I was deliberate in choosing the undisclosed location of my heavily fortified compound. After multiple encounters in several states with the petty tyrants of Home Owners Associations, who lord power over their subjects and cultivate a snitch culture rivaled only by Soviet Russia, one of the top three criteria for the farm location was a dearth of rules.
I plan to be carried off my farm feet first and don’t fancy spending the time until then being told everything I can’t do. The fact I can shoot deer from my back porch without a hunting license and there not being a thing anybody can do or say about it is a dream come true for the sort of guy who resents authority.
The county I live in only recently instituted building codes.
The “Let me do my thing” ethos is tempered by my aversion to hurting anybody or damaging their property. Short of that, if the urge hits me to let the lawn grow, put out plastic, pink flamingos, and prowl around on all fours wearing a leopard print bikini, y’all best avert your eyes because the Honey Badger don’t care.
Likewise, my grandfather had a healthy dose of what the kids describe in texts as “IDGAF.” Despite having easy access to grocery stores, the old man grew grapes he planted long before I was born until the day he died about a decade ago. He made his last batch of wine sometime in his early nineties.
The quality of that last batch was below previous iterations. Maybe it hadn’t matured or perhaps my palate was deadened because I and a few cousins had cracked open some bottles the afternoon we buried grandpa. We figured the old man would have been pleased with his grandchildren hanging out in his one-car garage nipping at the liquid fruits of his labor; telling dirty lies and dirtier jokes.
My suspicion was his body was just no longer able to put into practice the vast amount of knowledge earned over a lifetime.
Just like my grandmother didn’t use cookbooks, much to my mom’s frustration when trying to preserve recipes, grandpa didn’t write stuff down. The man literally had a third-grade education, and learned English on construction sites in his forties, which probably explains his eloquence in cursing.
The old man should have written for HBO’s show Deadwood.
To avoid giving short shrift, Grandpa’s senior year was in the late 1920’s. No Child Left Behind wasn’t a thing back then. They knew most children were going to be left behind, so the kids were taught the important stuff; math, enough reading to get through the Bible, maybe some basic geometry, penmanship, and not mouthing off to adults prevents bloody lips. Everything else was left to the parents.
During a visit, I asked Grandpa why my grape vines were not producing after two years in the ground. Once he regaining control from laughing himself into a coughing fit, my grandfather explained I would be doing well to have fruit the third year, and the first crop wouldn’t be edible. In short, I would be lucky to have edible grapes the fifth season. Even then, they would be nothing to get excited over. Unless I were really hungry, I’d be better off feeding those grapes to the hog until the vines were a decade in the ground.
That last part might have been a slight exaggeration, but Grandpa was right often enough that even his hyperbole was worth following.
I’ve spent the last two years growing grapes in whiskey barrels to get a head start on purchasing the farm. I figure I’ll have some grapes that are worth a crap by 2020, assuming the Southern Poverty Law Center doesn’t come after me first.
While erecting the supports for my grape trellises, I noticed people slowing down as they drove by. Dumbass that I am, I assumed they were curious about what I was building in my front yard. I thought my neighbors were admiring how plumb the posts were compared to the mild undulations of the surrounding landscape and the architectural vision on display with the vineyard’s placement in relation to the barn, the road, and the chicken coop.
Images of friendly neighbors and passers-through stopping at my humble farm to inquire about vinaceous endeavors, while buying free-range, organic eggs and the occasional bale of hay, danced with the prideful part of my soul.
Turns out they wanted to know when we were going to hold the Klan rally.
My mother could never quite figure out whether I was a genius or just retarded, stemming from my propensity to become caught up in a project and lose all sense of time and my surroundings. “Not being able to see the forest because of the trees” was how she put it.
Either of my wives (one former and one current; contrary to popular rumor, I’m no polyamorist) can attest to the need to tear me away from a project in the garage when I become engrossed. My mule-headedness and ornery nature are two of my more endearing personality traits.
What my Rain Man-like concentration prevented me from noticing was the grape vine supports, taken as a whole, strongly resembled a small field of crosses waiting for an Imperial Wizard with a lit torch.
Luckily for me, the people in my area are real “live and let live“ sorts of folks. However, the few that stopped by when curiosity got the best of them approached the subject with caution. I mostly played dumb, the one style of acting at which I am supremely talented.
To the ones who recognized a proper grape trellis and asked what varieties I planned to grow, I admitted their true purpose right away. The whiskey barrels with grape vines flowing over the rims were only next to the barn all of twenty feet behind me, so I felt no pangs of conscience in screwing with everyone else. Mrs. Cunha was mortified by my actions, but she has come to expect nothing less from me.
I invited several to our first annual celebration of European heritage and homesteading skills the following Saturday. Two neighbors believe I am hosting a Passion Play next Easter and am in need of volunteer Centurions. But my favorite was when I informed a particularly nervous fellow that I erect one for every man I kill.
It’s probably a good thing that I live way out in the sticks. I barely fit in out here, much less inside the city limits.
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