A story about standing your ground.
At the beginning of September, I set off on a new adventure: I’m traveling around the country over the coming months, living and volunteering on a variety of small-scale organic farms through WWOOF. This essay is about my second stop: a small vegetable farm in Liberty, Kentucky. The way I assimilate anywhere is by walking. Wandering on a treasure hunt without a map is how I pad my own path home, pocketing whimsies along the way: tiny wildflowers, snapshots of sunlight. But the first time I tried to traipse around my neighborhood in Liberty, Kentucky, the local dogs didn’t like it. Some simply barked from their front lawns or cowered and growled from a few feet away, like they knew I was an outsider, and my mere presence was a threat. A pack of three loose ones came chasing after me, including a large pitbull that leaped up with its paws at my shoulders and bit at my forearms and calves. I tried to speak smoothly and sweetly — “Okay, okay, I’m leaving, okay, okay, okay, oww, okay” — and eventually pried myself away, heading back from the direction I came, heart racing. Was the beast being playful or menacing? Regardless, there were teeth involved. On my phone, I Googled, “what to do in case of aggressive dog attack.” Use a stern but gentle tone of voice, said Google, so I’d done that right. Avoid eye contact. Put something between you and the animal, like a large branch. Back away slowly, rather than turning your back. … “They’re not pets here,” explained my farm host, B, who’s originally from New Jersey. “It’s not like, you know, the East Coast. People just let ’em loose, let ’em run out in the street.” She told me about the time her mom (who lives here with her) ran over a mutt that bounded out after her truck. “Wasn’t her fault,” B said. She prefers cats, and she owns eight of them. Mittens has four white paws and a mysterious leg injury, so she walks timidly as if tiptoeing and is perpetually terrified of any human who comes close. Jasmine spills her furry corpulence into a cardboard box on the front porch, where she naps all day as if in a wine-induced stupor. Frankie mews and claws for attention, popping his face into my food when I eat lunch outside at the picnic table.…
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