They call it Little Fox Farm cause it lies at the base of Fox Mountain. Five acres, runnin from the middle of Buck Mountain Creek, across a dirt road, up the mountain a ways. I look at the field the goats've been clearin. Someday it'll be green, once the trees go, and The Roller brings in a couple of cows to do some trimmin and fertilizin. It's been so dry lately nobody's grousin about the rain.
We walk around the property. A white house with a red tin roof, a guest house used as an office, a corn crib, a hen house, and a hayloft over a cinder block garage. Mud all around. Scraggly grass. The Roller lets the chickens out -- eight of 'em. They started with twelve but a Red-Tailed Hawk got three and one just keeled over. We had fresh eggs for breakfast, with bulging orange yolks. It was like eatin something live.
They're adding to the house, but it's too wet to walk there. So we go up to the spring and newly cleared pond. You could bottle the water. Patches of moss. The farm faces north and the new season has barely arrived here. We come on a scad of toys jumbled about inside a wooden playhouse that was originally used for hangin meat. The Roller has two kids, a girl and a boy. They fly about the farm, wriggle in his arms, tussle with each other, pay heed to mom. They're in Eden. The cast iron animals standin around and danglin from a tree are Mom's doin. So are the animals -- the chickens, the two goats, two cats, and Bob the dog.
There's the big dish in the front yard, for TV and the internet, and a generator in case the power goes out. They're less than half an hour from Charlottesville but it's definitely country out here.
The Roller introduces me to his neighbor Tom. He's been tinkerin with his Jeep. "I got electric windows -- the rear left one don't work. I figger I'll play with it some. Maybe it just got wet and dryin'll work." No doubt this is a bachelor's house and yard -- things sit wherever they can find a spot, tools, vehicles, receptacles, potted plants, laundry, salvage, outright trash. You let chaos run its course, it'll get to be a kind of male decoratin principle on its own.
He points to a bald eagle flappin overhead. "That's neat, only second time I've seen one. Used to be lot of foxes up here but they'd get into the coops and kill all the hens. So some bright boys brought in coyote to take care of the foxes. Which they did. We hardly got any left. Except now we got loads of coyote, and guess what? They're takin the chickens, and a whole lot else too. You rarely spot 'em but boy do you hear 'em."
"I hear you got a bear on the mountain."
"Maybe so. I never seen a bear. I did see a bobcat down by the creek last fall. Big."
An old man in neat khakis and a cap comes out of the house. "That's my Dad. He's come up from Florida on his way back to upstate New York." His father extends a thick hand, introduces himself as Dale. He confirms that pythons are takin over the Everglades and that Tampa is runnin out of water. "The desalination plant just produces enough for emergencies." Too bad it's too early for a beer. We watch the kids climb a tree.
Dale says, "When I was a boy I'd climb a mountain ash we had on the farm. Check out the robin's nest. Never touched it, just watched the chicks. They say, you touch a nest, the parents'll never come back. Don't know if it's true or not, but I wasn't gonna test the theory."
The night before, Dee made Greek shrimp, rice, salad, and a berry tart for dinner. She knows her way around a kitchen. "Thank you. You have to be a good cook out here. No way we're going to eat out a lot." The kids scarfed down their portions like hungry cubs and fought each other over after-dinner music making. There's talent there and a load of energy. The Roller and Dee gonna have their work cut out for them.
The cats were prowlin around, and my wheeze was comin on again. So she let me use the boy's inhaler. Worked like a charm. The wine was local, and uncommonly good. Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, a Meritage blend. I figgered I'd sleep like a stone and I did.
We leave Dale and Tom and head back to the house. The Roller was raised not far from here but spent a couple of decades in New York, workin in the book business, doin the internet start-up thing. Courtin success but not famously so. Up till now, it was hard to understand his move back to Virginia. Now I saw it all around me. It was quiet and modest and it was his. It was a dream come true.