I screwed up my life when I screwed the assistant track coach. But life got better when I went back to my hometown roots, bought the town bar, and invited all my gay city friends to a big old country party. My hometown of Dunforth will never be the same.
I suppose I should have listened to my dad and kept my powder dry. But I didn’t, and life handed my ass to me and send me packing back home to Dunforth, the small central Montana town I grew up in. There were plenty of times when I felt lost back on the family ranch, a couple of times where I felt found, and several times when I didn’t know what the hell was going on.
Not sure I could have ever taken all of the country kid out of me, and I most certainly couldn’t have put my gay fab city years on hold once I got some of that under my belt. I’m not sure who or what my little rural hometown thought I would be, but I bet they didn’t plan on the man who came back home to stay. And they certainly didn’t plan on me inviting all my gay friends to come to town for a big old gay party.
I’ll never be the same. Pretty sure the town of Dunforth will never be the same. Hell, I am sure I’ve changed the trajectory of the whole damn county. How is that for the prodigal son returning home?
“Well, open it,” I told Scott. Might as well find out what it said.
He was in my condo in Denver, watering my plants and doing all the other little things that an empty condo needs, like drinking my vodka and getting my mail. A letter from my former employer, the school district, prompted a call from him that afternoon.
“It’s your official letter of termination,” Scott said, skimming through the document and giving me the highlights. “Conduct unbecoming of a professional, blah, blah, blah. No mention of the actual crime. Yeah, I suppose they should leave that part out of the letter. But it would make it better reading material if they talked about fucking the assistant on your desk, at least a little.”
“Plug it,” I responded. “I guess I forgot to submit my resignation, or call to explain my new condition. I inherited the family farm. A positive career move.”
“I think this next part is worse,” Scott interrupted. “It says they have forwarded the case to the State Department of Education Standards and Practices Board.”
“Yeah, I think that is worse.”
Fuck, it had all been going okay since I came back home to the farm. I honestly kind of forgot about school. I certainly forgot about writing my official letter of resignation within the assigned 24 hour period. I suppose they moved ahead with legal authority to fire my ass, and neuter me in the eyes of the educational community. I am sure the Board of Standards and Practices will have a real fun time reviewing my file of transgressions.
I felt like I should go into the bathroom and theatrically flush the toilet, bidding a fond farewell to my career in education. Instead I took my phone outside on a walk through the barnyard, chatting with Scott about other things.
I’d been on the farm for about three weeks at that point. I wrapped up all my dad’s affairs, and they became my own. For a while it felt like I was doing something useful on the place. Then I slowly realized I was kind of like the lame old farm dog, humored and kept around, but not really herding the cattle.
Harrold gave me the tours, talks, and low down of the farm situation a few days after my dad’s ceremony. He had been running the place for my dad for years, and had a good handle of it. It was a quiet time in the late spring: cows out on the spring pastures, crops planted earlier, and hay not yet ready to harvest. It really meant Harrold and the hired guy, Reed, had the daily tasks under control. I mean, I farted around at fixing fence, assessing the conditions of the spring grazing grounds, and looked for weeds to spray, but really, I spent a lot of time sitting on the porch drinking beer and going through the house and out buildings, touching things my dad had accumulated.
I was most of the way through my call with Scott when I found my purpose. I told him I had to go, and walked back to the house. I dug through the closet, finding an old t-shirt and pair of pants I didn’t care much for so I could get out there and do some dirty work. I was going to get some chickens.
I’d always wanted chickens. As a kid I liked the idea of watching the little birds running around the barnyard and pecking at the dirt. It was a non-starter for my dad, he didn’t want the little fuckers. I kept that desire as an adult, with the promise of fresh eggs in the morning for breakfast. But condo life doesn’t fit in well with urban chickens. Now I had a farm, and more importantly, no job or future prospects. Yes, I was going to get a few chickens, and have farm-fresh eggs every morning.
I sauntered out the door of the house wearing my official ‘work clothes’ and headed toward the little storage building next to the hay shed. It seemed like the perfect size for a little chicken coop. I could clean it up, build a little chicken run, and get chicks. It was easy.
Upon opening the door, I realized it wasn’t so easy. The little shed had all manner of stuff crammed inside it. Dirty, dusty, old, and ready to go to the landfill. I walked back to the house and grabbed the keys to my dad’s truck, hanging on a hook inside the door. I hadn’t touched it since I got back. It was time. I could drive it and use it to take a load of crap to the landfill. The truck was mine now. I could see my little Rhode Island Reds scooting around the barnyard already.
I pulled the truck around to the door of the shed. Then, without much ceremony, I began chucking the accumulation of decades found within the shed into the back of the truck. The experience was like an archeological expedition. There was all sorts of stuff in there; old cardboard, feed sacks, bits of rope and cord, and an old lawn tractor! I left that last one in place, figured the chickens could use it as a roost.
Some way through the expedition I started thinking about the hanta virus. Oops, too late for that I guess. I’ll have to rely on my superior classroom-tested immune system to pull me through. Maybe for the best if I die of an infection out here, save me from having to process the guilt and fallout of my extra-curricular transgressions at school earlier in the year.
The truck was mostly full and I was sizing up where to put the nesting boxes when I heard Harrold bellowing outside the little shed.
“What in the hell are you doing?” he roared into the door of the shed.
I strutted outside, proud of my accomplishments and new found purpose around the place. “I’m cleaning the shed out so I can turn it into a chicken coop.” I said, smiling at the soundness of my idea, and the implicit promise of future farm-fresh eggs.
“Why the hell would you want to do that?” he corrected me. ”Sounds like some stupid hair-brained idea to waste time and money.”
“I’ve always wanted chickens,” I offered.
“Figured you would change all sorts of shit when you got here,” he huffed.
They’re just chickens I thought to myself, but he wasn’t done with me yet.
“And who the hell gave you permission to use your dad’s truck to load all that shit into?” His arms were crossed at this point, never a good sign. “It’s not some shit wagon you got there, that was his rig.”
Oh really, I thought to myself? I suppose, if I had been listening hard to my inner psyche, it would have told me to bite my lip and not say anything. But nope, wasn’t listening at that particular moment.
“You mean this truck?” I said, all cool and cold, “the one that belongs to me now? The one my dad left to me when he died? The one I’m using now to clean out my shed to fulfill my desire on my farm?”
A bit too far, perhaps?
“He’s probably rolling over in his grave right now, just thinking about it,” Harrold blasted out. “You, standing there in your damn fairy-shirt, filling his truck with a bunch of garbage in order to make some crap idea into a reality, turning this place into a shit-show!”
“What?” I was floored by what he had just said about my shirt. Looking down at my t-shirt, it said something about Denver Pride, gay and A-OK! I’d had it for years, and wore it as a painting shirt in my condo. Seemed like the perfect shirt for dirty, dusty work on the farm.
“Harrold,” I got really quiet, the pissed, hurt, snake about to strike kind of quiet, “you know I am gay. I’ve been out for years. My dad knew I was gay.”
And he was okay with it. My dad loved and supported me for who I was, and it didn’t matter to him that I was gay. Where was this coming from?
Harrold let me know all about it.
“It’ll be a damn embarrassment to the county!” he erupted, arms starting to wave, as he paced back and forth. “I’m sure there will have to be all sorts of changes now. Rainbow flags, goats-milk cheeses, and fucking flowers everywhere. You’ll change and ruin everything your dad set up and worked so hard to maintain!”
“Now hold on a minute,” silent and quiet Ty was long gone. I was broadcasting this to the whole wide world at this point. “I don’t know where the hell you’re getting all of this from. All I want is some damn chickens.
“And just to set the record straight, this is my damn place now. I own it, I manage it, and you work for a gay guy. So, I suggest you-“
“Not anymore,” Harrold harrumphed. “I quit!”
With that, Harrold spun on his heels, and stomped away toward his truck. So that was that then.
Reed, the hired guy, walked over to me from beside the barn. Apparently he had heard us shouting and came to check it all out. “You okay?” he asked as we watched Harrold stomp away.
I nodded my head, yes.
“You know, that truck he is about to get in to is also yours, it belongs to the ranch. Your dad bought it for him to use.”
“Hey Harrold,” I yelled across the barnyard. “Clean all your crap out of my ranch truck and leave it parked there, keys on the dash.”
If he was a volcano, he would be Mt Saint Helens, and blow half the surrounding world apart as he lost it all. I thought he would either blow his top completely, or drop to the ground in a mad foaming mess when he heard my directions. Instead, he grabbed his jacket, threw the keys onto the dash, and slammed the door so hard I thought it would break the truck, before stomping away across the barnyard out of sight.
“He’s always been gruff and irritable,” Reed said as we watched him go. “But he has been on fire the last several days. Not sure what’s up.”
“Well,” I sighed, rubbing my temple with a dusty set of fingers, “I guess that makes you foreman of our little crew. Congratulations on the promotion.”
I gave up on the chickens for the day. I needed a beer.