Clayton always had a pricky word
To say about the hippies.
They lived in a commune
Over the hill from his farm.
He ran into them at three places
At any one time during the year —
Either when he was hunting the hill
As he did every year for 40 years,
Or when he was running his snow-machine
On the back roads.
Finally he would see them in town
Every other Friday, when he was
Cashing his check from the state park.
And they was always cashing
Some other kind of check,
Smiling at him.
Of course I was a hippie to Clayton too
Because I had the long beard,
But we worked together when he came home
To his farm on the river.
Helped him screed the foundation floor
Under his house and lay down the roof, too —
Fix fence, cut the firewood and solder sap pails.
But one day I’ll never forget
Was when we were haying the lower mowing in August —
His wife had moved out long ago
And he was living with his son
And the big TV antenna.
But these summer days were spent
A long time haying,
Waiting on the weather
And broken down farm machines.
We had just finished up work,
Had the trailer swayed down loaded
With 200 bales and were coming around
The bend near the second swimming hole
When Clayton caught sight of something
Standing fresh out open
In the shallow part of the river —
A young woman soaping herself
And blonde naked as pine lumber,
Sunlight enshrined in the water
Around her knees.
We both stared like idiots
Until we got broadside with her,
Then we looked straight ahead
Business as usual
But I know she didn’t move.
Further up the road
Clayton twisted his sunburned neck
And skinny white t-shirt
Around in the tractor seat,
Looked back where I was
Holding onto the trailer stakes
And hollered, “I never did mind the hippie women!”
Just imagine Farlow
On Washington’s Birthday
When he came out the back door
Into his woodshed and caught
Clayton’s small hunting-pup
Digging through his trash.
According to the story
He told the game warden
Was that the pup attacked him,
So he had to shoot it.
Clayton never bought that story.
He knew from past experience
Of his own that Farlow’s wife
Had left him six months
After they moved here from Connecticut.
He was spending weekend nights
And now weekdays
In bars in town after work,
Might have even brought home a lady,
But most probably not.
Clayton could read Farlow’s house lights
A quarter-mile away from where
He sat nights in his kitchen —
No houses in-between.
If he used the scope of his rifle
He could even see more.
As winter sunk in
Farlow was keeping odd-hours —
Arriving home late,
Wandering around the house weekends,
And shooting his rifle off for hours
In his field on Sunday afternoons.
The house was said to have an arsenal —
Maybe 30 rifles and pistols for one man —
And it only took one to shoot the dog.
After that, Clayton didn’t deal with him,
Didn’t pay attention to his house lights,
And in turn Farlow leased out his hayfield
To someone else, instead of Clayton —
First time in years.
Since then both men have remarried,
Moved away, and the house of Farlow’s
Was bought by a millionaire gentleman farmer.
I still hear Farlow target practicing
In his field on a Sunday afternoon,
Even though he is long gone.
Clayton’s son says they have so many puppies
Around at his father’s old place
That they’ll probably have to drown a few of them
In the river this spring.
Where Rivers Meet