I can hear the tennis-racquet-fly-killing-machine murdering too few of the legions of flies rooms away. The wings of one in my room stop moving as he is unable to uproot his legs from the twirl of sticky, slow, sure death tape hanging from the ceiling. I resort to a constant, slow swaying during meals outside to prevent the incessant beasts from using me as a landing pad; I imagine I resemble an interpretive dancer on weed.
My smell lingers, though I only notice some hours after a shower when my hair still slips through my fingers and smells of pine. If my odor were a perfume, it would have notes of B.O., shit (specifically cow, horse, goat, and sheep), zucchini, and occasionally some piney-grassy weed that grows everywhere on the ranch.
If I looked in the mirror, I would see dirt on 1/3 of my exposed skin, peachy-white sunscreen on hot days (earning me the nickname “lobster with hollandaise sauce”), freckles where snow white skin used to be, and scratches and bruises from I’m not really sure what.
Sweating, cursing flies, and digging my nails into cow shit to build fires has become part of my daily routine, and while this description could easily fit someone in summer camp detention, I chose this. I chose to live without air conditioning, Wi-Fi, or running water to see how a working horse ranch works.
How does it work?
Take a horse, a big stick, shout “CHAAAA!” as many times as necessary, until the goats trod the way you mapped out for them. You might even try calling them “Fucktards!” if they go into someone else’s vegetable patch.
As you leave the ranch, the grass hits your knees, the mountains grow higher, and the sound of cows chewing reaches your ears. The slow, seemingly methodical “ssccchhh”, like someone peeling a giant potato slowly, accompanies the “hoooo” of the wind, the sharper, staccato “chchut” of goats ripping off grass, and the soft “zzzz” of the steppe flies.
Hearing this, you close your eyes and breathe in the dry grass, the sandy earth, and the slightly sweet smell of animal dung. As the wind blows away the flies and your hair, the sun’s rays reach you like the first warm day after winter. Then, a fly lands on your arm.
This time, their millimeter legs feel like a feather grazing your skin. This time, you don’t kill the fly, or tell him to “Fuck off!” This time, when the fly lands on your arm, you smile, enjoying the infinitesimal massage.