By Roger Pinckney
There were two types of reefer in the old days: one that would make you want to rush out and dig postholes and the other that made even an idle consideration of a posthole digger highly offensive. Lots of postholes to be dug in Dunn Township, Otter Tail County, Minnesota. I grew the former, plenty of it.
A Norman Rockwell perfect barn, a Sears and Roebuck prefab chicken coop, a pioneer cabin where you could throw a cat through the cracks between the logs, 80 acres of rocks and rills—heavy on the rocks. But the dirt was black and fine between the boulders and grew good wheat. Norwegian immigrant farmers had a saying for it: Der det er stein, er det brod. Where there is rock, there is bread. Maybe so, but damn little cake. Bacon, beans and kerosene, a man did what he needed to get by.
And in those olden times, children, if you bought a bag of weed, it generally had seeds in it. Mexican sinsemilla, literally “without seeds,” was rare and much coveted by everybody but me.
I wanted the seeds.
A coop full of laying hens making brown eggs and high-nitrogen fertilizer, a pint Ball jar half-full of seeds, good dirt on a dead-end gravel road, a posthole digger and two college towns 50 miles away. Connect the dots dummy … and I did.
Neighbors taught me to tap maple trees and to dynamite stumps, but I had to figure this out myself. I got pretty good at it towards the end. Plants in extra postholes along a fence-line look almost like thistles from the air.
When money ran short after Christmas, I’d throw a shopping bag full into the back of the ‘53 Ford three-quarter ton and let the snow bury it, then drive 50 miles through the sub-zero to the Green Mill Inn, a dive on the riverbank between Minnesota and Fargo. I’d sit at the bar, nurse a Grain Belt draft till somebody put money at my elbow and asked where I parked the truck. I made many a mortgage payment that way.
I never got busted but I almost did. I had an itchy wife, maybe you know what I mean. She was in and out and when she was in, she planted reefer in amongst the sweetcorn and then she was out again. It grew higher than the corn and I cut it back. Then a frost killed the corn but not the oily reefer and it stuck out in full public view.
I ignored it till the deputies shot their pistols in the air.
“We shot at a skunk,” they said.
“Did you get him?”
2:00 a.m. I was pulling plants in a panic and stuffing them in barrels, compacting them with my feet while hanging from barn rafters—one 55 gallon barrel, one 25. I stomped on the lids and drove the locking rings home with a big-ass tire mallet.
“Damn you, you pulled up my reefer! It had another two weeks to grow!”
“What was I supposed to tell the cops when they came back? ‘Hey, boys, my emerging ex planted it, not me?’”
She came roaring up the driveway in a huff, hoisted both barrels on the roof-rack of her little Datsun car, lashed them tight and took off down the road, gravel flying, our two small daughters in the backseat. She drove 30 miles to an empty turkey barn, spread the plants out to dry.
Once she calmed down, she brought me a Folgers coffee can full.
I smoked it up soon enough and went back to planting wheat—where there is rock, there is bread, and all that. I sold the posthole digger and I sold the farm. But I still got the story and that is worth more than all the reefer I ever grew.