]This past week I’ve spent mostly sucking up to my fleet of draft animals, acclimatizing them to the grassless muddy pitch that my wife and I refer to as the paddock. We also opened up a gate into the area where the original occupants of the farm kept their (much smaller) mules. I don’t know much about the history of mules in the area, but a friend of mine farmed with them until an opportunity  to quit presented itself in the early fifties. He came to visit the other day, with a load of air-dried lumber in tow. After everybody pitched in to unload a 16×40 building’s worth of 2×4’s, 6’s,  8’s and inch sheeting, he watched the man who sold me the mules help me harness them and drive them to the forecart.  I got the impression that they weren’t his daddy’s mules. He said as much to my wife, while I was engaged in panic-learning.

“I hope he’s careful. That’s a lot of power. If they step on him you’ll have to dig him out of the ground.”

And he’s correct. We had a downpour midweek while the northeast was being buried in ice and snow, and these mammoths churned an entire field into wedged  half-discs that began to melt and drift down the slope to the creek about the time the rainfall hit its peak. We could only stare out of the window and watch the soil wash away from us. What astonishes me is they are propped up on these slender ankles that appear to be filled with some kind of natural hydraulic fluid. I’m worried more that I’ll manage to break them somehow.

Anyway, I’ll be hitching them this week, and hopefully it will be dry enough I can let them pull the harrow. If the air stays damp, I’ll have to let them pull a small wagon I built last year out of scrap metal and retail Chinese wheels. We can go harvest deadfall out of the woods for cheap heat. If I haven’t mentioned I’m in love with the lot of them, it’s just because I thought it was obvious.

Better than the loves you can’t mention because it’s awkward, or worse, it will cost you or a friend their job. I have fallen, or more appropriately, have been stricken for a number of people in my life. My girlfriend who was the daughter of a Baptist minister said it was because  if I were a woman I’d have been labeled a whore. I thought that extremely unfair because my sole bilateral sexual experience to that date was with a girl who noted I had a surprisingly large dick for a man who couldn’t pluck a can of beans off the top shelf in a modern kitchen. And while I knew this was heat of the moment sexual flattery  that was in effect, trying to coax more from me than I could realistically offer, I will carry it with me to my grave as a badge, like some Scots horseman at Waterloo, who cantered his beast directly into the guns.

It’s that fighting spirit that has attracted me and my wife to the driftwood that periodically washes up from Blighty, and if we hadn’t been sought out by them I suppose we’d have rounded them up for drinking parties, because they’re the only people who drink like we do. But so far, they’ve migrated to us, and it’s always refreshing to speak with folks from another collapsed empire. In some cases , we’ve used my wife’s meager resources to help them along in the new world, but most of the time we’ve sat back and watched, startled.

Jeremy was our National Geographic introduction to East Anglia, and though I’d read a considerable amount of Penelope Fitzgerald, I wasn’t prepared for the dryness of people from the  marshes. I took to him right away. He dressed 40’s Britain, even though I suspect that’s standard  Savile Row these days, and he was basically cast in the British liberal historian mold. The cool shit was, his locus of study was the American Indian, and he was good, very good at that. The sorry thing was, he was a recovering heroin addict, and he was scraping up a hill against himself and that’s where me and my wife came in as enablers. At the time we were cutting back on drink and we were no longer smokers, but me and my old lady will be drinkers until they plow us into our sorry  turf. Dry might have been an option with a Democratic  Presidency 04, but no longer. We are surrounded by deeply stupid people who are in need of a kind of feudal guidance. I, for one, would be happy to dispense it vehemently with the aid of local teenagers