The Dark Arts

The Bearded One belts out Tom Jones’s “She’s a Lady” to scare away critters as he trudges downhill from the unheatable barn in the dark.  “It’s only six o’clock and it feels like ten,” he says.  He prefers to be outside, but it’s pitch dark at five now, and 28 or 29 degrees at night.

Indoor projects take on a new premium in the coming cold and dark hours of life in a valley.  The Bearded One will pick up the guitar again.  By the 20th or 30th rendition of his lonesome cowpoke on the trail song “How I Miss You Baby,” I will once again outlaw it outright and demand that he write some new songs.

I will make a science of keeping the fire going in the stove with the luxurious kindling packets he dried and tied together back during the ten days or so of actual hot dry weather we had this summer.  I will consider learning to knit, as I consider every fall.

Many wintertime projects are inspired by the farm life and the animals.  Last year I wrote a novella about a bear.  We have bear tracks all over the place these days.  Another winter I wrote an essay about my Grandpa Cy, a Montana butcher born in 1898, who was also an artist who drew coyotes and wolves and cats for us.  The essay is about another one of his creations, fashioned on those long Montana winter nights with his brother who was also a butcher — walking canes made out of bull penises.  Yep.  You read that right.

Bull penis cane made by my Grandpa Cy and now owned by my brother, who graciously sent this picture. It turns out making these canes is an "old tradition" -- Grandpa Cy didn't make it up. Which was a relief to learn. You can get one on the internet.

The dog and cat are searching for their indoor selves, too.  Ruby is snack-centric, inquiring casually for treats every twenty minutes for five hours every evening — do I look like a vending machine to you?  Garfield’s fur is growing thick and he is getting into trouble.  He goes wild out of the clear blue and starts attacking the couch.  He recently decided to start climbing the fragile, plastic-covered hoop house.  He walks it leisurely as we hiss and honk to try and discourage him from doing it any more.

Get down from there, Garfield!

The chickens’ lives have changed, too.  The five new chickens, all 2-month-old hens, were born on the same day as our first seven chicks.  We got them from a breeder for $10/each — two Americaunas (Jane and Cheetah), a Silver Wyandotte (Danielle), a Golden Wyandotte (Anna), and a Rhode Island Red (Leah).  The last three names finish off our son’s list of girlfriends.  They’re all good laying breeds and full-sized birds, not bantams.  The Americaunas are as big as Kimber, and she’s got her hands full all of a sudden with a dozen juveniles under foot.  She goes to bed really early now.

Clockwise from the top -- Anna, Jane and Cheetah, Danielle, Leah, and Blackie at the food dish.

Our son made a piece of turkey breastbone art back in elementary school.  We put it on the fall harvest altar with next year’s bean seeds and a candle, which I light just as the Bearded One gets out his 12-string.

Turkey breastbone art

He has a beautiful, deep baritone voice.  “How I miss you baby, when we head out on the trail, oh how I miss you baby…and the cold dark nights and the red ant bites and the barroom fights are hell.”

His lyrics bring to mind all the Harry Potter books and movies full of spells and charms and magic words designed to ward off the bad stuff and bring on the good — maybe I’ll let him sing it a few extra times this year.


7 responses to “The Dark Arts

  1. I’m thinking that you should write the lyrics for the new songs….that can be your project this year! If the nights are too early, you can make some cocoa, curl up on the couch with a pad and pen (Pencil?) and write away. I would love to hear them! Maybe you and the bearded one could compose together.
    “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Farmlet is proud to present, directly from the living room, Christi and Keith” The possibilities are staggering! I have great faith in your ability to craft wonderful lyrics, and if Keith’s singing voice is even reasonably close to his speaking voice…….well, I can feel a swoon coming on like the ones Elvis and Frank Sinatra and the Beatles got back in the day!~ I can’t wait until our next conversation. It’s always the best of fun. I’m so glad to have inspired you on this one….You certainly have inspired me alot! I love you Christi! ❤ Give my love to everyone at the Farmlet!

  2. I was just thinking, you should get a squirt bottle and squirt Garfield when he goes up on the hoop house. It’s humane, and he will quickly begin to associate the hoop house with water. Maybe that will keep his naughty feline butt off of there! ❤ You should also get Ruby one of those Rubber dog bones that you can put peanut butter in. My friends all rave about them and they all have large dogs. Aparently the peanut butter goes inside, and the dog has to work really hard licking to get it all out. They say that these bones keep their dogs occupied for hours at a time.I will find out tomorrow what they're called, and message you on FB. Love you guys! ❤

    • Kathie, you are right about the squirt bottle and we’re putting one out on the stump to use if/when Garfield gets on the hoophouse again. If he tore up the plastic it would be a disaster! But, as Christine notes in her comment, he is so dang cute up there. And as for the Bearded One’s new songs, I’m hoping for some barnyard tunes myself.:)

  3. Christine Widman

    Autumn turning to winter.
    Here the balmy desert nights are turning cold. 47 degrees. I walk around with a shawl over my shoulders, drinking Sweet Dreams herbal tea.
    I am intrigued by Kathie’s idea of you as winter writer of song lyrics.
    Or perhaps you could create a short story about a cowboy out on the High Lonesome – Keith singing you the inspiration.
    The dark art of dark days/nights transforming you both into artists again.
    PS The photo of Garfield on top of the Hoop House – a pumpkin sitting on the stump below – charms me – even knowing this is a taboo cat climb.

  4. All those chicks names! How do you keep them all straight?!
    I can’t wait to meet them:)

  5. Christine Widman

    I”ve just finished my “beginning of the new month ritual” of re-reading your blog for the month I’m now “in”.
    And The Dark Arts spoke to me because my youngest, just married daughter and her husband are in NJ and in the dark.
    Since October 29th.
    When Hurricane Sandy hit.
    No electricity to light the dark or heat the apartment.
    She emails me from her iPhone, “I can’t imagine life pre-electricity.”
    I completely agree. I would not like living in the dark.
    But, as I said to her, I think the dark stirs the wild imagination.
    What art is the dark going to bring to light for you, my artist friend?

    • It was dark tonight at 5pm, Christine, and I’m snuggled by the fire. At least when the power goes out here we have the woodstove…to look into and ponder the next art in my heart.:) Love you!

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