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July/August 2011 – Shipping David’s coop to Dr Dan

In the years since David—a well-loved, loud, swashbuckling, bigshouldered guy who was the local sheep shearer and fencer—died, his belongings have achieved a special status in the community. Somewhere between hallowed icon and junky talisman, David’s equipment can be found on several farms, including ours, and exists in proprietary limbo; it is not his, of course, because he’s dead, but nor is it ours because we keep on referring to it as David’s.
To possess something of David’s is to become a caretaker of his legacy. This is both a high honour and a royal pain. I like having his tool kit because it reminds me of his fantastic lies and profanities. On the other hand, I’d love to throw out the tangled mass that was his come-a-long, and which clutters our workshop, but to do so would be to invite community approbation. I know that if I get rid of it someone will say, “I can’t believe you did that! I thought you
were his friend!” The result of all this is that there is a quiet, understated and ever-so-saccharine effort among those of us who knew David to fob off his belongings on each other. Friends John and Lorraine, who have his wreck of a brown Chev truck, kindly offered it give it to us. They said they’d even deliver it.
Nice try.
I have offered David’s rain gear and broken peavey to several locals.
Uh-uh.
We all want David’s stuff to remain in the community but none of us want the responsibility of keeping it. We’re farmers, not archivists.
So you can imagine my response several weeks ago when the local doctor asked if he might have David’s old chicken coop, which has sat, unused and groaning with junk, at our farm for years. Dr Dan, who knew and liked David, was in search of a birthday gift for his wife (also a local doctor) who had recently expressed an interest in getting a small flock of chickens. Might he be able to take David’s old coop, he asked.
I played hard-to-get for 30 seconds. Dr Dan was in a rush to get the coop home, and I didn’t want to slow his impulse. I picked up the coop with the tractor’s front end loader, veritably threw it on our equipment trailer, and trucked it to the doctor’s house, where he and his sturdy sons helped muscle it to the ground. From handshake to drop-off the whole transaction took less than two hours.
As I left, Dr Dan was making the coop ready. I knew everything would be fine. He’s a good man with great carpentry skills— just what’s needed to tend an ailing legacy with popped nails and a leaky
roof.