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Johnson & McQuade
Notes from a Potato Negro of Vinland: Oakley, Utah 10/13/2022
© 2022 James LaFond
MAY/2/23
The people who buy the eggs run into me first, and don’t know The Johnsons. So, when I say, “I work for Bob and Deb,” they figure I’m hourly, and it makes them feel like the Johnson Family Garden is a going concern. Bob does all of this stuff to keep from going crazy, fitted as he is with more metal parts than the 6 Million Dollar Man and now disabled.
The three of us get a lot of work done together, being that we are driven personalities. There are near fights over the sink as Deb drives us away from the dishes after dinner. Last night, Bob was all stoved up because he shoveled the bed we were working on when I was hauling potato vines. Now he’s in pain, some metal part bumping against some other medal part.
Every year we make additional planting beds or some other improvement as Bob gets back in touch with his ancestors who did all of this when this house was built out of rough hewn local lumber. I too, have been touched. Yesterday, with only one bed of carrots left and no place to store [0] them, I asked Bob what needs done and he says, “I figured I’d let you get in touch with your ancestors and pull some potatoes.” [1]
On Sundays, as the Johnsons take their rest with tea and chairs under the lylac tree, I have a tendency to use the afternoon sun for exercise, having sat writing all morning, and can be found digging out and manuring the planting beds.
Deb: “Look at James go.”
Jenn [fetching daughter]: “James needs to unionize—this is why I left this house!”
Bob: “I’m so glad we have James at end of summer. I just can’t do that kind of work anymore.”
Deb: “But what if James bites the dust?”
Jenn: “Mom!”
Bob: “He’s gotten himself in pretty good shape, Grandma.”
Deb: “I know Berto, but he’s going to Portland, and if he survives that...Baltimore!”
Bob: “He says if we get him a woman he’ll stay.”
Jenn: “I’m outa here—be careful James!”
So it goes. I’m Bob’s little helper, a midget by his side. It pains me to see a man who was once the third strongest man in this valley of the giants, who could pick up a water main pipe by himself, hauled dear, and bear and elk off the mountain after killing them miles from any road, have to ask my herniated runt ass for help moving a bucket.
Often, on Sunday, an old friend, sometimes a real old friend will stop by. On the last occasion it was the young stud that Jenn baby sits for, like most of these indigenous men, real specimens, like they could all row a viking long ship down to Lindisfarne and stomp those robed sissies about their altar.
As usual, Bob, who is not much of a talker, is left to try and weave some kind of narrative about who I am and why I am digging up their garden, seen weeding the highway berm, etc.
Deb will just cut him off and say, “James is our SLAVE.”
They will then look at me and say ‘Hi,’ shake hands or nod, and stand at greater attention before Bob and Deb.
I noted this fellow to be a prime athlete and said, “You look mighty fit.”
The man was uncomfortable under his black cowboy hat, and looked at his pick up truck, as Deb said, “James is getting kind of old, wearing down—I might be looking for a trade in.”
We all laughed. But we all know that we are close to slaves ourselves, being in debt—everyone in the valley save the rich and me, the single homeless guy, in debt. It is instructive and satisfying to spend two months working for food and shelter, which is necessary after I bleed money back east moving around a lot and dotting on grandchildren.
This experience, here and elsewhere, as I live as a guest as my hosts are judgmentally questioned by friends and family as to why they have a hermit on hand, has illuminated some of the subtext of the traditional, slave based human experience.
Barring a cruel master, most slaves would be more concerned with being useful and avoiding being disowned, which meant cast out into the wild beyond shelter, food and heat. Only a minority would run. As a percentage, no more slaves would run than today when some weird ones among us decide to become a bum. This is borne out by the very low number of runaway ads considering the vast number of slaves in Plantation America.
This is reflected by the 40 chickens out there. Among these chickens are two weirdos:
The Gimp, an undeveloped chicken that hides behind the water bottle and stays alone and on the outside of the pecking order.
The Crazy Hen, a reprobated raptor who flies the coop and lays her eggs in the shrubbery, then boasts from outside the wire to the other hens, and flies back in, despite having had her wings clipped.
38 conformists, 1 physical failure and 1 psycho.
If I make it through the next couple winters, one day, I will be called to kill them all for soup meat, all fated to fall before the same system. Are we tax-farmed humans treated any different by our nation?
Bob gave me a home for a few months when I first went on the lam from the American Scam. He’s a good friend met late in life and often fantasizes out loud of how neat it would have been if I had lived with him and his out in this high valley. Well as good looking and fertile as the women are, I’d have ten kids and be broken to bits by horses, the hunt, the second and third job and machinery, like these men.
It is interesting that Bob is Norse and English, the two peoples that enslaved my English and Irish low life folk. I often wondered, when these men, servant and master, saw eye to eye. I found out yesterday.
I have picked some 60 pounds of elderberries and Bob got himself some wine making gear. It was driving him crazy that there was two much head space in the 6 gallon carboy, so a 5 gallon was delivered yesterday while we finished the first box of potatoes, 150 pounds out of a 4 by 12 box.
“Bob, I can see its driving you crazy. Lets just transfer the wine and get rid of some of the sediment before Deb gets home.”
We got to it, and he poured us a 4 ounce glass, each of us drinking half, and were amazed…
“When she’s green she’s mean! Good God, you drink the rest, I can’t get drunk in the afternoon.”
Failing to make common cause with his favorite Old Crow, Nancy Polosi, a bitch from Baltimore, don’t you know, Bob had me drink some more, and yes, it was very strong wine and had a very good aftertaste, though the front end was harsh.
As he hulked over me on his stool while I stood pumping the siphon, I thought that wine making, brewing and cider making might have been those times of old when master and slave saw through the same lens, bringing something out of their joint efforts that lessened the pain of each waking day.
What should we call the wine?
I said, “You know, if I took a bottle of this back to Baltimore and passed it around to some Negroes, I think they’d settle on ‘Fotified Mine!’ with the explanation mark, a bottle not intended to be shared.
Notes
-0. We need to do a trashcan root cellar before I go.
-1. Oh yes, my first ancestor in this nation was an Irish slave named McQuade, modified over time to Quade. Quades were sold as late as the 1750s, when some children were orphaned and sold off as farm hands. The other Irish branch of my line was the Kirby family, of which I have found little. The Roys and the LaFonds, were English orphans given the French names of those who purchased them in Canada. The Kerns and another German family who came over as free, moneyed businessmen in the 1870s, were the only portion of my family that arrived according to American Mythology, the bulk of our kind misrepresented by American Cryptology.
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