Farm To Farm
by Spec MacQuayde, November 30, 2011
Saturday morning I was trying to sleep in, but the phone rang about eight. It was my current employer, Mort O'Henry. “Spec?”
“Man, I didn't think we were working today.”
“No, I'm down at my grandma's farm. Guess who's here with me.”
I knew it had to be my 14 year-old son, Craig.
“Craig and his friend just shot a buck, here. Can you meet us--we're past the dry water bridge.”
“Yeah.” Crap, I thought, hurrying out to the truck. This was the second Saturday in a row that my old friend, Mort, had called to say that my son and his buddy had a deer--the last one had been a doe. The boys had permission to hunt the legendary farm where two fat rivers merge, but here Mort was bringing friends--business contacts, down from the city for the privilege of setting their deer stands in prime hunting ground, and these teenaged boys were taking boats up the river, walking the same fields and forests they'd been fishing and camping in all summer, and shooting deer they'd almost come to know on a personal basis.
Those rolling hills turn from sand to clay as you near the fork in the river, and naturally the last field was once inhabited by several thousand people, a center of commerce thriving as a trading post long before the French showed up. I drove slowly across the craggy limestone rocks of the dry water bridge, rounded a bend, and encountered four fellows in bright orange hats and vests. Mort and his friend from the city wore camo pants and sweatshirts, where my son and his friend were garbed in the same T-shirts and blue jeans they wear to school--though they did sport orange vests, orders of their elders. There was the buck, what they called a “seven point.”
“I thought you weren't going to shoot any more deer,” I said, pretending to lecture my son, though some of my irritation was not feigned. For one thing, Mort's friend from the city was scowling, having driven two hours for this adventure, having planned the whole weekend out, having a wife at home who was burnt that he was out participating in a pagan ritual without her and would probably scorn him for coming home empty-handed. “You can't take every last deer in the damned valley! You're out hunting for more while I'm still at home butchering the last one!”
“Jeez, Dad. I thought you'd be stoked I got a buck.”
“Yeah, Spec, it's okay,” said Mort. “I told them they could hunt here. I just don't want word getting out that anybody can hunt here.”
“Oh, we won't tell anybody,” said Craig and his buddy. They weren't lying. They weren't telling the whole truth, but they weren't lying, either. The truth is that Mort's grandma's farm is one of the best known hunting and fishing spots in the region.
Mort is a building contractor, and on the weekdays we work together, currently putting a bar in basement for a doctor and his wife up in Columbus, an affluent town forty miles from the valley where I live and Mort's grandma's farm is. Nobody lives at Mort's grandma's farm. The electrician Mort works with, Sparky, really likes to chat while on the job, and no sooner had we struck up conversation than Sparky, upon hearing where I lived, started telling me all about fishing that spot where the two rivers come together. I mean, Sparky lives in Jennings County some twenty miles east of us.
“Mort's grandma owns that farm,” I told Sparky.
“That's the best fishing spot I ever seen,” Sparky said. “You're pulling perch and bass out of one river, channel cats out the other.”
“You've been there?”
Turned out that not only had Sparky been fishing and hunting down on Mort's grandma's place, but he'd also run into the Kincaids, the legendary clan who have inhabited the hills across the river in a region known as “Kincaid Holler” for about two centuries. The Kincaids don't buy meat, but not because they're vegetarians. They claim most of the best hunting and fishing spots, and they have a reputation to uphold, the old-fashioned way.
“Never go in Kincaid Holler after dark,” people always told us kids.
Mort's grandma's farm is basically the beginning of Kincaid Holler. Nothing happens there that the Kincaids don't know about it.