Billions of people on the Earth, millions in the cities I occupy, crammed into trains for our morning and evening commute, skilled at averting our eyes and plugging our ears with music to create our own sense of personal space --
how could I forget? There are still wide open swaths of prairie land in Southern Indiana. Dad and Sally have staked their own claim outside of Booneville, they dug a lake. They take us out on a brisk, impossibly sunny day to show it off -- Dad in his new black and chrome monster-ish pick up truck.
Rachel: Dad, what happened to the red pick up?
Dad: It turned into this one.
Me: Look, Rachel!! It's a Duelly!
Dad: I need it to pull the horse trailers.
Dad has a big brass antique cowbell strapped to the hitch on the back.
Me: Why does dad have a cowbell on his truck?
Sally: Oh, he had to! The other one got stolen!
Me:. . .
Me: But why?
Sally: Oh, he thinks it's cool.
We drive and drive, Sally and I in her SUV behind Dad and Rachel in his monster truck (each with a border collie in the back-seat) until we're driving down long black asphalt roads bisecting fields of bright green winter wheat and brown, brittle truncated stalks of dead corn. Eventually, Sally turns onto a barely-maintained gravel road -- the kind with wheel tracks and grass growing between them. She noses her SUV between two trees into a field of grass surrounded by brush. It has been raining for days and there are flashes of standing water between blades of grass.
Rachel and I are not in the right footgear for this terrain.
We sit in the car while Dad and Sally disappear into the brush to check on the drain for their newly-dug pond.
They vaguely point at areas of their acreage where they will eventually build a barn, a house.
Other people's parents dream of condos in Florida. My dad is plotting his mobile chicken coop, talking about goats.
He has recently read the Omnivore's Dilemma. He climbs back in his massive gas guzzler and lectures us on corn consumption. We head over to the farm where Dad and Sally keep their horses, for now.
It's a series of massive grass fields dotted with piles of fertilizer, bales of hay, and low fences. The horses roam the fields at all times, they graze the grass and roll around in the mud. We drive until we see them in the distance.
Sally pulls out a bucket of feed and starts shaking it, to tempt them over to us. They summarily ignore us. From where we are parked, we can see nothing around us but fields, trees, and the horses. The wind is whipping across the plain and we huddle together while Sally yells for them.
Altogether, they have five horses, but this little group is three -- they eventually notice the presence of treats and amble over to us.
They have massive, muddy hooves and thick, shiny coats. Sally points them out, giving us their names and short descriptions of their personalities:
Buddy - Their first horse, and the sweetest.
Thunder - He kicks sometimes. He's just a colt, really, only two.
Fred - The oldest one. The biggest. He's just an old fart.
They came up close and it occurs to me again how removed from nature my life is -- these animals are massive. I put a hand on Buddy's flank -- he's so warm. They have long necks ropy with muscles and huge, languid eyes. Thunder approaches us and releases a huge snort and whinny. His eyes are red-rimmed and aggressive. Rachel puts out a hand and he sniffs it. The wind turns our ears red and makes our eyes water. The horses turn from us and resume eating from their piles of feed. There is no one else around us. The dogs, trapped in the trucks, whine to get out and herd something.
It's time for us to go. On our way out of the fields dad points out some birds -- wild turkeys. Huge, unusually sleek fowl with long necks that run shockingly fast.
There are twenty of them in all.
We cuddle with the dogs in the back seat and watch the landscape change as Dad navigates us through the backroads back in to town. The houses get closer together. Strip malls with garish neon break up the subdivisions. He deposits us at our aunt's house and kisses us goodbye, for now.
We climb out into yet another realm -- the suburban reality of our Mom's family.
I forgot my camera. So I paint this picture, instead.