Friday night, we went to see our friends Carol and Ed Gulley, they have become good and valued friends. In a sense, it was a timeless sort of evening, the kind of dinner that has happened on farms for centuries, and happens still. When we arrived, family was all over the house – kids, grandkids, in-laws. All nice, all welcoming, all loving to Carol and Ed and helpful to them. There are always kids and grandkids around the Gulleys, too many to count, and they are always nice and welcoming and interesting. They love their parents and are much loved in return.
After everybody left, we opened the pizza we brought. Carol had made a fresh and delicious salad from her gardens, both were exhausted from hours of milking and some troubles with their milking machine. Ed explained this me a dozen times, but I could not explain it to you. I do not know how either of these two people are still standing at the end of the day, the farmer’s life is anything but romantic or sylan, it is brutal and relentless and dirty and varied. There are all kinds of emergencies and disruptions and breakdowns every day, animals are always getting sick or behaving strangely.
The Gulleys go to bed at 10 and are up at 4 and they work every second of every day, and the work is hard and dirty. Ed is always covered in bandages. Carol was in cardiac rehab with me after our heart surgeries – that’s how we met – but she handles a workload of a half-dozen ordinary people, standing beside her husband all day long. The things they deal with every day – machine breakdowns, coyotes, rabid raccoons, cows giving birth – are jaw-dropping.
They are good friends. Ed is a born story-teller, and he has great stories to tell and an inexhaustible supply. His kind of life is fading in America, he is the last of a breed for sure, the dairy farmer who does it all and handles everything by himself. If he can’t help you, he knows someone who can, and he is a good enough barterer and negotiator to handle any stall in any foreign bazaar.
They they are sensitive and compelling people. They always ask about us, want to know about us and their lives. Family is the center of their lives, animals a close second. What a shame so few Americans know any longer what great animal lovers farmers are. Ed told me of his old farm dog who had one eye – he ran into a tractor – battled coyotes coming after calves, got run over twice by a nervous tourist, and got chewed up a dozen times by one animal after another while defending the farm and it’s animals, and who ran for help when Ed got stuck on a tractor out on a field at night.
There are dogs and their are dogs. Ed and Carol had a blast caring for baby raccoons they adopted when their mother was hit by a car, they slept in the house every night for months. A grumpy neighbor shot one of them out of a tree.
Carol is writing a powerful short essay called “My Farmer And Me,” about people who complain about farmers, about her life with her farm. I am going to help her edit it in exchanged for some of her chocolate chip cookies. I’ll post it on the blog. It was a sweet night, by the kitchen table, where farm conversations are always held and have always been held. We are grateful for this friendship, these good warm and very real people lighting up our lives. Maria realized Ed is an artist, she is pulling some pieces out of him for the Open House in October. Ed is coming over with his son after the county fair to chop up our fallen tree. He won’t hear of getting paid, it’s what friends do he says. We sat talking for hours, it will be a great place to hang out in the winter.
You don’t need to make plans, Carol says, just drop by after 7 p.m., when we’re done with the chores.