‘Barefoot kid in overhauls right off the train from Tennessee,’
she told me, ‘come to California looking for work,’ to Exeter
– The Emperor Grape Capital of the World – a long, lifetime
ago of narrow rows and teams of mules skinned for a dollar
a day. Old to me in ‘56, driving slowly his fairly new, green
Chevy pickup full of vegetables, crates of lettuce, melons
and fruit from the alley where the red brick Safeway stood
for prosperity, when he passed by the bus stop in wet, winter fog,
to wave between his place and theirs, between the big house
surrounded by roses on Marinette and his twenty acres of citrus,
alive with roving bands of multi-colored chickens stirring leaves
with the meowing peacocks (less the one on the chimney Granddad
shot and had hell getting out), stray pigs, goat and milk cow
mowing weeds – a free and loose menagerie making a living
in the orange grove growing around his house and poor corrals
where he fed spoils from town. On cold nights with smudge pots
lit like glowing soldiers, their red-feathered hats down every road,
around every orchard in the frosty black, stars twinkling quickly,
roar of wind machines, flat-head Fords with props on towers turning,
stirring the air, Dad and I would visit his lean-to shed, straw bed
along the road, brandy and his two red-bellied sentries posted
to keep him warm, that finally caught fire – bright ellipse over
silhouettes of orange trees – we drug him out alive. It was
the dirty cheesecloth when he skimmed cream every morning
that inspired the new bathtub she ordered and had delivered
to his house and her walk next door, some months later to
investigate why he was not clean. Chickens pecking at
the table, billy goat beyond the open door she found it installed
outside to make moonshine. Saved his money and died a millionaire.

One response to “IKE

  1. and we inherited some rich images. love the vivid details.


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