Farmer’s Daughter, Part 1
Though most of the excitement in a farmer’s life comes from the weather and markets, it sometimes happens that a farmer crosses paths with a belly dancer.
When I first started farming back in the late 1960s, one of my neighbors on the ditch lateral, a rough-cut man named Sam, had a daughter who became a belly dancer in Los Angeles. I first heard about this from the other neighbor on the lateral, and, considering the source, considered it teasing gossip.
Then one day a red GTO showed up in Sam’s driveway, and when Sam and I met up at the division weir on the lateral, I couldn’t resist asking about his daughter, the belly dancer. Sam immediately gave me a narrow look and made fists. He told me that yes, his daughter was a belly dancer, and yes, his daughter was visiting, and yes: if I set foot on his farm to try to see her, he would bury me in his cornfield.
Only 19 years old at the time, I was immensely flattered that Sam thought I, a scruffy young farmer, could possibly be a rival —yea, even a dalliance or distraction—for the affections of a big city belly dancer. But Sam did not make threats casually, so I leaned hard on my shovel and promised to stay away.
But fate intervened. On my way to town for parts the next day, I came upon the red GTO off the road, half way through a fence that held in a curious package of about fifty heifers. A woman sat in the GTO, her head draped on the steering wheel, crying. The steers, exercising their extrasensory fencehole perception, were filtering through the fence one by one, leaving a half section of lush grass so they could stand in the middle of the road and bellow their distress.
I pulled over, jumped out, and shoed the steers back into the pasture before leaning in to ask the driver of the GTO to back up so the fence could be patched back together. She looked up at me, a waterfall of black hair framing large green eyes, her make-up smeared from tears and her lips swollen from grief. She put her left hand on my wrist as she pointed with her right hand toward the radio antenna.
To my amazement, a red-winged blackbird had somehow become impaled on the tip of the GTO’s antenna, the point piercing between the bird’s wing and ribcage, making it flap vigorously in an effort to take flight. I put on a glove, then reached up from the bottom and nudged the poor creature up enough that it was able to fly a few feet before nosediving into the ground, which caused the woman to pound the steering wheel and scream. Only when she finally calmed down did she back up the car so the fence could be fixed.
That left the question of what to do about the bird, still flapping and hopping in an effort to fly away. I went to the bird, and seeing that its wing was broken, I picked it up. A reasonable solution would have been to put it out of its misery, but I wrapped it in a shop rag and asked the woman if she would prefer to take it to a vet, which, of course, she did.
Too shaken to drive, she pulled her GTO to a safe spot on the side of the road, and, coddling the bird, joined me in my pickup for a trip to the vet.
To be continued . . . ❖
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.