I drove almost 2000 miles to get to the Family Reunion in the Barada Hills.
We all gathered at the old family farm—the Funny Farm—where our kinfolk have lived for many generations.
Our father was there in the farmyard, reigning over his unruly clan with a certain pride. “Straighten your shoulders, now!” Poppa said to everyone, “You don’t want to look stoop-shouldered like your Great Aunt Bertha.”
“That’s right!” my sister said. She frowned. “And whatever you do…” she added. “Don’t step in the chicken poop! It’s everywhere.!” She’s the Sophisticate of the family, you see. She might wear overalls, at times—but they’re always neat and clean. “Those dang chickens!” she said.
We had a couple of newcomers to the Funny Farm, this year—future sons-in-law…Men who were uninitiated to the ways of the Clan. They watched and listened with trepidation, uncertain as to what would happen next.
I drove 2000 miles to get to the Family Reunion. It was an insane thing to do.
You don’t know my relatives. They’re loud. Bossy. Opinionated. They fight frequently, tossing things about. Hammers. Frying pans. Tea-cups.
They don’t take after me.
We all gathered at the Family Farm—the Funny Farm, that is—crowding into Granny’s kitchen, bumping and jostling. Eating huge amounts of food and dirtying a million dishes, until at last we were shooed outside.
Our father was there—reigning over his unruly clan with a certain pride. “Straighten your shoulders, now!” he said for the tenth time that day, “You don’t want to look stoop-shouldered like your Great Aunt Bertha.”
My sister frowned. “And whatever you do…” she said. “Don’t step in the chicken poop! It’s everywhere. Those dang chickens!”
She’s the Sophisticate of the family, you see. She might wear overalls, at times—but they’re always neat and clean. She seldom comes near the rest of us—for obvious reasons—having fled east to the sanity of Indiana, many years ago.
The hubbub in the farmyard grew suddenly louder. The menfolk had taken out their guns, and were pointing them haphazardly in all directions, sighting down the barrels. Continue reading →
I gaze about me at the rolling hills of the ‘Funny Farm’. So much looks familiar…yet something is different.
Grandma’s maple tree still stands tall and erect. So does the old gasoline tank near the corn-crib. As the heat swells its rusty sides on sunny afternoons, the gassy old tank makes rude noises. ‘Old Fartful’ booms each day, its flatulence regular as clockwork. Year after year. Generation after generation.
The tired old barns are mostly the same—leaning a bit more to the south, perhaps. A dilapidated windmill creaks in the breeze with its blades long since sheered off by the winds of a forgotten storm.
The sun sizzles in a clear, cloudless sky…spinning across the expanse of heavens. It rises and sets in the usual directions—the same sun that I’ve seen rising over the Redwood forest for the past couple of years. I’ve been gone forever, it seems, living in a distant land behind the “Redwood Curtain” of northern California….
It was a day we won’t soon forget. A day that lives in infamy—the Day of the Balloon.
My father called the crew together in the early morning hours, directing us to a newly-planted cornfield at the far corner of the farm. Nearly everyone was there—the kids, grandkids, in-laws and siblings. Even Grandpa came along, to keep watch over his cornfield if nothing else.
Dad hauled out his tattered treasure…a huge gray-green bag that looked more like a bloated sow than a hot air balloon. It didn’t have a riding basket, but that was a small matter to Father. Continue reading →