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     The picture I wanted, that the story means to be, is one I find visually stunning.  Yet without the right light cast on it, I can imagine others seeing Harold as a ragged, illiterate hick in a worn pickup.
     Rhetorical aspects are kept to a minimum, yet they are there, mostly implicitly.  They are probably more oblique than White’s dachshund connection.  I largely removed from earlier drafts my resentment of the Cleburns for exploiting Harold—they treated him like livestock, in ways I’d be ashamed to treat livestock.  Yet my indignation is part of the picture, so it remains, although in lesser degree.  Harold “lived in a trailer the Cleburns had plopped down” on one of their places; “they paid him next to nothing”; and concerning dead stock lying with their feet in the air, “I couldn’t help wondering how few of those still walking would have paid Harold a living wage” (158, 163).  Also, in conventional terms Harold is “just” a hired hand, working for six dollars an hour, while the Cleburns own several thousand acres of land and enjoy local prestige as wealthy ranchers.  Yet Harold appeals to me and the Cleburns do not.  So the profile sets them in situations that dramatize the contrast, and leaves it to readers to draw their own conclusions, as the stories of Crane and Joyce do.  Don Cleburn buries his pickup in the mud, driving through a low, wet area, that Harold knows you can not cross except early in the day “while the ground’s still froze”; Don may own the land, but Harold knows it better (161).  I originally conceived the story partly as an extension, “part II,” of “Who Owns This Place” because Harold’s “day in and day out,” familiarity with the Cleburns’ property amounts to greater mastery of it than the Cleburns can pretend to.  The piece went its own way, however, and I’m not sure that the remaining scrap of my original intention (the short paragraph near the bottom of 165) even belongs in the piece anymore.  It also began as profile—“a picture of”—yet it extends beyond the boundary of profile and into personal essay in several ways.
     An undercurrent is the pointed integration of Harold with his environment: “his skin like the land around us, full of grassed hills and bare gullies. . . . the sun has colored his skin like a saddle, and closer in, it looks like pebbles. . . . his mustache grows like brush. . . . And his neck, chin, and jowl germinate a walnut-brown growth. . . . an unruly crop of dark curls spills like weed growth” (158-60)   (It seems to be a common assumption that humans stand somehow outside or apart from nature, a subtle distinction that strikes me as absurd, but not until you think about it.)  So that in the final image Harold’s nature blends into that of the deer herd.  I also see Harold somewhat trapped in an exploitative dynamic that I want to release him from—thus the final word in the piece, “release.”  I want the picture to reveal him in the best times, those moments when the Cleburns seem not to exist.  It means to blur the boundaries between herd and herdsman, between people and nature.
     Which brings up another point, a small thing that passes fleetingly in the piece, yet looms large in the story’s overall scope: universals that apply to people as well as cattle.   Talk of bovine behavior alludes to the same in humans.  “Sometimes in this business you wonder what you’re doing here, kneeling half-frozen on wet ground in a bad wind, your hands buried in a cow’s prolapsed uterus, trying to force it back where it belongs as she pushes against you, driven by self-destructive and blind instinct” (162).  The sentence means to imply that both animals are in pretty much the same mess.  And if I’ve brewed up the right word soup, the lingering flavor of that image seeps into a sentence that comes close behind it: “I don’t have to ask Harold if he likes this work, or if sometimes he hates himself for doing it” (163).  Further on, when corralling a herd, Harold waits for the last two leery steers; he knows they’ll come into the lot because: “Given time, their fear of being alone, their instinct against being apart from the herd, overcomes all sense and caution” (165).  I know the line works, because a friend who teaches writing circled it and pencilled in the comment: Just like humans!  So the blurring of lines extends in several directions, alluding to universal tendencies in human, animal, and natural life.
     “Monday, July 27th” began life merely as a sketch, emphasizing the sensuality of the peach-orchard.  I knew, of course, that of all the days I could have gone to the orchard, I had not found time until I was nearly driven there, seeking relief from the day’s news.  But in the midst of writing the piece it became clear that “the news” had entered in.  Like Joyce’s work, the piece has significant, yet elliptical, rhetorical content.
     The “news,” on July 27th, was defined, prescribed, dominated by two issues: the drought, locally, and Starr’s coup, nationally.  Yet I was reminded, in the peach orchard, that “there’s other news”; it became clear to me that both stories had become “a distorted monotony” (45).  The piece celebrates natural vitality, even in the midst of pronounced drought.  Beginning with Topper’s open invitation, it celebrates live-and-let-live cooperation: myself, yearling bulls, townspeople, insect-life, a nesting dove—these various, disparate natures and appetites coexist, reconciled without conflict.  While accurately describing scene, it portrays nature’s inevitable design that often overwhelms our efforts to impose order: “within the rows themselves, broken limbs lay where the weight of fruit has pulled them.  Elm and hackberry saplings grow, their limbs intertwining with peach limbs.  Wind, seed, water, and gravity work to undo Topper’s unnatural arrangement” (46).  In any orchard you find weak limbs that break with the weight of fruit, and the White House is no different; it’s foolish to expect otherwise.
     The piece indicts (by pointedly ignoring) the contentious confrontation that was supposedly “the news.”  It means to question the real significance of the Starr-Lewinsky-Clinton “scandal.”  Just as the heat and drought had become an overwhelming mantra, locally—this is the news—so had Starr’s hijinks, nationally.  The essay’s concluding line sums up, for local and national events, what “the limited immunity” plainly foretold: “The coming days will be hotter than blazes” (48).  Yet, to explicitly address the issue would change everything, in the same way a camera would spoil the picture of Harold.  I tried adding a reference to a caution label I noticed on the ladder, the next to the top rung: "Danger. Do not stand or sit above this level. YOU CAN LOSE YOUR BALANCE," and relating it to the White House situation, but it seemed either not enough, or too overt.
     I remember resenting Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River” for being impossibly obscure—how could anyone understand its underlying meaning without annotation?—and here I’ve done the same.  Oh well.
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