On any "normal" morning the task is to get outside before searing heat and dripping humidity make work in the front field hellish. This is not easy. Yesterday, a brief thunderstorm at first light turns air saturated with 85% moisture up three notches. Relief comes later in the afternoon. Today's 66 degree temperature at 7am gives me a respite from the treadmill.
Mandy barks at something in the silver maple behind the house. I walk over to check it out, calling Pooch the cat to help me out. The two animals are great hunters. "It's probably only a squirrel", I muse peering up into the branches of the tree. Since the Pooch is a cat with dignity, he takes his time ambling over not wanting to be as overtly doggish as Mandy. With a thump and thud, a raccoon falls from the upper reaches of the tree. I'm dumbfounded. Mandy wants at it in a large way and the Pooch shows signs of curiosity. The raccoon does the cartoon yadda-yadda head shake, as if to say "What the hell?" I walk to the house for my .22. Raccoons in the day time are a bad sign.Rabies.
My Amish friends kill 4 skunks who have been eating their chickens. 96 birds in all. Tales of rabies abound.
Walking back from the house, rifle in hand, I slide the clip in the slot and load a shell into the chamber. It's been a awhile since I shot the .22 . I don't remember if the safety shows red when it's on or the reverse. Rocky is still sitting where he fell. I'm worried about Mandy trying to get at it because a cornered raccoon could bite. The raccoon doesn't try to get away. Aim, fire-nothing. The safety is on you dolt. Red means danger and safety is off. Fire again. Nada. The shell in the chamber does not fire. "Make a note to yourself to clean this rifle." I walk back to the garage to pry out the malfunctioning shell and reload. Raccoon still squats in the same place he fell. "It must be really sick."
Calling Mandy away and ordering the cat to go back, so neither is hurt by an amateur marksman, I finally get a shell in the chamber, aim and shoot. Dead raccoon. I take the rifle back to the garage and place it next to my cleaning kit. No excuses this time. Keeping Mandy at a safe distance, I grab the carcass by the feet with gloved hands and toss it over the east fence into high weeds in a swampy area where for the next week I savor the smell of ripe raccoon every pass I make in mowing the front yard.
Signs at the front entrance to our lane announce the days fare. People driving down the lane ask for vegetables we don't have or have sold out. Two weeks after the season for beets, people are clamouring for the things. If I over-plant next year, Dawn and I will be using them as baseballs. Finally I make a sign. A simple sign.
I have wonderful customers who tell me how much they appreciate the quality and the prices. One elderly couple, who remind me of a mentor and his wife in Sedona, tell me that at the Amish produce auction near Cashton, they're selling corn at fifty cents a dozen. I assume there's a gut on the market. I'm thankful that I could gather enough sweet corn off our ground thrashed stalks to eat corn until I never want to see a yellow ear (until next year). I freeze 14.75 pounds of shelled sweet corn late one afternoon.
A couple drives down the lane in a sporty black convertible. Usually Mandy will greet newcomers with her Batman Frisbee in her mouth, wanting to play keep-away. She barks menacingly at the pair. Hmm. They are nice enough people who ask about the area having some knowledge of Kickapoo Center from years past. They select potatoes and I go into my spiel about pesticide, chemical free potatoes. "You can eat the peel," I tell the woman. "Oh, I always eat the peel," she says. Then she gives me that universal excuse, that Jorge associates with cigarette smokers.
"You know, you have to die of something."