Dawn. Sage and I finish feeding cattle. We turn our attention to loading hay for tomorrows morning feeding—she keeps guard from atop the trucks toolbox while I load bales. The cold morning holds little of what will come in the winter months ahead, just the same the cold is doing well holding forth a frosty morning—Sage chooses to stand more than sit on the trucks cold toolbox.
Predawn. When life goes well in the short daylight hours of late fall I begin catching up on the suggested reading friends have recommended since early spring. Seasonal reading has me reading multiple books at a time. Doing so is not a preference. However, going with what strikes me best in the moment allows for reasonable listening. This morning I chose Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between The World And Me and Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me. Neither, at least at the point where I am currently at, can hardly be called “uplifting.” Both speak of children to young men who lived in landscapes and conditions different than mine.
Dawn. Cattle follow me as I drive through the field. Because pickup, hay, and food are one in their eyes, I left the gate open as I drove through. They can’t help themselves but to follow the truck. Every once in a while a steer will look at the open gate, but the pickups draw is too great. With a jump and a cow-kick they turn and follow.
These early morning feedings go way back. I can’t say I enjoyed these feedings during my elementary school days any more than I will in winters single digit weather. Cold is cold and whether those feeding hands are nine or sixty-years-old, they’d a whole lot rather be in the house near the wood stove. Yet—it needs saying that more often than not—morning feedings are an indicator of good life.
Predawn. “Somewhere out there beyond the firmament, past the asteroid belt, there were other worlds where children did not regularly fear for their bodies,” writes Coates. “I grew up with murderers. But, strangely enough I wasn’t all that worried about their presence at that New Year’s Eve party. I wasn’t afraid of being killed as much as I was afraid of being sexually abused. I know there would be five of six party guests who’d sexually molested my friends and cousins. There would be guests who’d raped only adults. And guest who’d raped only children,” wrote Alexie.
Dawn. Little in life holds a candle to dawn colors filtered through cold air. One is a fool not to take a moment and look and wonder.
Can I not wonder—know—that Coates spoke about me in the “somewhere out there beyond the firmament…were other worlds where children did not regularly fear for their bodies.”? Perhaps I could write Coates off because of his urban location. However, the Spokane Reservation is as rural as any landscape I have known. And Alexie fears were as great as Coates.
Fear for body. Being six or ten or sixteen with a drawl in a southern Californian landscape of rural White folk makes you just different enough at school. And being different on the playground or quad is never a good thing. So, I fought.
A steer looks at me questioning my verbal processing and throws his head. The throw of the head is likely impatience at my not unloading hay fast enough, but what I hear is, “that isn’t the same thing.” Damned if he’s not right. A cavernous difference lies between White rural California, the Spokane Indian Reservation, and urban Baltimore. The bodies breakability factor is not the same.
Daybreak. Colors leave the sky and the gold-grey hue of summer grasses rise with light and deepen the ridge’s hollow shadows. We drive up to the house, sunlight reaches into the pickup bed, and Sage cocks her head as if to ask “What’s next?” And I wonder how to answer.