Some people would be surprised if their mother inquired about their interest in touring a miniature horse farm. In my parent’s house, however, this line of questioning has come to be expected. I’d be much more disarmed if my mom asked me what I’d like for dinner. We Donovans are always seeking an outing to pilot us away from the mundane responsibilities of domesticated life. We’re a restless lot, incapable of sitting around the house, with fingers stained by the ink of markers used to circle events listed in the paper. It’s a genealogical anomaly considering Italians are known for lazing around and the Irish have legendary aptitude for doing little more than drinking. Whatever the genesis of this unrest, it drives us into peculiar realms. I knew our latest misadventure fell into such a category when we arrived at the property of a technicolor-painted farm on the far side of Tucson’s Saguaro National Park. We were greeted by the aging proprietor and promptly whisked through the stables to peruse miniature horses and their also inadequately sized goat counterparts. The tour, which was billed as educational, instilled absolutely no knowledge of animal husbandry but has provided 90% of the scenes of a comedic movie I will one day write.
Scene: Weirdest F’ing Farm Ever. Actors: Farmer. Myself. My mother. My children, ages 4, 3, 1
Me: So these goats – these Nigerian Pygmy goats – hail from Africa then?
Farmer: No, ma’am. They come from the other side of town.
Farmer: Take care not to disturb that mare over there. She’s about to give birth.
Mom: How do you know?
Farmer: She didn’t eat breakfast. And that’s how you know.
Mom: That’s how you know she’s going to give birth today?
Farmer: Or die. One or the other.
Farmer: Do you have a sandbox for these kids at your home?
Me: Yes, we do.
Farmer: That’s good. I can’t tell you how many of these mothers I get out here who tell me they would never let their kids get dirty.
(pause for awkward nod)
Farmer: Kids gotta play in the dirt. Hey, kids! Pay attention to the horses and stop playing in the dirt!
Mother: Are you the only breeder of miniature horses in the area?
Farmer: Oh, no, ma’am. There’s a real classy operation on the other side of town.
Mother (forlorn): I see.
Farmer: But they don’t do what we do.
Mother: And what is that?
Farmer: Educate! See, that one there. That one’s name is Glenn Beck.
Mother: This must be a lot of work for you to tend all these animals out here by yourself.
Farmer: Well, I got a 4-H girl who comes out here couple a times a week.
Mother: She probably loves the experience.
Farmer (eyeing my 4 year old son with disdain): She’s a hard worker, that girl. I tell you what, I get a boy out here, I’m lucky if he lasts 30 minutes. We’re a nation raising a generation of namby pamby boys. Worthless sacks of shit. Amazon girls. Sacks of shit boys.
Me: That’s an enlightened point of view, I guess. Many still view men as superior in this class of work.
Farmer: I tell this girl to do anything and she does it. She cuts down trees, shovels out stalls, digs a ditch.
Me: I changed out a light bulb this morning. A really high one.
Farmer: Want to feed the chickens, kids?
Me: That sounds great.
Farmer: It’s BYOB.
Me: What does that mean?
Farmer: Bring Your Own Bread.
Me: Ah, yes, your wife mentioned that over the phone before we came. Hope they like Ciabatta.
Farmer: How do you like to eat your chickens?
Me: I’m actually a vegetarian, but when I cook chicken for the –
Farmer: Why on God’s green earth would you be one of those?
Me: Oh. Well, I guess it’s a bit of inertia at this point, I’ve been-
Farmer: What did you say?
Me: I just mean the reasons have probably changed over the years, but I’ve been one so long now. I don’t really miss meat especially when I see the way it’s handled and processed.
Farmer (sitting down): You have dangerous ideas. DANGEROUS.
Me: I do?
Farmer: Do you know how many people would starve to death if we didn’t have commercial farming?
Me: I understand that food needs to be produced on a grand scale as fewer and fewer people want to grow their own food, but I still believe in higher ethics when it comes to slaughtering animals and preparing their meat for people to eat.
Farmer: Tell me, where do you get your eggs?
Me: I just buy them at the store, but I buy organic.
Farmer: Why the hell would you do that?
Me: Because it makes me feel better about the food we’re eating and the industry I’m buying into.
Farmer: Oh, Jesus Christ, Mary, and Joseph.
Farmer (revisiting the topic): I take it you’re one of these Farmer’s Market types?
Me: I can’t buy the bulk of my grocery list at one, but I like to buy local produce when I can.
Farmer: Next time you go to one, I want you to study the crates those farmers keep in their trucks. It’s all from the wholesaler where they buy cheap produce and then charge you 4 times as much because you’re stupid enough to believe that he’s out there picking it with him family.
Me: Aren’t you a farmer?
Farmer: I’m a business man.
Me (under my breath): I maybe would have traded in diamonds out of Africa instead of goats then.
Farmer: I just want you ladies to know one thing before you go.
Me: What’s that?
Farmer: It don’t matter what you eat. And it don’t matter what these here chickens eat. It all boils down to the genes that you got.
Me (muttering): Like overalls?
Farmer: Me and my wife had 5 kids, 3 of ‘em mine, 2 of ‘em hers. If you put two bowls in front of ‘em all, one with candy and the other with fruit, her kids would pick the candy every time. Mine would have picked the fruit.
Me: I see that in my own kids, too. But that’s why I force them to eat good food.
Farmer: Well, that’s a waste of time.
Farmer: My wife in there – she just went to the doctor and got a clean bill of health. They said she’s real healthy. You know what she eats?
Farmer: Three things. You know those lemon cakes from Costco? Those. And the chocolate chip cookies from Costco. And skim milk.
Me: That’s all she eats? All day, that’s all she eats?
Farmer: Yep. And occasionally a taco from Taco Bell.
Me: Wow. Is that the South Beach Diet?
(Fire truck pulling into the dirt drive)
Farmer: You folks have got to excuse me now. Fire Department’s here.