Sabbath morn, November 27, 2010
It’s 5 am and I am awake. 26 degrees or thereabouts outside my door, the first hard freeze of the year for us. The last of the volunteer watermelon crop freezes as I write, as do two rows of pepper plants. I suppose I could go out and salvage a few specimens, but it hardly seems worth the effort. I’ve almost a hundred pounds of peppers sacked up not ten feet from where I sit and we’ve gotten past watermelon season it seems. I pick them, place them on the shelf where they sit uneaten. So the freeze will kill the melons and the yard chickens and goats will reap the reward.
I rescued the remnants of the latest batch of broilers—the five and a half week old runts left behind by the mega-company for which we work (yes, I’m one of those evil bastards, too): my own, poor-as-it-may-be version of Schindler’s list. Some of them will die; our dogs and cats will feast on their bodies. Perhaps some will live also and get to grow to be chickens, to run and play and eat all sorts of tasty and nasty morsels and perhaps they’ll get eaten too, but not before having lived a more normal chicken’s life. Some will lay eggs, good Lord willing. Some will grow to be roosters and crow a new day to life. Some will live to a ripe old age by chicken’s standards. All will experience things most of their siblings around the land never knew and I get a bit of satisfaction by watching this unfold.
I did Thanksgiving dinner not once but twice, first with my parents and a sister on Thursday and then yesterday with my wife’s family. At yesterday’s meal we had sweet potatoes grown in my garden. I felt good about the couple hundred pounds we harvested. Then I happened to go by the grocery store in Luling to pick up a few items. There I spied a sign: Sweet potatoes: 6 lbs. for a dollar. On one hand I think it’s good that people can buy food so cheap in these troubling times, but then I think of the farmer that grew those potatoes and I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he or she got fucked. By the store’s standards, my entire crop would be worth only $30. It took me a half a day on the end of a grubbing hoe, a sore back and a handful of blisters to harvest those two hundred pounds, not to mention all the rest of the work that went into growing the plants those potatoes formed under.
A sign on the way back from the store proclaims: Diesel $3.09 cash, $3.14 credit. I consider how much it cost to ship sweet potatoes to the central distribution center in San Antonio, probably from East Texas or Louisiana, and then, to ship them once again to the various stores from which they are sold on semi-trucks burning this $3 diesel. I recall that sweet potatoes plants grow from vines, vines that must be cut and propagated by hand, even in this day of mechanization. The ground had to be plowed, entailing the use of a tractor and more of that expensive diesel fuel. There were probably a few expensive parts that had to be bought to make that tractor run: engine oil, transmission fluid and antifreeze, fan belts and filters to be sure. The rows had to be weeded and the ground cultivated at least once, if not more than once. Most of the people that grow sweet potatoes are not typical mega-farmers, but instead small farmers, many of which happen to be black for whatever reason. Make no mistake about it. They got fucked out of their crop and you’re eating the product of stolen labor when you buy sweet potatoes six pounds for a dollar.
Having said that, if you’ve such a bargain at your disposal, it might not be a bad idea to go and buy all you can and set them aside in your house. Sweet potatoes have a long shelf life and make a good staple food. I not only eat them baked, boiled, mashed, or bathed in syrup and covered with toasted marshmallows, but also fried.
Thanksgiving gave me the opportunity to catch up on the latest family gossip: who’s doing what and who’s not doing anything and who’s fucking who and all the other complicated arrangements we seem to migrate into in this day and time. Politics always gets discussed and inevitably I have family members on all sides of political issues. Democrats verses Republicans. We’ve queers, lesbians and homophobes, in the closet, out of the closet, those that marry and those that don't, Christians verses Atheists verses Agnostics, Communists verses Capitalists, omnivores vs. vegetarians, border defenders verses migrants fleeing poverty, those that hate Mexicans, those that love them, a few of which love at least one Mexican enough to marry and have kids with. There’s all the rest of those people we love to hate—the Muslims and Chinese and Indians and Latin American drug lords, some of which probably love hating us just as much as we love hating them. Fuck me to tears.
The truth is, most of us are just trying to survive in a crowded, noisy and confusing world.
A Beetle’s song comes to mind: Let it be.