 20 before that time, the
River became my own, with four good riffles & a salmon hole
There were pear trees & a pond that had two foot trout
That produced one every other cast, I worked all summer
& helped build a shop and earned at the end of the summer
Twenty dollars, & was pleased to get it & buy a cheap military surplus
Deer rifle, & it dawned on me decades later, that I was really some sort
Of bond slave, but I never had a thought of that as
Every hot afternoon on a tractor, & working with my
Grandfather, real farming seemed to me to be the greatest adventure
Of my life, it was the last serious farming my grandfather did
& before the depression he had owned a similar spread,
& the money financed good things of which I have no recollection
I do remember sense of the wealth of the earth,
& the smell of new mown hay and the dust of the harrow before we planted oats
I remember taking a friend of mine, a punk just moved up from L.A.
To the river & pointing out quick sand & watching him swagger
Out onto it & tell me I was full of it & when he began to
Jump up & down I saw him sink to his armpits,
& I pulled him out laughing hard, & that
Summer was probably the best summer of my life up to then
Big farm meals, morning, noon & evening hard work but plenty
Of time to do wild things between the haying and the harvest
When the owner came the next year their gentrified ways took over
But they let me and no others, still have the run of the place except
I couldn’t shoot their deer, & I made good use of the riffles & could
Hunt ducks off the far pond, where the trout, took dry flies
& spinners every evening, I saw a world expand & purpose &
Our 20 acres had been sufficient for subsistence but that summer
My Grandfather & my uncle and I sweated for money, I had no notion of
Other than the twenty dollar rifle,
that killed big black tail bucks,& my friend who ignored the quicksand warning,
became a heroin addict in 1972, & current ranch owners who are not gentry
shot a neighbor kid with rock salt–for fishing in their pond.

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