Poems by Richard Mark Glover

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Clausen’s Farm

by Richard Mark Glover

From Canary Spring 2011

Richard lives in the Musquiz Creek Watershed that flows underground through the now dry Commanche Springs and east to the Pecos River which terminates 60 miles later at the Rio Grande (Horsehead Crossing), near Cuatro Cienagas, Mexico.

We drove deeper into Clausen’s farm, the clay rocky road slick from the morning’s rain. A tart like sweetness perfumed the desert air and in the valley below, trees glossy with moisture shrouded the Rio Grande in a serpentine swath of green.

The steering wheel jiggled as I drove the rent-a-jeep across another cattle guard. Don craned his neck out of the window trying to spot Clausen’s alfalfa field. Clausen, a former insurance salesman from Dallas bought hard red land in the Big Bend and had turned farmer. He was hoping to have enough hay to bale by the end of the season but he wasn’t so sure anymore.

“Eating me out of house and home,” Clausen mumbled. He stood in the cold air and smoked. His blue jeans were creased and the sunglasses snug on his nose mirrored the mountains in Mexico.

Hungry javelinas had found the ordered green rows of his agricultural project along the river, irresistible. We had met him at Cecilia’s Store on the river road. He saw our rifles in the back seat and convinced us that thinning out the marauders would be a marked step in the progress of man. Being from Florida, we didn’t know much better and didn’t need much convincing either, having just been skunked on a deer-hunting trip we shared with a zillion other hunters in the Guadeloupe National Forest.

We had spent two hours filling out forms in the ranger’s office. The screechy-voiced guy in line behind us kept talking about his two thousand-dollar infrared scope and how unfair it was to let the bow hunters hunt a week before the bullet guys. Everything was unfair to him; the fee, the long line, the no vehicle zone. Imagine that – he’ll have to actually get out of his truck to hunt. The next morning, I shivered behind my tree in the pre-dawn opening day cold listening to bullets being chambered all around me. I expected to die in the crossfire but luck was with me, not a deer to be seen and we headed south that afternoon, alive.

Approaching another gate, I drove through a two-lane puddle and high-centered the axle of the Hertz two-wheel drive rent-a-jeep. The tires spun, whining in the still air. The once white jeep sank deeper.

“Call your girlfriend,” Don said, referring to my friend Rita who dispatched for a wrecker in Miami.

“That’s funny.”

“I’d call my wife but she’s probably busy.”

“You don’t have a wife.”

“I didn’t tell you? I married a Colombiana.” He laughed and the rolls of fat on his three hundred pound frame jiggled.

“You been holding out on me,” I said. “Did you consummate?”

“Of course not. She’s a friend,” he looked at me with a quirked eyebrow. “Needs the green card. Sends half of what she makes to Medellin every month.”

Tattered white plastic bags caught on a barbed wire fence fluttered in the light wind. I looked out over the desert puddle.

“Come on, this aint Okeechobee. What’s a little water to a couple of Florida tipos?”

“Ride on,” Don said. His eyes narrowed. Camouflage mascara covered his face and caked on his long lashes. “Pigs-ho.”

“They’re not pigs. They’re javelinas.”

“Have a que?”

“Javelinas.”

We stepped out of the jeep and stood shin deep in water. A yellow butterfly flapped in the air and landed on the barrel of my rifle. Don tapped his finger in the air gesturing toward the river. Our soaked boots mucked and crunched across the red rocky dirt, piercing the desert silence as the pale orange rays from the late sun spiked behind the mountain peaks.

A coyote appeared from nowhere, fifty yards away and squatted. Don turned and lifted his rifle but the animal vanished.

The sweet smell of alfalfa crossed our path and we marched toward it. We passed through another gate then walked between two trailer homes, the roofs caved in, the rusty sides bent and door-less. We walked across an island of shredding carpet and through patches of purple cactus and legions of tall gray spiny shoots with tiny red flowers that grew between old mattresses and a grayish ’71 Grand Prix.

In the east, a nearly full moon glowed between the jagged peaks. Overhead a buzzard circled. Don jerked his barrel up and aimed.

“Don’t shoot,” I said.

He tapped his thick finger on the stock and glared.

We marched on.

We stopped in front of another cattle guard. “Lopez” was welded in rusty iron on the center of the gate. “You sure we got the right place?” Don whispered. “The guy’s name was Clausen, wasn’t it?”

“We got the right place. A long time ago a guy named Lopez owned all the land around here. General Santa Anna de Lopez,” I said.

In the distance, just beyond rusting black and red oil drums, the alfalfa patch flaunted a strange green in the dying light and the tractored rows reflected oddly against the wildness of the desert. The plants staggered in height, some stalks without leaves. I chambered a bullet into my 30.06, leveled the barrel atop a cedar fence post and peered through the scope panning the field.

POW, POW, POW! Don’s 50 caliber semi-automatic fired. The sulfurous taste of spent gunpowder filled my nostrils and my ears rang as the blasts echoed.

“Colombiana?” I asked.

“Three, I think. Did you?”

“Bonita?”

“Bonita?” Don stared. “What’s wrong with you, man? Shoot’em up. The more the merrier, the bigger the better – this is Texas, remember?”

We stood silent in the twilight. The moon climbed higher aiding the sun’s dimming light. Ten more minutes and my scope would be useless. It wasn’t an infrared type but still provided plenty of cheat. Down by the river a diesel pump clicked on bellowing black exhaust and sucking stagnant water out of the Rio Grande to irrigate the already soaked alfalfa.

I panned the field again. Nothing. Then a dark image appeared in the crosshairs. It blurred through the barbed wire toward the first row of plants. The animal lowered its snout and began to munch. I fingered the dial on the scope. The magnification pinpointed the head. POW!

We trudged alongside the leaking irrigation pipe that led to the far corner of the alfalfa field. Four javelinas lay dead, one on its side in the wet dirt, head missing, another with half its back and all the choice meat blown off and the other two, too bloody to tell. In the dark beyond the fence the remaining javelinas snorted.

I dropped the rifle and the scope hit a rock. The metallic clang hung in the air as if the central kidney of the earth winced from its dark chamber at filtering such blood. I spit, then picked up the rifle and slammed the scope into a rock, smashing the lens.

“What are you doing?” Don asked.

“Nothin’,” I said.

I pulled my knife out and sank its sharp tip into the soft belly of the headless javelina, slitting the hide down the inside of the front legs to the anus. I reached my hand into the dead animal and pulled the hot steaming guts out of the cavity.

We fashioned a harness out of a branch and bailing wire. Don dragged the javelinas across the rocky wet dirt while I studied the blood splattered ground, then followed, marching behind with the rifles.

Don stopped. “You drag’em for awhile.” He dropped the harness and looked at the carcasses. “You sure we can eat these things? Clausen said they’re nasty.”

I stared at the slots of his eyes.

“I say leave’em,” Don said.

“No!” I said. “We’re gonna eat’em – cheeks, ribs, heart – everything.”

I set the thick branch across my shoulders, and with arms spread wide, I dragged the dead stinking animals with the cross-like contraption. The pig-smell deep in my nostrils - I couldn’t breathe it out. Snorting, the other javelinas followed, watching from the periphery of dark brush, as I dragged their brothers and sisters over the rocky dirt, in the light of the moon, toward the stuck rent-a-jeep on Clausen’s farm.




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