Thursday, December 15, 2011


   I like farmers. I grew up in Montgomery, NY, along side the Wallkill River, surrounded by farms. Vanderlee's dairy farm bordered our lot. Down the road was Brach's and The Hawkins farm. Across the fields was my friend Tommy Moroney's place. In between were corn, hay, bean and potato fields The smell of cow shit is very familiar to me. But I'm no farmer. When I was a kid I would help Tommy with his chores and enjoy it. But I could go home and watch TV. It's a little like being an uncle. I dig the kids, but I can always leave 'em to their parents. Farming, like having kids, was way too much work.
  As I got older I met and made friends with other generational farmers. The Rowe farm in Maybrook and the Key farm in Cooperstown are two examples. Then there was Ray Gilkey- now dead, my neighbor, friend, and royal pain in my ass. I miss the hell out of him. He started as a shop teacher, then retired, inherited his uncle's farm and died at 85, raising beefalo.
   These days I'm friends with loads of "farmers". The "" are because their farms are by no means traditional, and may not last a generation. Time will tell if the quotes come off. There's Asher and Diamond Dave's TRUSSBRIDGE FARM- a nice medium sized (and expanding) organic veggie operation down by the river. Drekey and Andrew's sustainable, experimental, crazy smart set up above Ellenville. RNButch's MADISON HILL FARM- complete with camels, ostriches, and Dennis the Big Dick Donkey. Slick and Beeka's Rabbit Bikini farm over in Woodridge. Supermodel's pay big bucks for the bikinis made from just the whiskers and eye lashes. And last, but by no means least, Buddy Budde and Sarah Birka Budde's MAJESTIC FARM- goats, sheep, pigs, turkeys, etc. All carved out of the rocky woods- like they used to. And this brings me to the reason I got off on this farmer tangent.

   I set my pop up blind above the bridge on GNJohn's mountain. I was in the blind before first light. It was supposed to rain, but so far it was holding off. I heard something coming. It was way before shooting light. But even in the dark I could see it was a big sheep. Lambchop had escaped the Thanksgiving sheep round up and had been running loose in these hills ever since. She's obviously survived deer season in good shape. I bleated on my call and she stopped. The Buddes had given me instructions to shoot on sight. A dead sheep was worth more than no sheep. Maybe I could keep her around until it was light enough to shoot.
   As the dark maw that had belched her into sight lightened and took shape, I slowly raised the muzzle loader. She kept feeding and looked in great shape. Then I realized there was no way I could shoot her. That's another big reason I'm not a farmer. Hunting's one thing. Putting the hammer down on Lambchop was another. About noon I came home and called Buddy. He was glad I didn't kill her and wanted a chance to catch her.
In the afternoon I moved the blind down the ridge and god dammit there was the sheep again. I spooked two deer going in and didn't see another thing but that bounding sheep all afternoon. I was thinking twice about shooting her. At dark I went back to the truck. There, behind the writer's cabin, on a big rock, stood Lambchop, a perfect broadside shot. I raised the gun and put the crosshairs right behind her shoulder. My thumb caressed the hammer........."Bang." I whispered. Then Lambchop bounced across the rocks, like a goat into the night. I just ain't no farmer.


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