Clinton, Arkansas: December 1978. Two college boys and one wiry old man.
The boys: full of Marx and Freud and the experience of finding themselves through politics and culture. The man: exuberantly foul-mouthed service station mechanic who lived in a bungalow a couple of blocks from his employer's garage on the Highway 65 business loop.
I was one of the boys. It was the back room of the home where my great grandmother lived and died, and I'll never forget what the old man, my great uncle, said.
Melting snow on the pastures. During the storm the cows weren't fed: it's been several days and they come toward us eagerly, brushing against us and licking our hands. I climb the hayloft to throw down bales. My great-uncle and my college friend cut the baling wire. The cows are grateful and affectionate.
My friend is a city boy, Chicago, urban. Cows are new to his world. His awkwardness with them is something more than touching.
We're in a narrow valley between forested foothills far from any roads. My great-uncle is taking us to visit the old homestead, where my great-grandparents farmed a few rough acres, after migrating here from the Tennessee coal country around the end of the first world war.
"I don't know nothin' about Marx," he said. "But if he's for the working man, I'm for 'im."