My wife has the usual holiday slowdown with work, and it’s warm, so we’re fencing the western side of our property. This involves a staggering amount of prep, which is mostly cutting down a thicket of two to three inch  diameter aileanthus and sweetgum saplings interspersed with short, twisted specimens of Virginia pine. Previously, we were doing this with brush scythes, axes, bowsaws and lopping shears. Then I discovered my back has nerves in it, and they’re lazy bastards.

The chainsaw, when it’s not a mass manufactured stamped metal piece of shit with the life expectancy of a Cricket lighter, is a very useful tool. It requires slavish attention to its well being, but repays you generously by allowing you to sit comfortably on most conventional pieces of furniture after a day’s work. Today we actually worked through about 1/2 acre of densely set trees in about six hours. The sheep will graze over the stumps and have them dead by next fall. Then we can drag the harrow over the roots and plant forage mix, or cowpeas.

The object now is to restrict the access of hunters to the place, and our sheep’s access to the right of way. All 53 of them are hugely fat, but you’d never know it because of their constant search for food. Sometimes it takes them to a trailer park down the road, sometimes they just wait in the road itself for the lord of fast moving things to bring them a windfall. They’re like gamblers that way. Someone must have dropped a couple of square bales off a truck once, and they got that fatal dose of reinforcement.

We get calls from the UPS man: “Your sheep are heading toward town. If you hurry you can catch ’em before they get to 119.”

Town, in our case is an extremely relative term. It’s the ‘town’ of Pat Garret and Billy the Kid, or perhaps more correctly, a Siberian star route. It’s a town where lonely men (and women) drink shoe polish. It’s a “we worry that people might fuck our sheep if they make it there” kind of  town.

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I’m not opposed to hunting, either. Just certain styles of it. I have known deerhunters who were adept with a compound bow, and were certain they had a kill when they shot the arrow. I’ve witnessed guys staggering through the woods with assault rifles pointed at their feet, or worse, straight ahead. I’ve heard people discussing a roadside hunting party interrupted by the unexpected appearance of a buck that resulted in a shooter tracking the target through a scope at close range and messily removing the head of a family member point-blank over the roof of their truck.

Another reason I just don’t want the place hunted is we  have a couple of exotic  ‘sports’ of whitetails around here. One is a lovely piebald, mostly white, but with deep brown and tan markings, like a speckled heirloom bean. One of them is virtually indistinguishable from a Saanen goat. When I was in high school, I used to drive my friends up to my uncle and aunt’s farm to smoke dope and get the country vibe. Once, as we approached the farm in the car, I was  telling them about an albino deer my relatives had been putting corn out for, to try and lure it away from the hunters. It was ghostly white, and my aunt thought of it as  kind of portent. One of the guys in the car said offhandedly something to the effect that albinism was impossible in deer.

On cue,  the white doe emerged from the woods, and walked directly and majestically in front of the car. It paused, turned its  eyes on us, and slowly walked away. In the car there was a minute of stunned silence , a brief sucking of wind, and then the kind of painful, paralytic laughter that being stoned only makes worse.

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