SMOKE: Down Here On The Farm
Originally published: 7 September 2004
I can't fall in love with a wheatfield
I can't fall in love with a barn
When everything smells like horse shit
Down here on the farm
Blue skies and swimming pools
Add so much charm
But I'd rather be back in Soho
Than down here on the farm
On the fucking farm!
The UK Subs, Down Here On The Farm, 1982
Although this song was penned by The UK Subs it was made famous by Guns 'n Roses on their album of cover songs The Spaghetti Incident, and many's the head I butted while pogo-ing to it at some of Cape Town's less savoury establishments.
In fact - Grey and I blew a set of four speakers during a visit to his villa by the sea listening to that song, and it was a job well done.
And I'll tell you what - I'm a big fan of the sentiment in the song. Don't give me farms. I don't do farms.
I don't really know where it comes from, my loathing of farms, although I guess I have had some nasty farm experiences. But I can think of a few things that put me off them.
The first is the all-pervading smell of manure, and even if you're a crop farmer as opposed to a stock one, there are always inevitable animals around the place who foul it up with their faeces. Maybe you see that as an earthy kind of thing, but to me it smells like shite.
The next is the hours folks keep on farms - the last time I woke up at 4am was in '93 and I made a promise to myself on that black day that it would never be repeated.
Farm folks like to get things done in daylight hours (probably so that they can carve up their mothers and run around in their skin at night), but me - I like to get things done at night.
Physical labour. I wouldn't call myself lazy - just better suited to not spending 12 backbreaking hours every day in the fields of barley under a cruel African sun.
I'll type on my keyboard until the keys run red and the bones of my fingers are exposed, but dump a bale of hay in front of me and watch me laugh.
Udders - farms have 'em; I don't milk 'em. Simple.
Many's the book I've read where the ruddy farm-hand has his splash of milk of a morning straight from the teat of a heifer, but I don't pull anyone's - least of all a cow's - nipples, and I sure as hell don't drink warm milk.
Then there's the small matter of more than 1,700 farmers who have been slaughtered on South African farms since 1991 - no matter what the motives of the killers I have no desire to be targeted by killers. I've got more than enough assassins on my trail as it is, thank you very much, without having to freak out every time the barn door creaks.
Speaking of barns - I'm not their biggest fan. Waits said it best:
Well, they surrounded the house
They smoked him out,
Took him off in chains
The sky turned black and bruised
We had months of heavy rains
Now the ravens nest in the rotted roof
Of Chenoweth's old place
And no one's asking Cal
About that scar upon his face
Cause there's nothin' strange about
An axe with bloodstains in the barn
There's always some killin'
You got to do around the farm
Tom Waits, Murder In The Red Barn, 1992
Moving right along: maize doesn't excite me. I just can't get it up for maize. Same goes for any other legume or plant or vegetable or turnip, and don't get me started on geese and chickens and associated poultry.
In fact - I can't think of one thing I could farm that would inspire me. Which means I should probably strive to avoid becoming a farmer.
There are two bonuses to being a farmer, however - the first is tractors. Brilliant. I've always wanted a tractor, and to be able to drive all day for miles around my vast property would be a dream come true, although I'd have to stick a V10 in that thang for a bit of added grunt.
The second cool thing about farms is the breakfast, although it's not cool at 04h30. But I can easily see myself waking up at 11 and sitting down at a breakfast table groaning under the weight of cheeses, hams, rolls, pounds of fresh butter, gallons of ice-cold milk which make the silver jugs sweat, whole sides of bacon, bowls of fresh eggs and a massive slowboat for afters.
I've never been a huge consumer of breakfast, but so help me - give me a farm breakfast and I'll put any Freestate boy to shame.
But that's where it ends for me, I'm afraid. If I can't tractor-ride and get up at 11, then I'll take the city over the farm any day.
All Smoked Out,