Old Joe

The average age of the Farm’s residents hovers around fifty, give or take. The place is home to all kinds of folks, all there for different reasons and on different paths in life. Whether or not a person can actually pay rent is rarely a factor in George’s practice of no questions asked and no money down. Through the combined graces of free internet classifieds and a fierce rental market, George’s spare rooms tend to stay occupied by anyone needing a place to stay for a while. And there’s always more where they came from.

Most continue on their way after a few unhinged months of pensive thought. Some have no idea why they’re there or where they’re going. And a few end up getting kicked out by the same man who gave them a chance in the first place. But when it comes to the Mooney Family Farm, the law of averages doesn’t apply – not when one opens the door to a generational gamut of hopeless indigents ranging in age from eight to eighty.

An announcement was made that an older gentleman was coming to the Farm. A man so old that George wondered out loud if a person could be even older than the oldest dirt. The announcement was re-announced numerous times over the next several weeks as the man’s arrival date kept being postponed. George grew impatient. The man’s room had been held open and remained empty – a room that could have been quickly filled in a flophouse with a waiting list.

Copyright © 2020 J.J. West. Campfire Tales.
All Rights Reserved.

The Iron Curtain

Larry’s girlfriend, Paula, was coming to the Farm. He had been couch surfing in George’s dining room for the past month waiting for her, and figured that sleeping on a public sofa would not satisfy her comforts as a woman, or his needs as a man. As luck would have it, an eviction had just taken place in one of the off-grid cabins, leaving a vacancy that Larry put first dibs on, hoping Paula would be pleasantly surprised.

One of the Farm’s residents was commissioned to clean up the cabin for Larry and his lady. This time, it turned out to be an easy job. Unlike previous evictions, the place wasn’t left a methed-out trash heap, and only one trip to the dump was needed to remove the eight hundred soup cans that had been discarded in the cabin’s outhouse. Inside, the accumulation of dust and detritus was simply swept into the wide cracks between the rough floorboards. The nicest mattress was plucked from the collection on George’s front porch and hauled up into the loft, where it was made up with clean sheets. While the cabin wasn’t fancy, it was relatively cozy and generally fit for human habitation, and a fresh bouquet of wildflowers was left in a vase on the table to welcome the couple to their new home.

When Paula arrived the following evening, she turned out not to be quite the easygoing country gal that Larry had described her to be. After taking one look at the rough log walls with cracks of light peeking through, a mouse scurrying across the ceiling beam, the rickety ladder leading up to the sleeping loft, and the lack of a flushing toilet with a heated seat, she said “Well, I’ll be!”, which was to be interpreted as “Hell no!”

Copyright © 2020 J.J. West. Campfire Tales.
All Rights Reserved.

Rage Against The Farm Machine

Summertime found the Farm in another period of great transition. Folks came and went, relationships formed and soured, truckloads of crap were hauled in to litter the property, then hauled back out to the dump. Same old, same old. One day, yet another new face rolled in driving an old red truck, its hillbilly wooden sidewalls bursting with bundles of boards and birdhouses. The loads were dumped straight onto the ground beside the big steel barn, along with tools and table saws and the like.

The new face went by the name of Angus Mooney and it wasn’t a friendly one. Though of no known relation to the resident Mooney family, his hoarding skills already rivaled those of George, and as such he was granted immediate acceptance into the clan. Angus was a large man, standing six-foot-five, with fiery red hair and a temper to match. He had a loud booming voice reminiscent of the famous Las Vegas duo Penn & Teller (whichever one talked), and with some green body paint could almost play the part of Shrek. He looked tough enough to be a hit man, if there was such a thing as the Joe Dirte School of Redneck Thuggery. First impressions were made with a faded Judas Priest t-shirt and torn flannel hoodie and, as a result, initial reception wasn’t warm.

According to George’s novella of a text message sent out to all residents, Angus was a skilled craftsman who owned a woodworking business. He and his wife had separated, and he just needed a quiet place to call home for a while. Something off the beaten path with a slow pace of life so he could “find himself”. This “need a fresh start” story wasn’t unique, and was the same reason a lot of folks ended up at the Farm: job loss, illness, divorce. But everyone took one look at Angus and his total lack of pride, plus the rapid importation of man crap, and translated George’s poetic message into something more along the lines of “Wife kicked him out, broke on his ass.”

Copyright © 2020 J.J. West. Campfire Tales.
All Rights Reserved.

Goat on the Roof

As the snow melted and the ground thawed, the Farm’s womenfolk had gathered around the wood stove more than once for garden meetings, chattering excitedly about what they planned to grow and sow that coming summer. Some wanted to get chickens and horses, too. Maybe some goats. They wanted to turn George Mooney’s old cattle ranch into a real working farm.

Summer arrived. A lone woman with a shovel stood by the garden gate one Saturday morning waiting for her gal pals, but nobody showed up. Not then, or ever. George always felt it was an honor to allow folks the privilege of experiencing life on an old country farm, but so few ever did a damn thing to help out more than once. How he managed to cherry-pick the laziest of people averse to any sort of physical labor remained a running curiosity, and with Claire, he’d really hit bottom.

Claire was dumber than a box of rocks and so big she couldn’t jump to a conclusion – she weighed nearly three hundred pounds and had an obvious penchant for pot and pig fat. After she’d moved in, folks noticed that it wasn’t just her constant cooking smells permeating the Newerish side of the house: the lingering scent of marijuana now hung in the air as well, identified as “rank Spokanistan locoweed” by one of the other residents who emphatically plugged his nose in repulsion every time he walked into the house.

Complaints were made and a group message was sent out by George reminding everyone that this wasn’t Washington state. Pot was illegal in Idaho and therefore not permitted on the Farm. Claire denied any wrongdoing and told George she was only burning incense and sage while she did yoga. If Claire did yoga, then she must have been a master of Corpse Pose, sprawled in a lifeless state across her bed under a thick cloud of smoke, poised to do absolutely nothing.

Copyright © 2020 J.J. West. Campfire Tales.
All Rights Reserved.

Cuckoo’s Nest: A Woman’s Touch

What is a woman to do when her own home is a cluttered train wreck and she has absolutely nothing to do with her days? Why, head over to her ex-husband’s house to give it a woman’s touch, of course. Gabriella can’t help herself, as she considers George to be an idiot who needs a supreme caretaker, and relishes in the opportunity to supervise his life and control his dealings, along with all of his stuff. This would be fine and dandy if it only affected George, but ever since he opened his front door far and wide to anyone needing a cheap place to stay, Gabriella’s meddling affects everyone else too. Every time her car is seen coming up the driveway a communal cringe occurs, with the initial thought generally being “Oh dear God, what is she going to fuck with this time?”

Growing envious of George’s ongoing success as a slumlord, Gabriella decided to try her hand at becoming a slumlady just the same by renting out the spare bedroom in her home, one that only the most desperate of drifters might consider. Though Gabriella’s house was described as a cluttered train wreck, that might be an insult to clutter and train wrecks everywhere. Showings took place, and word quickly spread throughout the rental community’s gossip mill that the following features were noticed.

The room for rent was upstairs, which was in fact just one big crap collection area, or “storage”, as Gabriella called it. Picture a living space approximately thirty feet long by twenty feet wide, boxes piled four and five high throughout, with a pathway running down the middle leading to a bed at the far end of the room. The bed had been cleared for use, as evidenced by the boxes surrounding the bed reaching up to the ceiling. There was a closet, but it was packed with more treasures. As any prospective tenant would be needing some space for clothes and personal belongings, a small chest was graciously fitted under one of the stacks of boxes, and a portable hotel clothes bar some two feet wide was wedged into a small opening.

Copyright © 2020 J.J. West. Campfire Tales.
All Rights Reserved.