My second full year of attempting to farm has begun. One infant walnut tree has been permanently laid to rest, and the fate of a cherry tree hangs in doubt: both were savaged by deer last year whose watery eyes and flickering tails I soon ceased to find “cute”. Plant assassins: guts on hooves with razoring teeth and very small brains at one end. They gnawed right through the netting I had oh-so-confidently draped around my nurslings. This year, wire fences reinforced with stakes will greet their nipping incisors. A particularly small garden shark managed somehow to duck under one fence last week. My wife spotted her just in time, and I scared her off (the deer, not my wife). Then I ran a strand of barbed wire around the exposed lower region. Shees… you raise the barrier to keep them from jumping over, and then one sneaks under through a space that you would have thought too skimpy for a slithering hound dog. It never ends. As Emilio Romero wrote of creeping communism half a century ago, la paz empieza nunca.
The peanut patch was another casualty from last summer. I managed to reap perhaps a pound of nuts when all was said and done. Grasshoppers were the prime suspect, but to this day I’m not sure of that diagnosis. Just when the plants appeared to be taking off, their leaves would be gnawed away to the stalk the next morning. This happened several times—and deer, much as I love to pin every crime on them, just didn’t check out as the culprits. Now, at least, we’ve coaxed in families of bluebirds which—I hope—will feed hungrily on insects during the summer. As long as the cardinals don’t chase them off… for, with mating season at full throttle, we’ve observed an emerging problem. The bull redbirds are attacking everything else wearing feathers in their bid to attract females. Toxic masculinity at its very worst.
Potatoes didn’t grow in the clay that the builders compacted around our house: trying to loosen that mass into productivity was wasted time. On the other hand, the extensive raised garden I constructed offered the plushest possible bed for vegetables… but I foolishly magnified its walls with white Styrofoam; and this, once the summer sun started beating down in earnest, fried everything within its borders.
If you live, you learn. Not everything was a disaster. My pecan trees are doing well; and the two oldest almonds, despite having been ravaged themselves by the dear deer, came back so strong that I’ve planted several more. Apple trees, pear trees, peaches, apricots, persimmons, pomegranates… the new cherry trees have already flowered… I have almost fifty plants in the ground. We’ll see if they’re bearing in five years—always assuming that I’m here to see.
For you get no guarantees in life; and once you reach three score years, you’re guaranteed an exit of one sort or another in the not-too-distant future. I’ll probably survive my little crisis with an enlarged prostate. The medical/pharmaceutical industry has lavished enough catheters upon me that I could lay a tiny plastic tunnel to Saskatchewan; and anyway, I have at last found some homeopathic remedies that have put my trouble somewhat into remission. Speaking of industries… homeopathy and ruthless exploitation of the vulnerable are of two houses, you should know. To be sure, the snake-oil salesmen quickly nose out your complaint thanks to shared information in our wired society. My mailbox—my literal, in-the-ground mailbox—has been steadily bombarded with news of “the breakthrough formula that really works”. Entire booklets appear featuring a leering charlatan in white coat and stethoscope on one page and a couple making steamy love on the next. I want to reach in, grab White Coat by the lapels, smack him a few times, and explain, “I’m not contemplating a career as a porn star, moron—I can’t pee!”
It’s all the exploitation around the edges that gets me down. I love my 25 acres. Even, in a way, I love the damn deer. They at least don’t represent themselves as anything other than what they are. And maybe society’s varied collection of scalawags and profiteers… maybe there’s a kind of Darwinian defense to be made for them, too. I spend a lot of time hacking away wild blackberry and polk sallet, nuisances unfit for the table that run off all the other vegetation; but such is nature, with ravenous parasites always ready to gnaw a pound of flesh from prosperity. Our human analogues are no less busy. My indignation concentrates upon those whose calling is supposed to be of a higher sort. The Teacher says, “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.” Precisely. Where is the “high” in “higher” these days?
Yes, I’ve avoided doctors most of my life. I did so partly because I don’t believe we should run to someone for relief from every little pain—and partly, too, because my father’s and grandfather’s lives were needlessly shortened in the hands of the medical establishment (and my father-in-law’s made much worse during its short remnant). My own problem would have been diagnosed and treated sooner if I had been less pig-headed, true enough. But then, what treatment have I actually received? Of the three medications I’ve been prescribed, two made me instantly, severely ill. The third (a muscle relaxant) I never had filled. I chose meditative techniques in its place; and meditation, like homeopathy is rarely a permanent solution—but at least, like hydroxychloroquine, it does no harm. (Wasn’t there someone named Hippocrates, once upon a time?)
Even my miraculous catheters, for which I’m most genuinely grateful, came with conflicting instructions when I received any instruction at all. “Wash carefully after every use, and don’t reuse for more than a week… no, not that: Who told you that? Always throw away after one use! Oh, and the type of catheter that’s eviscerating you? Keep the blue line pointed upward. No, there are no directions included… but someone was supposed to tell you.”
They send you off to try out poisons manufactured in China the way a Vegas hooker tells her drunken high-roller to put his stack on Seven. They load you with expensive but ill-explained gear and gizmos that your insurance (not to worry) will pay for. And then….
And then they push the appointment you’ve awaited for two months another two months down the road for your own good, because CV-19 targets senior citizens. I’ve cleared and planted three acres of orchard with nothing I couldn’t hold in my two hands… and they’re telling me that the one physical complaint ever to slow me down has to stay with me like a ball and chain due to the possibility of a week’s sniffles and fever—a virus that they, the White Coat Fraternity, have decided to elevate to bubonic-plague gravity with virtually no objective data.
My brother, recently a stroke victim, now has to put his rehab in low gear; a friend’s pre-adolescent son suffering from strange fainting spells now has to wear some kind of monitor at home because “professionals” dare not give him a precious hospital bed. Meanwhile, half of the medical profession—the really “expert” half—refuses to endorse hydroxychloroquine because other white coats haven’t spent enough years observing its possible side-effects (the kind of effects that don’t seem to concern them greatly, however, in the case of Flomax). And meanwhile—or during the same while—their Peerless Leader stalls for time as his puppeteer Bill Gates rushes after an “antidote” we’ll all be required to take.
Notice that I haven’t mentioned a single politician. Anyone who places trust in that tribe deserves to be scalped in his sleep. But the medical community… et tu, Brute?
The evening news treats us regularly (I’ve seen two renditions of this script in the past week) to scenes of “COVID survivors” being wheelchaired to the hospital exit through a gauntlet of applauding doctors and nurses, all dutifully masked; and I ask myself, “Why are they clapping as they stand elbow to elbow? Why are they sending micro-deposits from their hands into the eyes and hair, quite possibly, of their neighbors? How can people with any medical training whatever engage in such needlessly, stupidly risky behavior? Or do they know that the whole thing’s a hoax? Is it all being staged, and the masks are just costumes? Then again, are they genuine but massively incompetent? What third alternative could there be?”
Those questions… I have a lot of them. Far too many—and I can’t answer a single one. I don’t claim the right to medical attention. Our ancestors didn’t enjoy such a right. On the contrary, death in the body is our common inheritance, our common destiny; and though, as I say, I shall probably not die of an enlarged prostate’s complications, the experience strikes me as a dress rehearsal for the big show (one where there will be no TV cameras). A stroke, maybe, as I’m grubbing out another post hole and cussing at deer… maybe it will knock me clean dead, and not simply nudge me as it did my brother. I hope so. I’d like a quick exit. Me with my boots on, and confused cardinals cocking their heads.
I’m okay with that. Just please don’t tell me that you’re helping me—that when you prescribe noxious garbage, when you issue contradictory directions, when you bill the insurance company at every turn, when you schedule extra tests and then move them all back a few months… don’t tell me you’re doing all this for my own good! You’re not. I don’t believe you. I don’t trust you. I’ll show up for my appointments, whenever they finally fall and if I happen to remain among the living… but it won’t be because I’ve trusted you. It’ll be because I have no other card to draw—because I have only one roll of the dice left.
That’s exactly the feeling I get nowadays at election time. Could it be, Dr. Fauci—Mr. Gates—because the line even between politics and medicine has dissolved?
I love my 25 acres. I wish I could be buried here, but they don’t allow that… and I don’t suppose I’ll really care, at any rate. I’m ready to step through the door. I only wish I could do so in peace, without the toxic miasma of half-truths and undisclosed interests and noisome mock-altruism that hangs heavily over every aspect of our public life these days. All you “professionals” and “experts” out there… why don’t you just peddle your porn, and stop with the line about how good it is for us?