On the road to Sullivan: a red barn in a grove of trees. An opera house for orphans was once beyond the barn, my father tells me. Wouldn’t you want to give them something no one else can have? Their own opera house. Late 1800’s thinking. Now there is no Sullivan. No more orphans. What remains: the barn; the foundation of the opera house; and the stories of his grandmother living in an orphanage fifty miles from where her father was farming and mining– remarried, fathering more kids.
Below the one-lane bridge, a red-faced vulture. We think of them, these vultures, as angry men looking for another soap-box, but this one–in sweet clover banked along a stream–is calm. Undisturbed. The angry man sleeping in the back of his family’s church.
I brake for birds, my daughter warns, so we agree to take the back road. Now that Sullivan is gone, we aren’t in a rush to get there. We have time for birds.
A rare pleasure to get out of town. Away from hands reaching out for him. Anchors or weights? Today, he doesn’t have to decide. The S-curve between Shay Road and Sonny O’Grady’s farm reminds him of freer times dirt-biking high plains in Eastern Oregon. His first broken arm. Never ride through a tumbleweed that isn’t tumbling, he advises. I laugh. He flexes his arm and smiles back.
And I brake for Eggs For Sale signs. Most of the time, no one is home. Dare I walk out into this farm yard? I do.
I find the farmer and he has things to teach me. And I am eager to learn: Mille Fleur chickens–their color gets better with age; The gentle giant, the Buff Brahma, has laced hackles and is tightly feathered. But I’m sold on the runner ducks. It’s true–they do not waddle, the farmer laughs.
We walk across the rutted yard, chickens pecking and runner ducks watching from the shade, to retrieve a carton of eggs in the root cellar beyond the quiet of his red barn.