It started off with poor old Fred the mule dying. His brother Jack preceded him in death within his reasonable expectation of 45 years, but Fred insisted on pegging it, as if life hadn’t offered him another ambition for himself and his ludicrously sized cock. I should have known when a fiendish hunger set on him and he ate everything up but kept wasting. He would come up to me and beg, and I’d pour him some feed out and isolate him from the other mules, but his ribs shunted out more from his sides and he just got sadder and sadder.

The guy who sold us our first four mules phoned from the head of the driveway one day and we let him in. He wanted to see how Barney, Andy, Kate and Jane were doing. We introduced him to our other purchase, Fred, and asked why he was starving. He looked at Fred’s teeth and said “It’s tough to keep weight on ’em past forty”.

So much for my mule purchasing. Fred was one of those mule outliers, and while I wouldn’t blink at working an old creature a few minutes every three months, I’m guilt stricken at having hitched Fred in his fifties. A few months ago, Fred died.

He got hungrier and hungrier, and I had to fight him to keep him from fighting the other mules. He dislocated my shoulder, elbow and wrist by making me crazy at the feeding trough trying to keep him from injuring them.

I was desperate when he began to die, and when he dropped and started pawing the ground I was relieved, even though I loved him. I’d never seen that kind of crazy hunger. It was just death. Not Fred.

But death wasn’t through with the farm. On the day my wife and I were married, we pleaded with the goofy Warren county justice of the peace to speed the ceremonies up. He asked why we were in such a hurry, and I said, “Done got myself this woman, I got a appointment to git some dogs”.

These dogs was George and Sally. They was crazy and worthless, and almost lived to voting age. They died the same day a few weeks ago, after the horrible perambulations of a natural farm death.

I don’t have the soul to shoot an animal while it can eat, so fuck me.

My crow left. I walked away from her cage Sunday, unconscious I’d left her gate open. She’d resisted leaving us on similar occasions, but feeding the wild crows at her pen must have acclimated her enough to take off with them.

This morning, I heard a crow calling and laughing in the woods close to where we would feed Coco. I dragged a lawn chair from the porch and made crow noises with them-the laugh sound and the I love you sound.

They stayed graciously for a few minutes before they flew away.