New York-based freelance writer, author and lecturer Eunice Fried covers wine, travel, lifestyle, and food.
The flames shot up in the darkness, higher than any fire I had ever seen, throwing wild, bursts sideways as they stretched far into the darkened sky. It was a farm in the Hudson Valley. Where, I do not know. We had driven over from college in Connecticut on a whim one warm Saturday evening with no map, no plan, little food, little money and not much more gas, three restless students looking for adventure. Soon after crossing into New York State, we had seen the flames lighting up the sky and followed the quiet country road to them. There, standing back with the rest of the onlookers, in the light of the fire licks, I could see the barn — or what was left of it. And then, the farmer. He and his helpers had dragged an enormous dead steer away from the barn and with a pulley, hauled it up a sturdy frame close to where we were standing. When they had stretched the steer high up on the frame, the farmer, with no expression, as if he were performing an everyday routine chore, slashed open its belly. Now it was no longer the fire, the firemen, the sloshing water nor the stench of smoke and burning flesh and hay that riveted my attention. It was the blood pouring from the animal. Why is he doing this? Isn’t it enough that the poor creature burned to death? Why is he being butchered too? A city girl’s lament. “So he can sell the meat,” a man standing next to me said in a tone that implied anyone would know that. I did not. I had never been to a farm. And I still don’t know if that was the reason for the bloodletting although it makes sense. But what has stayed with me all the years since was the farmer. No panic, no self pity. Just a cool, grim focus, a hard-edged determination to salvage what he could in the midst of ruin.
Later, as the flames lowered, when there was little left to burn, we drove into the countryside looking for some secluded flat land for the night. Walking through a glade of trees, we came to a narrow creek with a large, flat rock in the middle. The fellows rolled up their pants, I gathered up my skirt, and holding our shoes, we waded into the creek and lay down on the rock. Here the air was sweet and fresh, the rock was cool, the water was clean and made a gentle soothing, rolling sound as we fell asleep.
New York-based freelance writer, author and lecturer Eunice Fried covers wine, travel, lifestyle, and food. Her articles have appeared in many publications, among them, Global Traveler, Private Clubs, Dallas Morning News, National Geographic Traveler, New York Times, More and Elle.