“Riding Plow”

(This may or may not be creative non-fiction. I say nothing.)

Riding Plow

by Caitlin Carrigan

“Stop Corporate Hog Monopolies” – the phrase made little sense, but it was screaming on the broad sided barn in white and red paint two stories high. Katie and I were meandering the roads on a side trip to by-pass the drive through New York City from our home in Massachusetts. This by-pass of ours had turned into a serious distraction from the intended course to Florida. Not simply due to the green dunes and the hypnotic farm roads that seems to collect and keep you once you entered, but I had somehow managed to leave my only working credit card back in the lovely state of Massachusetts, and was now stranded in a hotel room with no way to pay the bill until it arrived in an overnighted package from home.

The whole of Dutch Country felt separate from the rest of reality. We were aliens in this place that culture had somehow severed, leaving the real world on the far end of Connecticut. That desperation we had felt while confined in our hotel room was something the locals didn’t feel, the fear that there was nothing to do. The difference was, here, the locals knew there was nothing to do.

We discovered in these long hours that when one is stranded in Amish country with little money or manners by which to entertain oneself, the best choice is to drive around aimlessly looking for Amish people – stoned out of your fucking mind. Katie and I were doing just that without luck, and as we unleashed the collecting smoke from the newly opened windows, we took in the sudden stench of what could only be the afore mentioned hogs.

“Stop corporate hog monopolies?” I said, confused. The  statement was clearly important. I was unsure why.

It was quarter past noon and the afternoon that would otherwise consist of bored hours passed in a three star prison was instead being spent on the roads outside Intercourse, Pennsylvania. I had a rule about smoking before noon, having known many stoners who were advocates for the ‘wake and bake,’ and I had long decided to leave them to their early morning doobie club. I was not one of those people. Sure, I was blitzkrieged out of my mind (and on one or two puffs I am happy to say), but I assure you – I was never blitzkrieged before noon. I was overjoyed that this barn in the far reaches of green pastures had waited until a quarter past noon to appear in the distance.

We were both lost in thought, no words between us, save for the sporadic bursts of laughter. I may have been trapped in Pennsylvania, but as I was finding out, there were few finer places one could want to be trapped.

“Where are we going?” Katie asked as we reached a stop sign at the end of some long winding street.

“I don’t know. Right or left?” I had a map, I had a keen sense of direction, I had a pension for Hostess cupcakes, and I didn’t care. If I ended up sleeping in my car that night due to an inability to find my way back to the hotel, I’d be just as rested in the morning, if not more so, being without that nagging sense of being locked away in a room with no exit. Here there were windows to let in crisp afternoon air, here there was an ever winding road to meander down.

I decided to turn left, knowing that as the map stated, we would eventually end up near something – perhaps even something interesting, though shortly thereafter, I forgot what. The car rolled along the pristine roads as though it had been there before, and before long the river of pavement turned to a mine field of divots in a dirt road.

“So,” Katie suddenly started, followed by a long and contemplative pause. “I think I’m going to roll another, and then, we may, or may not smoke it.”

I laughed and mumbled along to the Ween album we were currently trancing out to.

Katie had hand-eye coordination to rival a surgeon. Though she may not be able to perform a triple bypass, per se, she could, however, roll the perfect joint with one hand while riding a bike and reading the latest installment of Bass Fishing Weekly. This gift was not often called upon in life, but they were gifts nonetheless. As she licked the gluey paper against her fingers, the car jolted hard on the right side, sending the book in her lap and golden nuggets of grass streaming into the air. She lashed out to catch and cover what she could, but it was far too late to save it, and it sprinkled down like a light snowfall onto my car floor.

“Sorry!”

I prayed she wouldn’t threaten my life for driving us straight into a pot hole the size of God.

“That’s all right. It wasn’t anything important.” She said and proceeded to flick the flint of her lighter and set the dubey aflame. As I held my hand up with fore finger and thumb slightly spaced, I found myself glancing at the clock. It was now 12:45.

A Maelstrom of sparks and smoke emitted from the tip of the joint as she practiced the age-old past-time of ‘puff, puff, give.” The roadway grew ever more hazardous, but neither of us took notice, my car now creeping at a safe and suspicious pace. We rolled along listening to strange alternative bands from Pennsylvania, by chance, not purpose, and found ourselves again, lost in comfortable thought. We both had become so accustomed to the ease of this country drive that neither of us took notice as we approached the looming brown barn in the road ahead. This one did not read any anti-corporate slogans, nor did it rise above parked red tractors. It stood quietly in the middle of no where, at the end of a very treacherous dirt road. It was the end of the road that made me take notice. The road ended at the barn door. We were on someone’s two mile long driveway…

“Katie?”

I suddenly felt giddy as I pulled the car to a stop. My normal reaction would be to stop and check the map, but as Katie was in the middle of passing me a brightly lit roach that was sure to burn my fingers, my mind approached the situation a bit differently. I burst into tears, laughing. My fingers, now no longer under my direct control clamped down directly on the burning ember, singeing my fingertips and dropping to the floor. Katie dove to retrieve the precious item, now cold from the pressure of my clumsy fingers. As she found the tiny dank paper, I called to her in desperation.

“Katie, oh my god!”

She sat bolt upright, worried by my tone. The barn doors just a few yards ahead of us were opening.

“Shit! Shit!” She hissed as she wrapped her palm around the incriminating evidence and brushed the last of her pot and the papers into her other hand. From beyond the barn doors, four black steers were suddenly visible, each of them different, mismatched from the others but all equally straining to pull their cargo. Beyond them was an ancient plow, the kind one sees decrepit and rusted solid on the side of a farmer’s field. Yet atop this slowly emerging vehicle, was a gallant and confident man, standing on the bench where a slower farmer might sit, reigning up the muscular beasts as they pulled the plow along. His forearms tight and rippling beneath his rolled up linen sleeves, his legs strong beneath the neatly pleated fabric of his blue slacks – he leaned back, a roman soldier barreling around the corner’s of a coliseum race. He was descending the hill toward us, our car now parked at the foot of his very long driveway. He may have been glaring beneath that straw hat, a grimace hidden behind rust colored beard on his handsome face, but I was too frantic to find out.

“Oh my god. We finally found the Amish,” Katie said.

I threw the car into reverse. We were trapped in a space intended for plows and steer, not Ford Taurus wagons, surrounded by fenceposts and oncoming livestock. My car lurched and groaned as it hobbled backward just a few feet before I slammed on the brakes to avoids destroying an ancient fencepost. The plow was coming, and there was nowhere to go. I stomped on the gas pedal, lurching the car as we barreled through a pothole. With very little room to maneuver and desperate to flee, I proceeded to panic, my escape quickly becoming a twelve-point turn as the frowning gladiator looked down from his oncoming perch with growing impatience. With every switch in direction, I would check to see how close our pursuing friend was.

“He’s coming. He’s coming! Go, go!” Katie yelped, laughing frantically as I finally managed to veer free of his fence posts and straight back down that pass of cavernous divots. My wish for speed was answered by a vision of my car rendered useless by the side of the road, a flat tire and no spare, with only an Amish farmer to ask for a phone. I drove as quickly as the road would allow, which was no faster than the four steers behind us would pull their master. As we tootled down the road laughing ourselves red, I saw the pursuant gaining on us in the rear view.

My belly ached and cramped, my throat hoarse from laughter, my head throbbing – I suddenly felt a telling sensation which I had experienced only few times in my life. My legs clamped and fought, my mouth opened to scream in laughter and protest, but no noise came forth as I quickly realized I was about to pee myself from laughing. In the short distance behind us, I saw the plow turn at a large mound in the road and disappear into the adjoining field. Relief and discomfort set in, no longer in need of flight, yet I was now very aware of my saturated jeans. The laughter slowed to exhaustion and breathlessness only to be resurrected in soft ripples of memory. We reached that longed for paved road and I turned right toward civilization, and hopefully a bathroom.

The quiet moment passed, and Katie spoke.

“Should I roll another one?”

The bathroom had been pristine, and on this occasion, that was much appreciated, as I seldom had the need to take off my pants when I hit a gas station. I had wrapped myself in a skirt and was now sitting in my newly gassed up vehicle awaiting Katie’s return from her search within the shop for liquid and sugar. I sat vacant, staring off into space, concerning the locals that passed with my sporadic giggling. I watched cars pass in the roadway, wondered where they were going, – if unlike us, they knew. I wondered if many of them had frequented the Kum Esse diner that stood just across the way, boasting a world famous Strawberry Pie. I wanted to taste that strawberry pie, see for myself if this braggart of a diner had any clout. Katie returned with snack foods and motivation to again hit the undetermined path. We settled ourselves back into the notion of roaming before I realized I was giggling again. The  giggling was one of the effects of memory, but there was a more nagging sensation I was feeling, a sensation that embarrassed me slightly. I think it was lust.

“So?”

“Yes?” Katie asked between jelly beans.

“Is it weird that I found that Amish man extremely attractive?”

The image was clear – the farmer atop his steed, vest unbuttoned, flowing out around his broad frame in the breeze. His hat had been tilted just slightly, his clothes ruffled just so. I wondered if he was married off yet, had he any children, had he gone on a wild Rumspringer, had he seen Indiana Jones or heard of it and if so, would he take compliment were I to compare him to it.

I pulled to the exit of the gas station and waited as a horsedrawn carriage rolled by on the main road, the locals seemingly oblivious to the sight. I curse the notion that these Pennsylvanians had been spoiled by this scenery, by this culture, by these roller blading Amish men in tilted hats and unbuttoned vests, riding electric scooters and laboring on farms with rippling biceps. I returned to the hotel that evening to find the long awaited overnight package. I could be on my way, as unhappy a thought as I suddenly found it. Despite the comfortable oblivion the locals seemed to have, I’d learned the one great truth of Pennsylvania, the one detail I needed from Pennsylvania; the knowledge that there is nothing sexier than an Amish man riding plow.

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