Our neighbor ran over our mailbox today, but we don't mind. We don't get our skirts in a twist about such things and besides, our mailbox has been through h*ll and back over the past ten years. It seems to have a sign that says "Hit me" on it. Or, "snowplow me over" or "cream me with a bat" or "Attention mice - cheap rent and free bedding."
We've hit it with our car. Strangers have hit it with their cars. The snowplow guy and I are on a first name basis since he's sheepishly handed me my mailbox at the front door about 5 times. This past winter it was propped in a snowdrift for the better part of 3 months because the ground was too frozen to reset the thing for the gazillionth time. When the snow would melt back, we'd just sink it further into the ditch. (Our mailman loves us, we're sure.)
Our neighbor is having a bad week so Rob worked hard to convince her it is no big deal. He had her calmed down and was assuring her there was nothing to worry about when my cousin, Farmer Bill, pulled up. And then the conversation went downhill fast, as they seem to do whenever a farmer is around.
Farmers in these parts are - well - blunt. Blunt as a pitchfork. They don't mince words. They say what's on their minds with no care for the blush it'll bring to your cheeks or the hot water it'll get you in with your parents or the embarrassment it'll bring in front of your new boyfriend. City folks, when they have the rare opportunity to witness a conversation with a farmer 'round these parts, often need to have their eyebrows surgically removed from their hairlines afterward.
One time a city friend was visiting when Farmer Bill drove by, leaned out his window, and yelled, "Hey Laura! Get to work!" at the top of his lungs. I'm always working! I hollered back. "You're NEVER working!" he screamed as he slowly drove away.
I didn't think much of it until I saw the look on my friend's face. "Who was that?!" she asked, timidly, "Do your neighbors always scream out their truck windows at you?!?"
Oh, that's just Bill. Ya, it's better if he just screams from his truck window - if he stops, that's when it really gets interestin'.
When Farmer Bill stops, it's usually to ask me a question. And the question is usually along the lines of, "What the hell are you doing that for?" or "Why did you put that there?" or "And just what do you think you're doing now?" We call him the mayor of Irish Grove. You can bet if you're doing anything even remotely unusual in your yard - like, say, digging a pond - it'll trigger his radar and he'll be pulling in.
The other day my mother ran into an old farmer in the parking lot of the local grocer's. He's elderly now and was waiting for his wife in his truck. My mom walked up to the truck window.
Mom: Hi Martin, how are you?
Martin: Who the hell are you?
Mom: I'm Marcia. John's wife? You remember John?
Martin: Oh ya, I remember him.
Mom: And I used to be your neighbor, growing up. Do you remember me now?
Martin: Oh ya, I remember you now. You were a lot prettier back then.
So today, when Farmer Bill showed up, the mailbox situation got a little stickier.
Farmer Bill: What the hell'd you do?
Rob: (Mr. Nice Guy) Oh, it's no big deal.
Farmer Bill: No big deal? Your mailbox is busted!
Rob: (Mr. Smooth-it-Over) No it's not busted, it'll be fine.
(Neighbor is looking more worried now.)
Farmer Bill: No it won't - that 4x4 is all cracked, you'll need a new one.
Rob: (wishing he had telepathic abilities) Nah, I can just fix it.
Farmer Bill: Fix it? How the helleryou gonna fix it? And the box is cracked too.
Rob: (resorting to lies) Oh no, it was like that before.
(Neighbor is looking like a deer caught in headlights.)
And so on. Rob called me later, laughing his fool head off, to tell me the story. We could write a book with all the stories like that.
Photo: Brady and friends, breaking down the haybale seating at Willow
But one time, it was my Brady - a farmer-at-heart perhaps? - who used the blunt end of the pitchfork in a conversation. He was about four or five, and was riding around with my father in the farm truck when they stopped in the road to talk with a neighbor, a farm hand, who was stopped in his truck. This particular neighbor... well.... he's missing a lot of teeth. A whole lotta teeth. He's missing so many teeth he's probably gotta gum his dinner.
The whole time my dad is talking to this farm hand, Brady is tugging at his shirt sleeve.
"Papa," Brady whispered. Hold on, Brady.
"Papa!" Tug tug tug. Hang on, honey, you're interrupting.
"But Papa, I have a question!" Alright, what do you need...
Nice and loud, he asks... "Why doesn't that man have any teeth?!"
Well now, it's a good thing that old farm hand is well versed in the speakin' ways of farmers.