A corporate farm’s intrusive threat loomed for years but only now became a reality. Platte heard rumors that eventually came true. The company was coming in next door. Once Darnell Wheaton’s widow died, their land went up for sale and was immediately snatched by a company from outside the state. Corporate farming had moved in, and the neighbors weren’t happy about it.
Platte Keltner stood at the back door smoking a cigarette to watch the final stage of construction that made the project across his rear acreage complete. Resentment sent bile up from his stomach as he saw a crane lift the large sign over the entrance drive, “Pork Partners” emblazoned in bold lettering. He’d heard of effluent seeping onto nearby properties and polluting the groundwater on adjoining land.
Management might claim safe cesspool storage and self-contained barns that wouldn’t affect the quality of life nearby, but situations elsewhere were showing otherwise. At the very least, the surrounding area would stink to high heaven. Having a factory swine farm just next door meant the air would stink of shit and make life outside unbearable in summertime. Property values would shrink and discontent proportionately grows.
Platte Keltner’s property was his birthright, and he’d protect it at any cost. Their family place at Benton Creek had come to him down through inheritance by default after everyone else’s death, and the Keltner family nearly lost it in probate court. Its bucolic setting masqueraded turmoil boiling below the surface.
As a boy, Platte skipped stones across the pond with his brother and hunted all manner of small game there. They romped over foothills and across the rock-filled soil of fields not otherwise suited for planting decent crops. No amount of hog manure pumped over from Mr. Wheaton’s lagoon would make that land fertile enough to be productive again, but Keltner wanted to continue living there. He wanted his kids to stay there after he was gone.
He went to see his brother, stuck in County lockup, to tell him of the predicament with their inheritance. He’d taken possession of the place during Jared’s incarceration. Their grandpa’s legacy hung in a lurch.
“Man, you’re better off in here with what I got planned,” Platte told him a sly smile spreading across his unshaven face. Jared told him, “You need help fixin’ the situation, you let me know. I got some guys on the street that owe me. Maybe it’s time to call in some favors.” Revenge was nothing new to the older Keltner brother. Similar stupidness caught him the latest charges that had him facing three to five up in the state pen. Platte thought better of involving Jared, as the guy had enough trouble of his own.
He’d gotten the company squib by mail after the fact. A form letter explained their intentions, feigned sincerity and professed hopes of a peaceful existence in community. Funny, the DNR recommended sharing a warning with the neighbors beforehand. Pork Partners’ barns already stood as eyesores for a half-mile in any direction, the effuse wafting into the sky exponentially. Their shameful missive came too late to create any scrap of good will. Platte waited until nightfall before he put his plan in motion. He held the letter between two fingers and watched flames lick the corporate letterhead before dropping the paper’s remains into a burn barrel.
Taking advantage of scrub cedars that lined the fence, he made sure to hide in their cover as he trekked across the field to an endless row of barns. A cacophony of grunts, moans and squeals accompanied an overwhelming odor of shit that met his senses upon reaching the massive complex. Regardless of the number, Platte moved stealthily from one building to the next searching for the exhaust output. He felt he’d never reach the end as he aimed high to stuff fistful after fistful of mud into vents, essentially sealing the hogs into their own quagmire of filth. Working all night insured the fans brought no fresh air in and no stench escaped.
The atmosphere within those walls would ferment upon itself, or so he hoped, until first light when the caretaker opened each door to a blast of fetor. No discernible fingerprints left behind meant no evidence traceable to Platte, while he laughed at the harm he’d cast in retaliation. In actuality, sick swine greeted the farmer along with their stink. The heat and methane within caused weakness in some and possible meat spoilage in others, with no way to tell the difference between the conditions. Keltner never knew for sure but hoped he’d helped kill off many of them before the animals could be sent off for slaughter. Sympathy for casualties held no position in his conscience, if he had any.
Security systems later installed warded off any future sabotage, but only after Keltner felt a small pang of satisfaction. He blinked at the brightness of pole lights and crushed out his last cigarette of the day before going inside from his spiteful perch on the back porch where he glared over at the adjacent farm. The man felt triumphant at an extra expense he’d caused them to install those lights.
Upon closing the window blinds every night there forward Platte damned the luminance cascading directly into his bedroom. But he laughed each time he spun the control to shut those plastic shades and darken his house.
He laughed when he visited his brother that week to recount the tale of what he’d done. Jared snorted and said, “Just shoot the damn bulbs out. That’ll put a stop to that business.” Platte told him, “Nah. My luck I’d end up in here right alongside you for some silly ass vandalism wrap.” They both chuckled at the notion.
He went on, “Let their electricity run every day and night for all I care. I hope it chips at every penny in profit they ever stand to make.” His stubbornness outweighed Platte’s desire for atmosphere. He’d stay on the Keltner home place, and no amount of stench could make him leave.
Studio 30+ writing prompt – bucolic
images: Waterkeeper Alliance & frankieleon (respectively) on Flickr – Creative Commons