This perfect world,
So blue I can't begin to say.
This perfect world.
As the large pine tree fell, the boy tipped sideways to mimic the fall. He could only go so far, unlike the tree which picked up speed as it toppled. The boy imagined the tree as an old man in war, cut off at the knees by cannon fire; taking quite a bit of time to realize what had just happened. Not wanting to face the obvious.
His uncle Bruce waved at him as he stuck the axe up in the air, like a Viking victory celebration.
These were the salad days. These were the days when the legs could run forever and the brain did not know what "bored" meant. These were the days when he could spend an entire afternoon throwing small rocks up in the air and hitting them with a stick, pretending to be Mickey Mantle. The Mick had spent an exact afternoon just like this when he was six somewhere in the middle of Nowhere, Oklahoma.
It seemed as if the days revolved around biscuits. No matter what else was on the table, there were always biscuits. In the morning, ma-ma would put some grape jelly on his biscuit for him. At lunch, his mom would butter a biscuit for him. At dinner, Uncle Bruce would pour some molasses on a biscuit for him. There was usually cornbread for lunch and dinner as well, but no one was getting up from that table without eating at least one biscuit at each and every sitting. If the folks around him hadn't worked so hard, they'd have been quite fat, indeed. In those days, you didn't see a lot of fat people where he lived.
He took his summer baths in a Number 3 washtub out in the front yard. The cotton fields were all he could see from that washtub. Nothing was quite as elegant as the sight of all the cotton bolls in full wedding-white splendor.
The grape vine grew over a small trellis by the side of the barn, near the stump where ma-ma would behead the Sunday chicken. Often the headless chicken would run into the trellis post more than once on its way to the oven. Watching that barely living bird run with so much energy amused the boy. It never harmed his appetite for the wishbone not that long afterwards. When you live on the farm and grow almost everything you eat, you don't think twice about enjoying for dinner the animal you were petting yesterday afternoon. It just doesn't come up.
His mom and ma-ma would tend to the garden and do the cooking. His dad and Uncle Bruce would take care of the cows and pigs and cotton. The cotton was important because it was the only source of income in the house. Income was needed for machines to work the farm and those things that they couldn't grow or make themselves, like gasoline or pots and pans. But almost everything that went into their mouths came right from the ground they walked on every day.
Sometimes he would get to help churn the butter. The butter would come out as an oval in the shape which Jell-O molds create in the modern world. There is no butter you can get anywhere which tastes like freshly churned butter on hot cornbread. It's not even the same food which is sold in stores nowadays.
The vegetable garden was his mom's favorite place to spend time. She loved black-eyed peas and okra and squash.
There was no air conditioning. There was no television. The evenings were spent sitting on the porch reading or talking or just looking at the big, big sky. And no one knew what "boredom" meant. They were all too tired from the work each day.
He had to move to the city before he ever understood angst and ennui and alcoholism and drug addiction and depression and suicide.
Back on the farm, it was as his father had told him when he had asked him why they stayed with ma-ma and didn't move. His dad had said, "It's just the livin', boy. It's just the livin'."
~~ Also a great song by Freedy Johnston.