I Know What A Combine Does!

I can give you all kinds of reasons why I don’t like to write at home.  I can talk about the stillness and the quiet, and how those (usually welcome) qualities result in prose that is too introspective and contemplative.  I can talk about the distractions and having the cleanest kitchen in the entire town.  I can talk, even, about how this blog got started one quiet afternoon at home.

Err, that last one would be a lie.  This blog did indeed get started at home, but it did so after a (mostly) drunken conversation with a friend/colleague.  We were both lamenting the lack of a very specific type of writing blog that night.

Wait, that’s not quite it, either.  We were actually lamenting the end of the bottle of scotch, and then just went on to lament everything else from there…

In spite of a raging hangover the next day, I pulled up my seat at the bar and have been blogging random, off-topic stuff ever since.  My colleague, on the other hand, decided writing was a bad bet and went back to work as a sales-weasel.  He still likes to tell me how he envies me and my persistence…right after telling me, of course, all about his new house.


Never mind.

Believe it or not, there is (was?) a point to today’s post: this plague sucks donkey balls.  Oh, sure, I can go out to my local coffee shop…on their very limited hours.  Just like I can go to my local dive bar…and listen to the, uhh, rather unique regulars who dominate the place when the tourists aren’t around.  I can even — *GASP* — stay at home and work.

I tried that today, in fact.  The staying home thing, not the dealing with the “local culture” thing.  It…



It didn’t go well.

Now look, you all know by now that I love video games.  Hell, I still make freelance money in that industry (although I refuse to dive too deeply, nor am I interested in making it a professional focus).  Work and cash aside, I also like to play the damned games.  Mostly the more complicated, steep-learning-curve simulator and historical games, so when a special sale item comes up on Steam in those categories, I usually jump on it.

Seldom do games overwhelm my urge for writing and reading, however, for more than a day or two.  Seldom do I get so caught up that I not only lose focus on my work, I lose all track of time, too.  It just takes so much more to immerse me, now, than it did when I was seventeen or eighteen.  Back then, I could lose myself in an RPG for days on end…and don’t even get me started on shit live the Civilization series.

Nowadays, however…

Nowadays, it takes a great deal more.  Nowdays, games are a distraction for an hour or two — as they should be, mind you — not a sink in which I can lose myself like I can in a good book.CB3AD4DD-9CFF-44F8-A4A5-FFF267798D0B

Then along comes a spider…

Or, in this case, the freaking nerdiest and most inane of games: Farming Simulator.

3E9EFC63-AED1-4776-8607-EBEF4D3E3F92Shit, I grew up in LA, ferchrissake!  The closest I’ve ever come to a real-life tractor was on a date with a local Montana girl and a combine harvester…

Err…let’s just gloss over that one, shall we?  Yet another reason why wine is…well…what it is.

At any rate, I got sucked into this game.  In stupid, overwhelming ways did I get sucked in.  Crap, I drive up the highway, now, and I recognize the difference between silage and hay…

“Hey, look, that’s an old Challenger tractor!6004E79C-EE33-4A68-BC15-331EA97E6881

Ooh, they’re baling with a Krone!”

*Please insert your own series of swear words now.*

At any rate, since I have to get back to harvesting my largest field of canola, I figured I would dodge out of writing a real blog post today by posting something here I wrote for another audience entirely.  Below is a bit I threw together on a whim, after a long session playing FS:

787089A4-8FEF-4D36-82D9-5BFA9D5D310FMarwell Manor

Chapter 1 — Uncle Vic, Is That You?

Do you remember that one relative?  You know the one I’m talking about, the one who scared the hell out of you as a kid?

For me, that was my great-uncle.  I met the man once, when I was nine.  We went to his farm in England to pay our respects, as my father put it, to our family, and to the old family home.  My great-uncle — Uncle Vic, to my Dad — met us at Heathrow.  He smelled like pipes and old socks…and that is, honestly, pretty much the high point of what I remember.  Well, that and the fact that he looked a lot like Freddie Krueger.  Thank God for my GameBoy.

Fast forward, then, twenty years.

I’m still as single as I was when I was nine, but the money is a hell of a lot better.  I build bridges, you see.  Well, I don’t “build” them, I just design them.  It ain’t glamorous, no sir, but it does garner enough to pay for a nice condo, a nicer car, and the odd bit of travel to far-more-interesting places.

The bell ringing at the door, then.  Me, still in bed and without my first of cup of coffee.  It took a few minutes to figure out how to work the deadbolt…

“Sign here,” the man ordered, proffering a fancy clipboard.  His voice was serious.  His suit was serious.  Crap, he was serious.

What the hell?

I signed, of course.

A huge file he handed me, all wrapped up in a heavy envelope.  I’m not sure what was worse: my confusion, or my need for coffee.  Screw it, when you can’t decide, you work on both at the same time.

A deep gulp, finally, of that lifesaving brew and I opened the envelope to pour its contents onto the counter.

Papers.  Certificates.  Bills.  Deeds.  Even some heavy, weird thing I could barely read…Letters Patent, it called itself.


What the hell?

A letter I found, finally, under all that other detritus I couldn’t understand.  A note from a law firm in London.  Lawyer, solicitor, bloodsucker, whatever you choose to call them, they’re the same everywhere in the world.  You always read their stuff — carefully — but you never, ever trust them.

Blah…blah…Hampshire, UK…blah…blah…Marwell…even more blah, blah…wait, go back a bit.  Skip the lawyerly blah-blah crap, what the hell did that one paragraph say?

Baron Marwell.  Of Marwell Manor.


I build bridges, for Pete’s sake!

I read the letter again.  And again.  And yet again.  Then I checked the deeds.  Then I read it all again.  There was a note, even, from Uncle Vic, in a spidery, struggling hand that was all-but impossible to read.

“…resuscitate the manor…succeed where I could not…better at selling the manor than working it…  Congratulations, Baron Marwell.  Now get to work.”

I don’t remember a damned thing from the next couple of weeks.  A leave-of-absence from my job.  A renter for my condo.  Some stupid rom-com on the flight.  A big Land Rover to pick me up from the airport, and a man who took the “serious” thing and turned it up to eleven.  More papers to sign, more people to see.  A flurry of names and faces, of facts and figures, and not a single bit of made it through my skull.

No, I can’t remember a damned thing from that frantic, hectic period.  All I can remember is waking up in bed to the ringing doorbell, and then…

And then…

Here I stand, in this muddy, wet yard, surrounded by rusting sheds and looming machinery.  The lowing cattle and the cry of hungry sheep.  The smell of diesel and machine oil, of must and loam, of seed and grain.  Hulking marching with logos that said Massey-Ferguson and New Holland, washed almost clean of mud in the rain starting to pour on my head.

What the hell do I know about farming?  I build freaking bridges!

Chapter 2 — Wait, What The Hell is A Combine?!


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