Monday, October 26, 2009

One of my former students found my blog and read the first two chapters of GOATIE GOO and requested to read the third chapter. John spread the word. I never thought of putting this up on kindle, but I think I will.


Now on the other end of this beautiful farming community there was another farm that was very different than the farm where Goatie Goo was born. And the people who lived there were very different than the farmer and his wife who owned the farm where Goatie Goo was born. This farm was in great disrepair. That means the farm was a wreck! At one time it had been a beautiful farm. In fact, at one time it had been the most beautiful farm in that community. Like the farm where Goatie Goo had been born, this farm was at one time just as neat and manicured. But things had changed over the years.
The people who lived there had the name of Richardson, and generations of that family had owned the land for almost as long as the country was old. The family had been there a long time. Steven Richardson owned the farm when this story takes place, but the farm was his only in name. He had grown old, and his son and his son’s wife had taken over the care of the farm. They didn’t have much interest in working it though. They both had discovered that it took a lot of work to take care of a farm, and they lost interest in that aspect of it. They liked the big sprawling house that had become theirs, and they liked the spectacular views of the valley and the river below, and they even liked the many barns and the pond with ducks and geese swimming it. But what they didn’t like was the WORK!
But to say that they were lazy wouldn’t be fair to them. They weren’t exactly lazy, although Steven Richardson might be inclined to call them that. He was the father of Robert Richardson, and the grandfather to Candace Richardson. And it might be that some of the blame could be placed on the grandfather. He was very fastidious. That means he was very particular and very neat. He was neat about everything, but he grew too old to keep up with all the work, and so finally he handed the farm over to his son. And he expected his son to be just like him. That often happens with fathers and sons. Especially if the father thinks he does everything the right way. So when his son started planting less of the property each spring, and milking fewer cows and goats and not repairing all the equipment right away, Robert’s father became critical. And like many fathers who are critical of their sons, the son became discouraged and mutinous. He became more stubborn each time his father SUGGESTED he do work the way he had done it when he was his age. And because Robert became stubborn, his father became more critical. The situation was like a snowball at the top of a hill rolling down and getting bigger and bigger.
The only thing Steven Richardson wasn’t critical about by the time we enter into this family, is his granddaughter Candace. He called her Franny because her middle name was Francine. Candace Francine Richardson. She was nine years old and she looked like all the Richardsons tend to look. Light brown hair, green eyes, high cheek bones and a smile that makes other people smile. Like all Richardsons, her smiles were reserved for special occasions. When she was around her grandfather, she smiled a lot. He was so much like her or, better said, she was so much like him. She liked everything neat and in order. She was fastidious.
Like her grandfather, she was disappointed with the way her father treated the farm. She couldn’t help but frown each day when she came off the school bus and walked down the long lane to her house. She had seen photographs of the farm when her grandfather had been the sole caretaker, and it had been so neat and tidy. There were no weeds like there now was. Now, when she came home and walked down the lane she was greeted with three old, rusted tractors in the middle of the yard, two old cars with their hoods up, old tires heaped in a pile, a lawnmower in a row where it had quit and stayed. The barns all needed a new coat of paint and even the house was dingy with age. There were broken windows in the upper parts of the barn and even a missing pane in the attic of the house. Weeds were everywhere!
And the animals seemed to run free. There were goats wandering in the yard, and cows standing near the pond and even a few wading in the shallow part. Chickens had permanent nests in the seat of the tractors and in the inside the old cars. Squirrels were the permanent residents of the barn, and pigeons roosted everywhere there was shelter from rain.
Franny felt badly for her grandfather because he looked so sad when he thought she wasn’t looking. After he stopped working on the farm, he used to take long walks on the property, but that happened less frequently now. He couldn’t stand to see the “junk” that was strewn around the property. And so mostly he stayed in his room and only came down for meals. He read books and watched television, and he waited for the time when Franny would come to visit him in his room.
What did they do in there? Well, mostly they talked about when Franny would take over the farm. She wanted to own the farm someday so that she could make it as nice a farm as when her grandfather owned it. They would sit in her grandfather’s room and they would plot the way that she would once again make it beautiful and profitable. And even though she was only nine, she was already beginning to put their plan into motion. She would clean out the stalls as best she could, and with the help of her grandfather, on Saturdays, they would mend some of the fences. But some of the big chores, like all the large junk that was all over the place, was just too big of a chore for her to tackle. They both would become discouraged, because part of progress is to see the results, and when all the old tractors and cars and tires still lay there, day after day, it didn’t seem like they had accomplished much at all. But dreaming is what inspires action, and so they would sit in his room, when Franny was finished with her homework, and they would dream.
Like Franny’s father, Franny’s mother was a wonderful person. She loved her husband and her daughter, and even her father-in-law, Steven Richardson, but she would not take any action unless it was approved by her husband. They were a team, he always reminded her, and like a team, they had to work together. So she did all of the cooking and the cleaning inside the house, and he would be responsible for all the chores outside of the house. And the inside of the house was immaculate. Everything was clean and neat and perfect. If a stranger were to walk down the lane of the Richardson property, they would probably be reluctant to go inside the Richardson house. But they would have been greatly surprised. The inside was beautiful. The inside of the Richardson house could have been in Better Homes and Gardens. Well, to be honest, more like Better Homes without the Gardens.
The problem with Robert Richardson was that he was too much of a dreamer. Now I know that before I said that dreaming inspired action, but those two ingredients have to be kind of equal. One part dream and one part action. Robert Richardson’s whole cup spilled over with dreaming. And not the kind of dreaming you do when you’re asleep, but the kind of dreaming you do when you’re awake.
“He always has his head in the clouds,” Grandfather Richardson would say.
For instance, one time he was plowing a field with the only tractor that still worked, and when he came to the end of the furrow, he went right on and crashed into the fence before he thought to stop. Another time he was milking the cows and he forgot to take the milker off their best milk-producing cow, and the cow finally kicked the milker off herself before he came back to his senses.
What did he dream? Only he knew. He was a very private man, and even though he loved his wife and daughter, and even his father, he didn’t talk too much about what he was always thinking.
“He should be an inventor not a farmer,” Grandfather Richardson always said, mostly to Franny.
And so the farm got more and more run down the older Grandfather Richardson got, and the more run down it became, the sadder Franny Richardson became. She wanted everyone to get along, and she wanted the farm to be what it used to be, and mostly, she wanted her Grandfather to not get so old. But the sadder he became, the older he seemed to get. Sadness is a powerful emotion, and when there is enough of that emotion inside of you, like a poison, it begins to make you sick. And Franny couldn’t understand how her father and mother couldn’t see the change in her grandfather. But they were too involved in their own lives.
“Don’t you think Grandfather’s getting old looking?” Franny asked her father one day, when they were feeding the cows hay.
“Well, Candace, (her father called her Candace mostly because his father called her Franny) he is old.” He went on with distributing the hay into the feeder troughs.
“But I think that he’s gotten old faster than he should. Have you ever noticed how sad he looks? I think that’s why he’s looking older faster,” Franny said this trying to say it like she just thought it for the first time and not like she had been thinking it for a long time. It was never good to make her father think she was being critical. He didn’t do well with criticism.
He stopped what he was doing and looked at her for a long time. Franny continued to spread the hay knowing that his eyes were on her. Finally he moved toward her and put his arm around her shoulder. He kissed the top of her head.
“You’re a very special girl, Candace Richardson. Sometimes too smart for a girl who is only eight years old.”
“I’m nine, daddy!” Franny said angrily.
“Nine!” her father said, half astonished. “My how time flies,” he said the way always did when he began to lose connection with what was going on and slipped into a dream.
And Franny knew that there was no more point in talking to him. When he got like that, even if he acted like he was in the conversation, he wasn’t really. Franny thought her grandfather was right. He had his head in the clouds too much of the time. No wonder nothing ever got done, Franny thought.

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