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Nurture: A Reflective Essay by cam


About four miles from my house where you turn off one narrow road onto an even narrower road and continue on, you are bisecting the land that belongs to a very old man and his one-hundred-four-year-old father. The first thing you might notice about this farm is that the fences are in a state of disrepair. This is true to the extent that cows might be on the wrong side of the fence, meaning they are probably walking down the road on which you are driving.

The second thing you might notice is that the cows are not well fed. The fields are mostly mud when it's raining and dried hoof prints when it isn't. The horses are thin as well. Their bones protrude creating sharp angles where there should be smooth turns and curves.

If you have not yet turned back due to the bovine barrier in the road to find a different route to your destination, you will see that the left and right sides of the road, or, for those who are expecting more precision, east, and west, are very distinct. To the right, or west, are the buildings of the farmstead and homestead. Any residents who ever lived in this house abandoned the place years ago. Like empty eye sockets, glassless windows blink only when shreds of fabric that once had been called curtains, flutter across the black void.

sheets of the barn's metal roof blew off a few summers ago when a tornado spun like a top across the county, ripping and tearing. But the old man and his father never repaired the damage so that rain poured in and snow blanketed the farm equipment fortunate enough to have been brought inside.

East of the road is a woods, sparsely populated with conifer and deciduous trees which had never quite caught on that the idea was to become a woods, if not a forest. Beneath the canopy of needles bundled in various numbers and leaves sporting lobes or teeth or both, are the denizens of this strange wooded lot. In place of eyes, are headlights and in place of snouts, hoods. Trunks are tails, tires are feet, and the grin is the shiny grill. Evidently, whenever a car or truck broke down, the old man or his father bought another, pulled the old one under the trees and left it for time and nature to work their magic.

Here and there, a solitary heap spent decades alone while not too far off, more junkers were nearly joined bumper to trunk in a line that was so long it might have been a parade of cars that broke down all at once when passing through the woods in a night of celebration.

Year after year, signs of the battle with the elements became apparent, but not so that they fell into complete ruin. Like the old man and his father who outlived nearly everyone in the county, the steel bodies of the cars in the woods retain their integrity.


If you drive a little further along the road that separates the farm, you will come to another farmhouse, this one with dim lights at night, and glass in the frames and bodies in the beds. The old man and his father are alone, though. Far too many years have passed since a woman has graced these rooms and worked her feminine magic by adding beauty to utility and coaxing laughter from sour, wrinkled faces.

Two old men suffer together after living nearly the entirety of their lives without comprehending the simple word nurture. Whether of cows or buildings, of cars or tractors, nurturing keeps a farm from becoming a death trap and feminine eyes from becoming like glassless windows in front of an unblinking black void.


Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 16, 2017:

Ann, our county is far less transient than most. Many oldtimers have been there since they were born to parents who had been there before them. I think there is something about that generation that saw so much pain and suffering as children that their response was isolation and hoarding. I don't know where the lack of nurturing came in.

Ann Carr from SW England on November 16, 2017:

This has a silent power, Chris. I liked the portrayal of the mood and I know some people like that with no sense of caring, no interaction with life. I wonder how these two got to be so old! Maybe they were just automatons in a lifeless world.



Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 06, 2017:

Manatita, Without a prompt in sight. Thanks for your kind response. You do know the meaning of nurture.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 06, 2017:

Shauna, Thanks for reading and responding. I had another neighbor, he died a couple of years ago. Single his whole life. Money and property were everything. No conversation with him ever went on long without him turning it to his two loves. Very sad indeed.

manatita44 from london on April 06, 2017:

A superb piece! A masterpiece in fact. I liked it very much; the way it was woven .. the ending ... Continue ... nice!!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on April 06, 2017:

This is a very descriptive piece, Chris. To me it would be a grim sentence to live so long while never knowing what it is to be nurtured or to nurture. I think I'd have to will myself into eternal sleep.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 07, 2017:

Manatita, thank you. Spring is a time for spring cleaning....inside and out, maybe.

jgs, Thank you for seeing the depth of the sadness of this piece.

Bill, I appreciate you saying so. When I'm telling a story, I tend to leave the images out. This helps bring them into play.

Eric, So, in the last 26 hours since you left that post, what have you done. :) Thanks for reading.

Ruby, I'm glad you connected with the sad part. Sometimes it takes looking into the darkness to inspire us to head toward the light.

Dora, I think you touched on the saddest part of the lives of these two men. They are beyond doing much about their situation. Maybe I'm being a little pessimistic. I hope so.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 07, 2017:

Perhaps, the two old men are not even capable of thinking what to do. You have painted a picture of lives in their winter stages which sadly cannot restart a new cycle like the seasons of nature. Those dilapidated buildings and vehicles have so much to tell us! Thanks.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 06, 2017:

This was a sad reality that time takes it's toll on everything. To me, it was a sad read. To have animals takes care, and a home is only a home if it's well kept and loved. This was an interesting read...

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 06, 2017:

Alright you just guilt tripped me into doing more repairs and maintenance around the house.

Really a cool read. Wow down the road from where I grew up was just such a place. Thompson's. Mean old man.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 06, 2017:

The images are exquisite, Chris! What a beautiful series of descriptions. Bravo!

jgshorebird on March 06, 2017:

A sad piece, but morbidly fascinating. Gloomy, poetic and memorable.

manatita44 from london on March 06, 2017:

Yes, a wonderful piece of writing. I need to rejuvenate myself. I feel - like the cow, horses and farm - in a state of regression from time to time. But hey, Springs here. Excellent piece!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 05, 2017:

Thanks, John. The old man has been taken to court several times for cruelty to animals. He was nice enough to let me photograph the cars, though.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on March 05, 2017:

This was a delightful read, Chris. Some people really have no concept of the word nurture do they? This often happens in the absence of a female presence. I have known people and properties like that you describe here.

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