Farmer Benny

I have been thinking about the farm lately. I was thinking about the barn crews and the times we spent on the hill, running around, chasing each other, and playing games like capture the flag. Hell, I was only 17 years-old then. I was just a kid.

There was something to this place though. But in fairness, if you were to go back and ask me if I would ever regard this as the best days of my youth, I’d have laughed and said you’re crazy. I suppose everyone on the farm would have said the same thing. We’d have all said you’re crazy

But then again, we were all crazy. We were the crazy kids. We were the behaviorally challenged. We were the oppositional defiant. We were the disturbed. We were the bad kids. We were the kids in the “Special” classrooms because we couldn’t c-exist in a regular classes.
We were the sad and the beautiful. We were the chaotic and the incredible. We were dreamers. All of us were. We were the kids from the towns you never heard of. But more importantly, we were the statistics from the other side of the column. And me, I hate statistics.
I hate them because statistically speaking; no one ever makes it out alive. Statistically speaking, we all have problems. We burden ourselves with stigmas, but yet, truth is we all have subscribe to one judgement or another. The thing is no one ever goes through life unscathed or without a scratch. Life hits us all and that’s the truth. Some are hit harder. Some are hit later and some are hit younger. Either way, everyone gets hit

Back on the farm, I was this little kid. God, I was scrawny. I was sneaky too; always looking for an angle and always looking to get over. I was looking for a way out but the only way out was up the road, after dark, and in stealth mode.

I was placed here, remanded here, and eventually sentenced here. This is where the courts placed me to strip me of my old self and rebuild me with new rules and a new mindset.

I never asked for this place. I never asked to be arrested either. Then again, no one ever asks to be arrested. It just happens. It’s part of the contract you sign when you pull a job.
Big or small, it makes no difference. Little crimes come with small contracts. Big crimes have bigger contracts. There’s more detail and almost everyone in the life forgets to read the fine print at least once or twice.

Now, this is not to say that I was pulling big jobs because I wasn’t. I was a punk kid. I was a baby hoodlum, anxious to prove myself, and anxious to act tough, but in actuality; I was just a tiny guppy in a little pond.
I was a little kid sneaking in backdoors and breaking through basement windows. I was light-fingered. I loved to steal because stealing helped me regulate the game.
I was good at this. At least, I thought I was good. I sold what I stole and what I earned was taken from me by someone bigger. I was always ripped off; only, it was more like I always overpaid for my products. But what else could I do? I had to maintain myself. Besides, if I had to pay more it just meant I had to steal more. So I did

Want some blow, kid?
Want to get high?
Want to smoke?
What’s your poison, kid?
Name it.

I wanted it all and yet, the truth is I never wanted any of this. I wanted friends. I wanted to feel comfortable. I wanted to have fun, to be included, to be invited, to be wanted, and welcomed.
I wanted to be popular. I wanted to have those times people talk about. I wanted the high school experience, which I never had.
I wanted to go to prom or take a driver’s education class with my friends and do things like, go to a homecoming game.

But no. Not me.
Instead, I was on a farm in an upstate town, living the end of my teen life in an institutionalized setting. I was on my hands and knees, waxing floors by had with a white cloth. I was in the kitchen on dish crews. I was in pig pens and on barn crews. I was living in a bunkhouse in bunkbeds.
In the morning, the alarm rang before the sunrise and a young, almost prepubescent kid would scream and count from 1-20 because everyone had to be out of bed with their feet on the floor and bunks made by the count of 20.

I hated this place. I hated the rules. I hated the snitches, which I regret to admit that eventually, I snitched too. I hated the fact that I had to be here. I hated my choices —and since I hated my choices, I did my best to make everyone else hate my choices too. I was miserable —and being miserable, I decided to make everyone else’s miserable.

If you would have asked me what I thought if this place, I’d have told you they’re all crazy. I’d have said they’re all full of shit. I’d have said get me out of here. This place is terrible. The rules are ridiculous. They took away my music. They took away most of my clothes because according to the farm, my clothes linked me back to an image I needed to get rid of.
I couldn’t even sing or hum my favorite songs because according to the farm, the music I listened to was a part of my old image. And it was. I was a longhaired kid, eager to find the shock value in anything and everything. My music were my anthems. I wanted to scream them out loud and sing them proudly because the lyrics were an accurate description of my youthful rebellion.

Hell, I thought I knew it all.

The farm was designed to strip me of my old self. However, I was not about to let this happen. Not without a fight. They kept on me though. The farm, the members, the inmates or whatever we called ourselves; no matter how I tried to run, I could never get away.

I was shot down. They cut my hair off. They sat me in corners. I had to wear a sign around my neck. I had to wear a few of them actually.
One of the signs read, “Ask me why I’m a spoiled brat.” And when I asked, I had to answer and explain why I wore the sign and why I was a spoiled brat.

Want to know something?
That farm saved my life.
I lived here for 11 months. By the time I came home, most of my friends that were once little bubble-gummers and light-habit kids were on their way to full-time junkies. When I left, there was a younger crowd, surging upwards through the drug ranks and eagerly looking to get as high as they could and as quickly as possible. There was a new feed now. These kids were dangerous. God bless them, I pray for them now because they are only names now. They’re just memory. They’re a statistic. And this is why I hate statistics

To some of the old friends, I was unrecognizable. When I came home, nobody recognized me. My hair was short. I gained weight. My skin was colored properly. I wasn’t pale or green or sickly. I was myself again. I was the real me now instead of the old me, which was just an image.

I think of my days on the farm. Sometimes, I shake my head and laugh about the things we did. Sometimes, I cry because of the friends I wished I heard from before they died. And sometimes, I think about the farm that I want to build.

I think about a farm where kids can live and feel comfortable in their own skin. There is no bullying on this farm. There is no abuse here. There are no drugs, no vaping, no cigarettes, no sexting, no cellphones even; there is one to impress, and no one to be afraid of.
I want to build a farm but not the same kind as the one I lived on. I want to find a place and help teach kids how to live. I want them to understand that not everyone wins a trophy. And that’s okay. There are no guarantees in life. No one is owed anything in life. In fact, if you want something, work for it. Otherwise, be ready to live without it.
Life comes with curves. Life hurts and sometimes it sucks. I want to teach people how to build and create instead of destroy or be destroyed by mind-consuming cell phone applications and computerized living.
I want to build a place to show kids how to properly shop at a supermarket. I want them to know how to cook a meal for themselves. I want to build a farm where kids can learn to cultivate their own lives.
Plant the seeds and watch them grow! I saw this on someone’s page the other day. I thought to myself about a farmer and his garden. I thought how no one plants just one seed. Instead, we plant several. We nurture them, we feed them. We water them. And then the seeds grow. We have to learn that not every seed will sprout. Not everything works. Life does not care if this upsets us. life does not care if we are offended. life still happens regardless to our safe spaces and needs for a time-out

No signs will be worn and no one will sit in corners at my farm. It’s not the same kind of place as the farm I lived on. This is a new farm. I will call this place The Second Family.

You will like this place. There will always be a seat for you at the dinner table. There will always be a place for you. You can come by anytime and be part of us, the farm, the family, and the friends we become.

I want to build this place. As sure as I want to see the sunrise tomorrow morning; I swear, I want to build this place

And I will . . .


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