In good weather, it’s a forty-five minute drive on a rural highway notorious for aggressive drivers. The highway runs by a couple of wineries, a drag racing track and a speedway, in between which is a whole lot of high desert and the occasional cow.
The end of the road is a boy’s paradise: ten acres of apple orchard in the process of being reclaimed as pasture. There are barns and outbuilding troves of camping and sporting gear, family artifacts, furniture, horse tack, farming equipment, appliances large and small and probably everything necessary – if one looked long enough – to build a time machine. Or at least fix the dryer.
Mike’s parents’ occupation of this particular property marked the end of their more nomadic years. They migrated from Ohio in the 70s in pursuit of the cowboy lifestyle, and then from one small Idaho town to another, each time on the heels of the next big adventure. There was a temporary stint in California for work, a return to Idaho, a new house built in Nevada, and finally “retirement.”
There have been remodels and reroofings and fresh coats of paint. There were raised gardens from which to shoo chickens and razed groves that made way for a new shed and pasture.
There have been chickens that all had names, and pigs that did as well but eventually got eaten anyway. A rescue horse bore the name of Jack’s kindergarten crush, but we usually just called her Babe.
Each year my kids named lambs until they ran out of good ideas and started calling this one “irrigation pipe” and that one “tree stump” after the first thing they hit falling from their mothers. There were bum lambs to bottle feed. There were others that never took a bottle, made it through one night but not the next. There were those that thrived but were still spirited away by coyotes when the horses weren’t paying attention.
There have been owls, pheasants, gopher snakes and wild turkeys.
Long ago, my in-laws stopped worrying about making a living from this place, about whether a late freeze would kill all the blossoms, whether there would be enough help to harvest the fruit in the fall or too many worms to harvest it anyway.
This year the place became ten acres of pure, exhaustive labor, when one of them was sick and the other needed a new knee and both worried about being a burden on their family and about who would sort out the stuff in the overflowing barn and remove all the overripe fruit and the rotate the irrigation pipe and feed all the animals.
The “For Sale” sign went up on this place we’d to which we’d shipped off our kids for weeks at a time, where they could build tree forts and chase chickens and dig potatoes out of the dirt for dinner. It would take months, perhaps years to find a buyer. But they could assure their worried progeny they were thinking ahead, being responsible.
And then this place. It sold. And to a really nice couple too. A disabled vet and his wife and their young teens who said it felt like home as soon as they walked in. And Bob and Sylvia knew what they meant and they liked the couple, so it was hard to be mad at them for making an offer so quickly.
So we gathered up the Easter booty and headed out Highway 16 to another Sunday at the orchard. We expected to be put to work filling or sorting a box or two while we picked at deviled eggs and cowboy beans and ham and roast and coleslaw salad and homemade bread and chocolate cake and spice cake. Everyone was too old this year for an egg hunt but there would be time to throw the ball for the dogs and eat so much we would wish we each had an extra stomach.
But there was no packing. Not yet. Nor any offer to help. There would be time, sometime, for saying goodbyes and removing all trace of what was us about the place.
This day was about family and catching up, of rejoicing in health regained and in lovely spring weather. A day underscored by the constant hum of bees, punctuated by the occasional excited bark or burst of laughter.
A day, in other words, just like any other at this place.
A vote a day keeps me typing away. Thank you.