Thrill Seeking Teens and Three Legged Wolves

“Did you know Rick was a mentor?” Bobbi asked, as she leaned over the wooden fence surrounding one of the goat pens.

Alletta stood up, placed her hands on her lower back and attempted to stretch out a few knotted muscles while she considered the question. “About five years ago,” she replied. “The Wilson boys.”

“The Wilson boys?”

“The family left the farm about a year or two before you moved here.” Al replied. “The boys were teenagers when they arrived. Good kids, for the most part. The family thought the farm would be good form them because it provided space and time for riding their dirt bikes. It wasn’t until after they moved in that we discovered the problem.”

“Problem.”

“100% suburban thrill-seekers. Both of them.” Al chuckled. “They heard ‘mentor’ and decided it was exactly the same as ‘teacher.’ They heard ‘chores’ and decided they were both optional and unimportant. They heard schedule and decided it was an opportunity to practice playing hookie. They did reasonably well at school, and they were hard workers, when you managed to either force or coerce them into staying in one place for more than five minutes. But they had a habit of placing riding, racing and practicing tricks on their bikes ahead of absolutely everything else. They also did not seem to comprehend just how dangerous a farm can be. They kept doing things that, rightfully, should have killed them – nasty, messy and painful-to-think about deaths. Talking, threatening and punishing the two didn’t work. They just didn’t get it. We had a community meeting where we actually debated locking up the more dangerous areas vs throwing the family off the farm. that’s when Rick offered to ‘handle it.'”

“Handle it?”

“Yeah. Handle it.” Al laughed. “We were desperate enough to agree, no questions asked.”

“Wow.” Bobbie replied. “So…do I want to know…?”

“What he did?”

“Yeah.”

Al shook her head and laughed out loud. “He invited the three-leggeds and Archie over for some conversation and cigars, started a bonfire, and sat the boys down to listen.”

“Who are…?” Bobbi began.

“The three-legged wolf pack,” Alletta explained, her face clearly expressing her opinion of middle aged men beating their chests and howling at the moon. “A group of local farmers – men who’ve lost a body part while working their farms. I think they’ve lost three arms, two legs, seven fingers and a couple of toes between them. Archie isn’t, technically, a three-legged, but he survived the most horrific farming accident I’ve ever heard about, much less seen. The man lost half his face – literally. One ear and one eye no longer work, and his ability to talk, however slow, is a miracle. It’s impossible to meet the man without…just…staring at the mostly-paralyzed and horribly scared half of his head. Believe me, I’ve tried. The most unbelievable part of Archie’s story is the fact that he still works the same farm. He recovered enough to drive a tractor, declared himself blessed and got back to work.”

“Damn.”

“No kidding.”

“So, Rick introduced these boys to a group of accident survivors and…?”

“I honestly don’t know. I wasn’t there. From what little anyone could get out of the boys, they spent half the night listening to the men talking. I can only guess they were telling farming horror stories. Real ones. The kind you can look up in newspapers. Whatever they did, it worked. Those boys were the most respectful, careful and obedient teenagers a person could hope for. Of course, the oldest only lived here for two years before heading off the college, and the younger joined the military very soon after.” Alletta laughed out loud. “Would you believe the oldest decided to become a New York City cop for the same reason the younger joined the Marines?”

“And that would be…?” Bobbi asked.

“It’s safer than farming.”

Bobbi had to admit, that was funny.

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Dandelion Delivery

The farm had many vehicles, including an ultra-cool four wheeler, an ultra-ugly four-wheeler, several beat-up farm trucks and four golf carts. Bobbi was driving a golf cart, which she parked next to the ultra-ugly four wheeler, outside Rick’s house.

After unloading several bags of dandelion flowers and placing them on the ground in front of the porch, she walked the three narrow steps up to the front door and pulled the metal handle beneath the doorbell sign, scrawled in Halloween-style letters.

The door had a “Wolf’s Den” sign with a large grey wolf staring directly at the waiting visitor. Bobbi pretended she was staring it down, until Rick answered – which meant she was glaring directly into Rick’s eyes when the door opened.

“You hung that sign at your own eye level.” Bobbi observed.

“On purpose,” Rick admitted with a characteristic grin.

Bobbi threw her thumb over her shoulder, indicating the bags.

“Contraband!” Rick growled with glee.

“Dandelions,” Bobbi shrugged. “As requested.”

“Can’t make dandelion wine without them.” Rick chuckled.

“Is it enough?”

Rick considered the bags for a few moments. “It’s a good start. We’ll see how far it goes. If we need more, I’ll make another request.”

“How much do we need?”

“At least two years worth. We sold a lot of bottles last year. The supplies are down.”

Bobbi stood silent for a few moments. she was out of small talk and unsure if she should ask the question gnawing at the back of her brain.

“You got your first mentor-ship.” Rick observed. “Scary, isn’t it?”

“That obvious?” Bobbi asked.

“You’re easy to read,” Rick shrugged. He clearly did not mean this as an insult, but Bobbi felt insulted anyway.

“Georgia’s a good kid.”

“Yeah.”

“She’ll do well.”

“Yeah.”

“And if it doesn’t work out, her family won’t get thrown off the farm. The entire family will not become homeless because of me.” Bobbi finished. As she spoke her voice became weak and sadly hopeful.

Rick just stared at her for a few moments. “Wow,” he said.

“That’s it? Wow?” Bobbi retorted.

“Yeah.”

“Not helpful”

“Yeah.”

Bobbi sighed, muttered goodnight and crawled back into the golf cart.

“Hey,” Rick shouted.

“Yeah?”

“I’ve mentored a few kids.”

“You’ve…mentored?”

“A few, when they were a good fit. Usually didn’t fit anywhere else, just like Georgia. No one got thrown off the farm, even when the mentoring stopped.”

“Stopped”

Rick shrugged. “They’re kids, things change. Besides, the reason we mentor them is for they’re own safety. Building relationships and learning farm skills is part of being safe, but the bottom line is this – teach her how to keep from getting herself hurt of killed on a farm. City kids and suburbanites don’t know how to do that.”

Bobbi was momentarily stunned. “That’s it?” She replied. “Safety?”

“If you can teach her a few things about the orchard while you’re at it, even better. But, yeah, it’s about safety. Keep it in perspective.”

Bobbi felt significantly better. “Thanks Rick – seriously, thank you.”

Rick gave her a quick two-fingered wave, grabbed a few bags of dandelions and disappeared behind a permanent shed built beside his house.

Bobbi headed for home, very grateful for the opportunity to deliver the dandelions.

Mentoring Georgia

The farm forest had a lot of debris that needed to be cleared. Bobbi worked steadily, moving fallen tree branches into piles along the edge of the orchard. She’d already located, cut and stacked the larger items. Now she just needed to clear out the smaller stuff in preparation for moving the entire stack down to the woodpile behind the barn.

She also collected fresh wild edibles and stored them in a large cooler. Foraging wasn’t the objective, but wild plants provided a steady income for the farm. It was best to be prepared for anything nature just happened to hand over.

With her head down and her mind on wood and low growing plants, Bobbi was unaware of Lisbette and Georgia climbing the hill – until Georgia shouted a greeting. The shout caused Bobbi to jump and hit hear head on a tree branch. Rubbing her head, Bobbi returned the greeting as she walked down to meet them at the cooler.

“Georgia loves the books,” Lis said with a smile. “She can’t stop talking about them.”

“I’m glad,” Bobbi replied, silently noting one of the smaller books sticking out of Georgia’s back pocket.

“You didn’t have to leave them on the porch,” Lis teased. “We will answer the door.”

“It was late,” Bobbi stumbled. “I didn’t want to wake anyone up.” Or find herself dragged inside for a cup of coffee and another hour (or two) of conversation when she was already dead tired. Late night social visits were common around the farm – and something Bobbi simply did not enjoy. Thankfully, Lis appeared neither surprised nor offended.

“Georgia asked if you could be her mentor.”

Lis was known for being direct,  a trait Bobbi admired; but this caught her off guard.

“You’re the only person she’s requested.” Lis added in a manner common among the parents on the farm. It was a gentle, firm, this-is-final, implied-decision tone that Bobbi found equally perplexing, fascinating and annoying.

Mom voice aside, the request for a mentor was a big deal. All of the children living on the farm had to have one. It was one of the few hard-and-fast (actually written down) rules the farm had. For families, it was one of the primary reasons behind decisions to join, or not join, the farm.

Georgia had been through four mentors already. It was clear she was not going to work well with any adult she did not choose herself, which was something Bobbi silently admired. The entire family had been under a lot of pressure to help Georgia choose, because she couldn’t run around the farm, unattached, indefinitely.

Which brought this around to the real issue – being a mentor. If Georgia was assigned to Bobbi, she would also be assigned to chores on Bobbi’s watch. No more hopping around from person to person. Georgia would be expected to follow Bobbi around and learning what Bobbi knew, until it was time to either change mentors or begin working on her own.

“Are you sure you want to work up here in the farm forest?” Bobbi asked Georgia. “I don’t spend much time down by the pond.”

Georgia shrugged. “I like trees,” she said, unconsciously placing a hand on the book in her back pocket.

It was only three words, but Bobbi had a strong feeling that it wasn’t about the trees, it was about the conversation in the barn. Georgia liked talking about the frogs, myths and possible stories that came out of those ideas. She liked the books.

“Yeah. Sure. It works for me.” Bobbi said. “But I’ve never done this before. Do we have to fill out a form or something?”

“In blood.” Lis said, deadpan, nodding her head as though this were common knowledge. Then she burst out laughing. “I have no idea,” she admitted. “I’ll ask around. Georgia, it’s time for you to get to school. Thank you Bobbi, we really appreciate it.”

As Georgia and Lis walked back down the hill, Bobbi noticed Lis was unusually…relaxed. Georgia seemed to be a little lighter too. Trying to find a way to connect with, and fit into, a new community was tough; particularly when the kids were having a hard time.

It will work out, Bobbi thought to herself, firmly banishing ever present doubts, and returned to gathering wild greens.