In the morning I ride my bicycle past serpentine windrows of drying hay, the smell unlike any other, sweet and strong and reassuring. I ride past the tree farm with the big gold-painted rock (because nothing screams “prosperity” like a big gold-painted rock, don’t you agree?), past a small vegetable farm, past Annie out riding her horse, and almost past the free pile, where I find a very nice pair of boots that’s only one size too big, and an almost-as-nice pair of sneakers that fit quite nicely. So I ride on, my new footwear tucked under one arm, laces flapping in the breeze, soon passing two young women pushing a stroller built for four, though only three seats are occupied, and I can’t help but joke that there’s just enough room left for me.
They’re kind enough to laugh.
I’m at the base of the mountain road on my way home, now, right past the house with the Trump 2020 flag, and here I leave the shoes behind a tree for future retrieval. Another half-mile and I spot an old man working in his garden. He’s just bought the property, which I know because it formally belonged to our friend Michael, who is himself moving onto 160 acres, where, he tells me, he hopes to die. Eventually.
I stop to introduce myself to the man in the garden. His name is Larry, and I’m guessing he’s 70 or more. White tee shirt, kneeling in the dirt. Baseball cap. He says he’s planning to get a couple heifers to eat down the surrounding grass, and this, like the smell of the drying hay, is reassuring, because a world in which old men work their gardens and plan for heifers to eat their grass isn’t irretrievably broken. Close, maybe. But not quite.
I say goodbye to Larry and head for home. The sun is high now, and hot, and the mountain stream runs low. I can scarcely hear it as I ride.