Monday, June 6, 2016



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.


Bob Arnold
Where Rivers Meet