Dunga Brook Diary: Not Rocket Science

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February 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary 


By Vicki Whicker

Mother’s Day, 2011, 6 am. Central New York.

A breeze touches my cheek and I open my eyes to a room full of light and fresh country air. Outside, leaves flutter on the branches of giant old trees.

First thought—Home.

Second thought—Jim’s home.

Third thought—This is so not LA.

I’m wrapped like a mummy, wearing every bit of clothing I brought on this trip…leather jacket over down jacket, hat, scarf, fingerless gloves, two pairs of socks, and cowboy boots.

It was that cold.

How many times did I get up in the night and add another layer? And what about the old bed that would collapse if I jiggled? It made my every entry and exit an act of precision worthy of a circus performer.

I get out of bed, slowly, then rush to the window that faces my new old/house.

Dandelion Field

Ah, there she is, across a dandelion covered field.

I never considered buying a house in LA. Never. It was ridiculous. The lowest mortgage was more than I could afford. At least with rent, there’s money left over to shop at my dear Gelson’s. Oh, how I love her…with her wide aisles of overpriced natural sodas, organic chips, champagne-like beers, exotic waters, bougie wines, hunks of expensive cheeses and grass-fed meats. Heaven.

I can spend hours in a well-done grocery store. Unless I’m being followed. Which (as a blonde frequenting the Pacific Palisades store, with my spendy highlights, Japanese denim’d ass, pilate’d thighs, flirty lash-extensions, and bountiful bosom—Thanks, mother) happens.

Like this—I’m reading a label in aisle three and get a feeling…so, I turn to see HIM (divorced, dot-com-monied, pathetic vibe HIM) also reading a label…I take off with my cart, make a left, then right for two or three aisles, then stroll casually through the fruits and veggies, and there HE is, idly squeezing a melon…so, I jet to the other side of the store and hide in the bougie wines. There HE is (again). Grrrr.

One time, he followed me the few blocks home. Somehow, I didn’t notice until I was pulling into my drive. Typically, I watched my rear-view mirror like a hawk. How was I not on high alert? But, there he was, idling across the street, eyes on me.

Suddenly, a fury rose from my toes to my spine and I stood tall (as I could) and walked straight up to his car and told him, in so many words, “Get The Fuck Out Of MY FACE!” Whereupon, he revved his sad little beamer and zipped past me down Galloway.

I was so LA.

But that was then and this is now.

I search my suitcase for a face wipe, swipe my face a few times, squint into the dusty old mirror over the crusty old dresser and…I am having a hard time seeing out of the contacts that I slept in…apply mascara over yesterday’s mascara…which looks stupid, but who cares, I’m in the middle of nowhere…and finish with plumping gloss on my lips.

I smell bacon and follow the smell down the rickety stairs and into the kitchen.

“Morning.” Jim says. Jax wiggles and bows his giant head.




“Sleep well?”

“Yes, well, a bit frozen, but…”

“Really? I was toasty.”


“I slept with Jax and my electric blanket.”

“Electric blanket?”

“Fuck, yeah. Bacon? Eggs?”

“Yes, both. You had an electric blanket?”

(Asshole! Mental note. Go to town. Buy electric ANYTHING.)

The dingy kitchen window faces the driveway, my rental car is still there and Jim’s dual-wheeled diesel engined monster truck is there, too. Beyond them is an ancient barn so large that it could easily hold a football game. And a marching band. And 2 sets of stands.

It looms, like a beautiful albatross, against a pristine baby-blue sky.

“That barn!”

“Yeah, she used to hold a thousand cows. Our houses, your acre, and my fifteen, and that barn, all used to be part of a two-thousand-acre farm. Dunga Brook Dairy. Nothing left in that barn besides a piano in the loft, some old hay, and my pregnant goat—She’s due any day.”

Bacon haze fills the room. I can barely see Jim, hard at work over a spectacular stove. It’s a black behemoth coated in vintage grime, a work of art with Bakelite knobs.

Jim picks a bunch of dirty eggs out of a basket (“Super fresh”) and cracks them over the pan. He sets mismatched cups on the table, filled with piping-hot tea. I sit in a wobbly chair and watch. Good-looking man. I can see forgiving the electric blanket thing.

No! I swat away all sorts of country-living fantasies in my head.

He brings me a heaping plate of greasy vittles.

“Chimichurri sauce?”


I’m a few bites and gulps of tea into it and he’s already throwing his empty dishes into a giant farm sink. I hope my new/old house has a farm sink like that…

“Checking the goat, be right back!”

I scan the room to get a feel for who Jim is.

A fly-tape curls down from the ceiling (right over my plate) with a party of black flies stuck to the amber length of it. On a shelf, there are weird little sculptures and books—Farmer-type how-to stuff, a tattered Moby Dick, The Duino Elegies, a beat-up vegan cookbook.

There’s an adorably noisy vintage refrigerator. All of the wood plank floors seem original. The ceiling has exposed hardwood beams and there is scaffolding along the back wall that is, apparently, holding up that part of the ceiling. His house seems to be a work in progress.

The door slams open.

“Shit! The goat had her babies—One of them looks dead and the other one looks sick!”

He’s hyperventilating and turning into circles, he runs into a back room and returns with rags, grabs a mixing bowl and fills it with water from a glass jug…The stress level is off the charts. He adjusts his horn-rimmed glasses and barks—

“Do you know anything about baby goats?”

“Well, I…”

“Fuck! Keep Jax inside!”

He runs outside with his supplies.

Jax turns in circles, until I feed him the rest of my breakfast.

Jim is back.

“She won’t let the baby nurse! I’m going down the road…to the dairy farmers…they’ll know what to do!”

Honestly, he’s being a bit of a ninny. Twin goats die at birth, frequently, sometimes both. The baby needs milk—The thing to do is milk the mom and hand feed it. ASAP. This isn’t rocket science, it’s a baby goat waiting for one sane human to help him.

Jim’s truck shoots gravel as he fish-tails out of the drive.

Alone, again.

I take a deep breath and head towards the barn.

What could go wrong?

(To be continued)


The Barn


Vicki Whicker is an iphoneographer living near Cooperstown, New York. In 2011, after 25 years in LA, she quit her fashion job and decamped for the wilds of central New York. Without a job, not much forethought, and a vague plan to remodel an 1820’s farmhouse, she had no idea what was ahead. https://www.instagram. com/vicki_whicker/




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