Sunday, May 15, 2016


I've always liked living old 
-  old style, old ways, and old
means too. One thing I could
never stand was 'new'. New
anything always meant, to me,
bullshit and not much else;
people's ways of getting around
things, basically lying. I kept it
to myself, but most people knew.
When I wanted a can opener, say,
I just wanted a can-opener. I didn't
seek nor need any other format or
any new-fangled way of opening
things. Using can-opener here
as an instance of what I mean to
say pretty much covers the idea.
Lot of things confused me, but I
plodded along, mostly untroubled
yet certain of my own rightness.
I always figured that if, in life,
you can't be 100% convinced
of the rightness of your own
cause  -  your space and beliefs
and being, then the rest of
anything isn't worth spit.
That's an extreme statement,
because by it, even if you
are wrong, you have to be
convinced you are right.
Like Hitler, let's say  - the
rest of the world was certain
he was wrong, but he
remained totally assured
of his own rightness. It cost
him, and it cost a lot of other
people too, but, there you go.
Another thing was when I'd
get, or hear, more than one
version of something and it
would really bother me that
no one surely attested to the
rightness or wrongness of their
own version  -  case in point:
Mark Twain. Over the years
there have been two separate
'quotes' given over to him, but
they remain perplexing
because they're so different 
but, at the same time, so close in
their variations, that I cannot
believe one of then is not
wrong. It's that 'apochryphal'
stuff that kills; people going
around saying that it's said that
he said this or that. Hearsay,
related incorrectly. Or maybe
just more junk science. His
first one is 'I remember
everything, even the stuff
that didn't happen.' Now, that's
a pretty good one, and it sounds,
to my reading, like him. The
other, a variant, I want to think
of, is 'I've lived through some
terrible things in my life, some
of which actually happened.'
For some reason, I don't know
why, that one just doesn't ring
as true. It's, for one thing, too
clear, too pointed. The first
one seems much better, as
spoken and as read. The people
in Pennsylvania that I knew,
they had a penchant for simple
talk  -  strange and perplexing
at times  -  but simple nonetheless.
Not too much decoration, just a
statement, a stated condition, a
premise, and a conclusion. Like,
'That Harry, he drinks way too
much lately.' Or, 'That haymow
(loft) was full before it was filled.'
or 'before we got started', or
whatever. Curious, a bit odd,
perplexing. Like saying about
rich people, or some rich kid,
who had everything given to
him and was just born gold :
'He was born on third base,
and thinks he hit a triple.'
Or: 'Hard work never
killed a hard worker,
but it can wipe out
a lazy man.'
Pennsylvania was riddled
with weird things  - 
language, food, habits,
even the time for various
things getting done. Dinners
with everyone sitting around
the table, at midday, while
out the window the midday
cows lounged  -  not ready
for another milking go-round
until about the 5 o'clock hour,
when therefore you really
couldn't be eating. Early
mornings and evenings were
always taken up with things,
'chores' that had to be done
because 60 other braying and
mooing animals were
demanding so. Then they
had to be fed -  silage to be
wheelbarrowed in from the
silo, which you have hoped
you filled enough in the Fall
to carry you through the
Winter, until Spring grass
and the new growth when the
cows went back to pasture. In
the Spring, the butterfat content
of the milk, which is mostly
what farmers got paid for
anyway, was way up because
of the new greenery; so it was
always nice. Then the silage
which ferments in the silo to
varying degrees, is fed to
the cows, as is hay and any
other foodstuffs to be given,
all of which in turn produces
a twice-daily need for milking
the fattened udders down again,
which then involves cows standing
or loafing around chewing things
which, when back in the stalls,
produces cow manure, which
they just plop down into the
depressed section of concrete,
from which all this manure
gets collected and is put, one
way or another (sometimes
mechanized, 'chain-drops', or
other times just the old pitchfork
routine), which manure is then
spread back onto the growing
fields and which fertilizes anew
the soil for the next go 'round of
corn and growth of the crops,
which is harvested and then
fed to the cows and then the
entire process goes around once
more. It was a very fascinating,
endless circle, this wonderful and
maddening agriculture I'd gotten
involved with. The same cow that
consumes, makes  -  and the same
cow that makes, consumes. All
the process, at any one time, going
into maintaining itself. No wonder
dairy farmers were so settled. (joke).
These guys all had little offices, or
tables, or areas, where they did their
accounting and paperwork. It was
all pretty crazy. All those time
payments on the New Holland and
John Deere and Massey Fergusen
equipment  -  some farmers stuck to
one brand of equipment, like a Chevy
or a Ford fan, and swore only by it;
others mixed up their buys so that
you'd see, in their yards, 4 or 5
different makes of everything. Then
there were car and truck payments,
fuel and heating bills, fertilizer
company bills, the seed companies,
(everyone vied for the 'best' yield
and the richest seeds, but they all
cost money)  -  that was the money
going out. Then there was the
accounting of what came in  -  the
creamery remittances, the weights
and volumes of the milk picked up,
the butterfat contents as recorded and
paid, the govt. farm subsidies, all the
this-for-that stuff that farmers were
made of. They'd sometimes get paid
not to plant, or to plant this, or do that,
or not. Assistance for fuel bills and all just went on. The
farmer was, basically, a stinky,
manure-stained, businessman with
no suit of real clothing to his name,
except some more bib overalls
and a forty-dollar pile of crap to
wear when going someplace special.
Mostly funerals, actually.
Like they say in the Army messhall,
'take all you want, but eat all you take,'
I absorbed all of it, whatever I could. I
did take it all in, gathered everything.
Once I was done, there wasn't much
on my plate except the shine. Anything
I learned, I sort of learned instantly,
and on the go. There weren't that many
second chances or even backward glances,
none of the 'looking back' and 'thinking
about' stuff. If you weren't secure and
stern in looking ahead, the snake would
have your dick  -  or, as they'd put it,
'don't let the snake bite you in the dick.'
It was a way of saying 'keep your eyes
on the task, look straight ahead and
be always watchful and mindful too.'
Sometimes it seemed as if I'd landed
there from Mars  -  at home, we'd be
drinking raw milk from the metal pails
with lids that I brought it home in,
chilled to a real cold, it was great
stuff. We'd be drinking pure water
that collected from a spring which
emptied into a rock pile area
behind the house, in our backyard
actually, and which collected the
water into like a concrete lined
water-collection well deeper in the
ground and which water was then
fed to and piped into the house, in
the rack basement of which were
two Gould pumps, which sped the
water along as needed up and through
the household pipes. It was good
for our use, but when visitors, or my
family came to visit, all their endless
water use and teen-girl showers of
ten or fifteen minutes each, in a row
too, would of course deplete the
stored water and we'd then have
to wait three hours or so for the
tank to refill itself. And that was a
wait for everything else too  -  toilets,
sinks, etc. When I'd know they were
coming, I used to take 6 or so milk
barrels, whatever big gallonage they
were, and put them in the back of
the pickup truck  -  the creamery
would fill them with water for me, 
and I'd then pour those barrels of 
water into said holding tank, for 
replenishment. A real primitive 
pain in the butt, but whatever. 
I'd return the empties and then
do it all again. It was just a cool 
way of life  -  to be direct and
at the core.
The house itself, it was strong
and massive. Since it was on a
hillside, of sorts, the one side
of ground was higher than the
other side of ground, so the
low-end became a huge,
for entry, as a vehicle garage 
area and a stairway up, into 
the house itself. There was a 
flat parking area for lots of 
cars and things In that 
basement, there was a 
massive, flat slab of rock,
probably a billion years old, 
(guessing), and that was the 
floor and the underpinnings, 
as well, of beneath the house.
Built upon solid rock, for sure.
I used to call the house by its 
name, 'Peter'. Just like in 
Matthew, Mark, Luke or 
John, wherever that is; or
all. It was all on an incline 
to, downward or upward, 
depending. I had a Ford 
Cortina, (British Ford), 
1967, for a while that would 
never start with the starter 
and stuff. So each morning, 
off to work, my wife would 
come out with me, still in
her sleep clothes often, and 
just with a nudge help me 
get the car to begin rolling, 
and I'd run, jump in, and 
downhill pop-start it, first 
or second gear, with the 
clutch and the gear lever. 
And then when I got to
work I'd have a spot I 
parked at, also on an 
incline, and I'd roll and
pop the gear there too, so 
as to get home. Out there, 
people just did things as 
they had to be done - without
the definitions and all the
declensions about every 
which and what that regular, 
suburban, fat and comfy 
people do. It's a complete 
change in mind-set, and I
still carry it, proudly too.
There's no fussiness about 
it, and I think that was the 
attraction to me. Any one 
of those old, wooden barns 
from a hundred years ago  -  
not Warren's because it was
new after the fire  -  with the
cow-poop-splattered walls 
and the layered cobwebs 
and nests in the corners, 
old nails and things strewn 
about, straw and grease and 
everything else  -  they spoke 
to me and they were the 
centering mechanism I 
stayed with. Old ways. 
No two ways about it.
Lines of sunlight streaming 
in through the dusty old air.

No comments: