Eighteen and a half hour day

Yesterday we left the farm at 7am. The plan was to drive to Slave Lake (the largest lake in Alberta), a five hour drive each way, with some stops, to visit people as well as pick up flax seed and peas for animal feed.

Our first stop was at the Kings’ farm. When we pulled up we saw a young boy and girl, both barefoot, running around the yard. As we approached the boy, Lucas, sporting disheveled hair and a ratty shirt underneath a pair of overalls was hitting cans with his bullwhip. As Jerry spoke with his mom he practiced making the whip snap, whoosh-BAM, obviously trying to impress us (he did). I couldn’t help but think that the motion of his arm, to look of concentration on his face, the gunshot boom of the whip snapping, that all this was boyhood, distilled.

Around noon we arrived at Marcel and Vivian’s farm. Jerry warned me that Marcel was “very crippled”, I wondered how he farmed in a wheelchair. It turns out Marcel has one hand (he lost it in a combine accident) and a very pronounced limp (he broke his back, also farm related). A small French Canadian man, he had a big nose and a leather cowboy hat, and wore white coveralls and is full of life. As I shoveled grain into the augur and Jerry and Marcel’s son Joe held the bag straight to be filled, Marcel manned the plug. He had little to do for awhile so he sprawled out in the sun, hat covering his face. When we finished he stood up, leaning on his cane, and said, “boy, I’m tired, let’s go eat!” Back at their house, his wife Vivian had cooked us this delicious fluffy omelet. And as we ate the conversation never lulled,  and when we finished Vivian remarked that she had been reading the Persian poet Rumi, who speaks (forgive me if I get this wrong) about a spark of life that is conjured when people meet and gather, and that it was easy to sense that in this mealtime. They are a beautiful couple.

The next stop is to visit Chris “the Inventor”. He used to live in the Pink Palace, where I’m staying now. Jerry says he’s kind of a hermit and just likes to invent things to solve different problems. At his house he shows Jerry the writeup and parts for a solar powered fan and light system for an outhouse at the farm. Jerry and I both sit in his “musical chair”, basically a chair embedded with a powerful subwoofer “and more”, so you can feel the bass in your bones. Jerry listens to some crazy 70s song, and I listen to a duet with Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. As we leave Chris hands Jerry a bag of weed (later, Jerry: Do you smoke weed? Me: No.)

We then pick up peas from Milt. As we leave Milt’s place Jerry says to me, “You know, it’s just so great being an organic farmer. It’s like a community. Everyone helps each other and really cares for each other. Like Milt, he drove two and a half hours to get here and we were supposed to be here in the early afternoon, and we didn’t get here until 7pm, and he was just about to give me his peas. Or Marcel, he could get $32 a bushel for his flax seed, and he sold it to me for $16. It’s about so much more than money.” I realize that this is true, as far as I can tell, and wonder if this is a Canadian thing. Or a hippie thing.

We stop at a Subway for dinner, and then stop by at the Elks Lodge near the town where Marcel and Vivian live. They had invited Jerry to come by and play accordion at their weekly Friday night dance. When we arrive a band is playing (fiddle, guitar, bass), a middle-aged to older crowd is gathered, some couples dance in the middle of the hall and others sit at tables around the room. Marcel introduces Jerry who plays four songs, three with the band and one solo. There is little response from the crowd, for which Vivian apologizes “It’s horrible isn’t it? You were so great Jerry! But we find that people here won’t react to new musicians. After you come a few times they’ll accept you. Isn’t it horrible?” Jerry, goodnatured as usual, says it’s fine and we have to go anyways. It’s 9pm and we still have four hours to drive.

Around 11:30pm I switch and begin to drive. In between fears of fishtailing (we were pulling a lot of peas) and frustration at people who decline to turn off their highbeams as they pass, I thought: “I’m driving a car in a different country.” I might never do this again.

At 1:30am, I am laying in bed (the other bed in the Palace, I didn’t shower because it was too late), my head is full of the day. My mind races to take it all in, but I am unable to process it because I am too tired to think. But I stay awake long enough to realize that it’s days like these that you remember. The comfortable, easy-going ones clump together, and solidify into unrememberable nothingness, but these are the days you remember.

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~ by justinhong on May 23, 2009.

3 Responses to “Eighteen and a half hour day”

  1. i’m glad for you

  2. i definitely lol’ed (or should i say l’edol) at the weed part! =P did you dance at the dance!?!? haha =)

  3. How beautiful.

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