Then I Walked Home

Where bad smells live
Where bad smells live

This morning was an early one, what with Rye’s confounded cat Winslow having squoze his way through the gate through which he is not supposed to squeeze and prancing his way upstairs and settling into a spot directly to the right of my slumbering head, where he commenced to purr maliciously. It was 4:45 a.m., or thereabouts, so I tripped into my office and knocked out a few words, and then, just as soon as I thought perhaps I could make out the shaggy forms of the sheep in the predawn gloaming beyond my office window, I strolled outside.

It was eerie warm, the air soup-thick and rank with the smell of the skunks the boys had trapped for our friend Todd. Not for the first time (and certainly not for the last), I cursed my sons’ odd desires and also Penny’s and my willingness to accommodate them. I mean, really: Who in their right freakin’ mind would let their children trap skunks and skin them in the front yard? Who in their right freakin’ mind would let their children build a trapping shed at the junction of lawn and driveway, in plain smell of the house? Don’t get me wrong: I want to support my boys and all, but sometimes it just seems like it’d be a hell of a lot easier if they were into X Box and baseball. Sometimes, it just seems like it’d be a hell of a lot easier if we just said “no” a little more often.

So now the interior of our new-to-us Subaru, an extremely generous and timely gift from Penny’s folks, who have recently given up driving at almost precisely the same moment our old car failed inspection for structural rust issues, and the first vehicle we’ve ever owned that was made in this century, carries the faint odor of dead skunk. I have this fantasy that I’m going to stop for a hitchhiker and he’s gonna get one whiff of the situation and say something like “no thanks, man. I need the exercise, anyway.”

Whatever. I spent the remainder of the early morning moving from animal to animal as the sky went about its business of exchanging dark for light. Pigs, chickens (both meat and layers), and the new piglets, which are down in the nascent nut grove, rutting out the wild raspberries and spreading piggy fertilizer. I strolled down to the cows at the far end of the pasture, and stood under the big apple tree along Melvin’s boundary and ours, just watching. I’d had the idea I might gather some drops for the pigs, but I’d brought no bucket and hadn’t even worn a shirt from which to fashion a carrier, and I realized how foolish I’d been.

A minute passed, maybe two. It was not raining, but it felt as if might start, and I remembered the ending lines of Hayden Carruth’s poem “Cows At Night”:


But I did not want to go,

not yet, nor knew what to do

if I should stay, for how


in that great darkness could I explain

 anything, anything at all.

I stood by the fence. And then

 very gently it began to rain.


Then I walked home.

8 thoughts on “Then I Walked Home”

  1. Yes. Sometimes we don’t need to explain anything. Sometimes we explain things, say things just because. And that is all right.

    I love cows described as ‘great breathings’. But the ladies that were born on our farm were never innocent. They’ve always been mischievous little devils. And I’ve never seen them sad, except the Mother Pearl, who we got from a dairy.

    Wonder if that’s him reading on the link…

  2. Cats . . skunks . . pigs . . chickens . . piglets . . raspberries . . the dawn’s early light . . and then the recall of Hayden Carruth’s “Cows at Night.” What a start to your day! (What a fabulous reading of Hayden’s poem thanks to Eumaeus’s comment and above link.) Ben, you possess one unique gift in “feeling” your every day!!

  3. My mother and her two brothers bought their first shared car with the cash they raised trapping. It was a Mustang. But that was in the 70s, when pelts were worth more. Maybe the skunk trapping will produce great fruits for those boys. 😉

  4. Oh wow about the car (we have yet to own one from this century either) – Mike and I have been a bit down lately trying to figure out what in the world to do with our 1999 that we have had less than a year, bought for $3,000 and have already put $2,000 into and now find out it really rusting out (the part that holds the gas tank!) – so debates have been raging at our house, take on high debt or low debt? (borrow $3,000 to get Suburban up to pass inspection next spring or borrow $10,000 for a low 2000?)

    I like your boys’s structure, looks a lot like Abby’s.

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