To Peter

 

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This blog post is dedicated to Peter Hitchen, who passed away today.

I thought about writing a “here’s to you” entry in remembrance of Peter, with quotes and anecdotes in honor of his memory. But they’d be like quips in a high school yearbook: too inside baseball (or in this case, inside fox hunting) and inconsequential to most readers.

And taken out of context, they’d probably sound sexual or perverted–

–which is how Peter would want them to be.

 

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In my very first job out of college, while working at a community newspaper, the managing editor cautioned me to never use the word “unique.”

“I don’t want to see the word ‘unique’ in an article,” she told the staff. “It isn’t descriptive, it’s a cop out. It doesn’t give the reader any details about a person or a situation.”

For 20 years I’ve hung on to that advice and have abstained from using that word in conversation or in print.

Until now.

I just don’t know how else to describe someone unparalleled and like no other.

Peter, you were utterly and entirely unique.

And we miss you already.

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Reboot

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Family footwear, freshly polished.

Consider this a blog reboot.

It has been 35 days since my last post.

I could wend my way back into the blog with December news, which consists of a casualty list: Martin’s knee swelled up like a cantaloupe (Lyme disease): Jazz bucked me off while fox hunting (bruising my pride and my tailbone); and Maisie sliced open two legs while running near razor-sharp roofing supplies (many stitches later, she’s fine).

But I’m not going there. I’m gonna pick up where I left off: with the barn roof.

Keep your eyes peeled for follow-up roofing photos Friday. We’ll regroup then.

 

But before I sign off — in blog-related news — Cayden dropped the following bombshell this afternoon:

“Hey Mom, I read your blog at school today.”

I nearly drove off the road.

What? I asked. How did you read my blog?

“I got done early with my Chromebook. I had extra time.”

How’d you find it?

“I googled ‘Funny Farm.’ It was pretty easy to find.”

I didn’t know what to say. I felt…

Squeamish.

And transparent. Exposed. I wanted to say: don’t read my blog! 

But I couldn’t explain why. I couldn’t say that my mother reads my blog — and that’s bad enough — and I’m not ready for my 9 year old to monitor my musings. 

I didn’t know what to say. Except “Oh.”

Oh, in a flat, noncommittal tone.

I liked those featured blog posts,” Cayden continued. “‘Baking Memories’? I liked reading that. And ‘Power to the Sheeple’? That’s a good one, too.”

Oh, I said, weakly. Well… thanks.

“And the cast of characters. I liked that.”

Well, I need to update that link, I explained, somewhat apologetically. Got to make a note to do that.

I just wanted to conversation to be over. End. This. Discussion.

Cayden must’ve registered my reticence, because he wrapped up his review with a verbal pat on the back: “Well, you’ve got 13 new readers for sure.”

Thirteen? I said quizzically.

“Yea! Half of my class. They were reading over my shoulder!”

Great. Third graders. My target audience.

(Cayden, if YOU or your brethren are reading this right now, do something else! Google “Civil War history,” or “presidential trivia.” Feel free to look up”brethren,” as well.)

 

 

Snake segue

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“You have a lot of snakes around here?”

Roofer John asked me that this morning, as I moved hay bales in the barn. He was barely audible over the screech of metal as his crew tore at the roof above.

“Do we have alotta what?” I asked.

“Snakes,” he said, quieter still.

John’s laconic communication leads me to babble like an idiot. “Snakes? Yea, I guess so. I mean, we have one that lives in our cellar in the winter. We don’t see him but we find his skin in the spring — he’s pretty shy. And sometimes I see them sunning by the barn in the summer. Black snakes — they’re good mousers — so we like them. Wait… why are you asking?”

“We found a dead one.”

“A dead snake? Is it small? Sometimes the cats kill corn snakes,” I offered.

John gave a noncommittal shrug. I followed him and spotted the snake on the ground by the barn — its white belly, face up.

I smirked at John. ”Very funny.”

But he wasn’t smiling.

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I waited for him to break his deadpan.

“John,” I said, casting a sideways glance at Mike, the sentry standing nearby. “You know that’s not a real snake, right? It was on the cupola on the roof…. to keep the pigeons from using the cupola to enter the hayloft. It’s fake. Your guys probably threw it down.”

Anyone else would be embarrassed or appear sheepish. Or express relief to discover a fake snake. Not John.

“Oh,” he said.

“Did it work up there?”

“Yea… it did.”

“So, I guess it should go back on the new cupola?”

“Yea… I guess it should.”

That’s the longest exchange I’ve had with John. Unfortunately, the pigeon deterrent did not provide a smooth segue into prying, personal questions about Amishness. Hey, speaking of fake snakes, why can’t you drive a car when you’re driving that engine-powered boom lift all over the farm? 

It might be time to channel my info-gathering efforts on Mike. The driver.

Chauffeurs are always in the know.