The telephone would have exploded had he not answered it. The Stepfather knew who it was. His mother. She never minced words. She demanded and commanded. The Old Man was getting old. No, he was already old. He was getting older. There was debt. The Stepfather had to come help or they’d lose the farm. Acres and acres of farm land. Lost. You have to move she said.
This might have been the way it happened. I don’t know for sure. I was five. Maybe six. I don’t remember moving but I remember what we left: a pretty house with rooms that had doors; carpeting; a furnace and an air conditioner; sidewalks for endless hours of roller skating and bicycle riding and blocks and blocks of neighbourhood with lawns and gardens. And plumbing.
The shack had none of these. The Mother needed to sheep-dip all the walls before we moved in There were wood boards for floors that gave-way when you walked on them. The only door was on the bathroom. Bedrooms were separated by doorway curtains The Mother made. Hung with nails above the door. For privacy. I remember it not working well. For privacy. The sink water drained into an open ditch that ran along side the house. I don’t know where the toilet water went.
The Stepfather had the old broken tractor repaired, and bought another one. He retired, Joey, the Belgian plow horse The Grandfather used when cultivating and planting the fields. Hours and hours, acres and acres of walking and working. The Stepfather retired The Old Man, too. The Grandfather was now relegated to fixing broken crates and straightening nails. He fixed broken shovels, weeding hoes, sharpened all the field knives and cleaned up after Joey, and always ate lunch with the Mexican migrant workers who had worked for him for years and years. Sometimes twenty years. Like Joey.
What we gave up was replaced with acres and acres of dirt that The Sisters, The Brother and I played in. Hours and hours. Running from field to field. Exploring. We went barefoot. We were filthy, dusty-dirty a lot. We swam in the farm’s irrigation ditches on hot days. We ate vegetables The Grandfather and The Stepfather grew in the fields, and with Grandfather’s help we rode horses.
We rode on horses made of wooden sticks.