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Nurture: A Reflective Essay by cam

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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.

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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.

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