Friday, November 03, 2006

Flashback Friday: The Stud Farm

Each week the Flashback Friday: Feminist Edition will feature a story that has something to do with being or becoming a woman or feminist. This series will continue until I run out of stories. I love having guest bloggers. Thank you to Mad Hatter for being the first last week. If you have a story you want to tell and you want to be a guest blogger here, please email me; or feel free to link to your own story in the comments.

When I was 16, I got a summer job at a stud farm (for the pervy readers that's a horse breeding establishment). I was really excited to get the job because it paid $6 an hour, which I think was like $1 more than my Burger King job, and it was with horses, my passion. It was physically demanding and I worked 6 days a week. But I really enjoyed it. I liked my coworkers (who introduced me to smoking – well ok they didn't introduce me to smoking but they helped me along by giving me free smokes all summer), and although the owner of the farm, A, was an asshole, the manager, N, was a dream to work for.

Being an adolescent and watching the horses breed, or worse helping to collect semen from a deluded stallion humping the leather dummy, was pretty uncomfortable. Especially when Asshole A leered at me. But I kept on, because I'm stubborn that way, had lots of ways to spend the money on my own horse, and I liked the job. The encounters with A were relatively few and far between. Through the school year, I worked on weekends, and the following summer I started working 6 days a week again. But that summer I had my first boyfriend, and by mid-August I was not so enamoured with the job. I remember one day a photographer was coming to do some promotional shots of one of the studs. I volunteered to help, thinking it would be a good opportunity. After everyone else had left, it was just me and A waiting for the photographer. While we waited, one of those sun showers started pelting down and I was wearing a white t-shirt. Well, Asshole A just stared like the dirty old man he was. I don't remember how the evening ended, or even if the photos were shot or the photographer showed up. I only remember how exposed I felt with the sun and the rain coming down on me, an unwilling participant in a one-person wet t-shirt contest.

Not long after that, A decided one Saturday to take his sister and her family, who were visiting from Germany, to see the Medieval Knights in Toronto. He hadn't bothered booking someone to keep an eye on the farm, and wanted one of his day staff to do it. No one else was willing, and he decided to pick on me. I wasn't feeling well, and felt way too young to be on that farm all by myself until like midnight, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. So I said no. He tried to cajole me and tempt me into it with an earlier day off and more money. But still I refused. Eventually he just shrugged and gave up.

I went back to the barn and N asked me what the deal was. I said I didn't know but I wasn't doing it. She phoned A for clarification and he said, “I told her if she doesn't come in tonight, she doesn't come in again.” When N told me this news, I was shocked. But, upon consideration for all of five seconds, I decided maybe getting fired wasn't such a bad thing. I'd miss N and my coworkers, but not enough to try to keep my job.

When I told my dad that night, I thought he'd be disappointed in me but he was supportive as usual and just said, “That A is an asshole. You're better off without that job.”

When fall came, I decided to help the farm out at the annual yearling sale in Toronto. They were short-staffed because A had fired so many employees since he'd fired me. Working at the sale was fun, paid well, and got me a day or two off school. I think it was on the second or third night that A decided to take us out for dinner and some drinks. Fine with me, I thought. Free dinner and beer: rock on. A drove us in his truck and we went to a pub for dinner and then onto some cowboy bar. At dinner, A started stroking my hair, telling our dining companions, “Look how shiny it gets when I stroke it.” This was my inkling that perhaps this evening wasn't the best idea.

At the cowboy bar, it wasn't so bad. I mostly avoided A, and I loved drinking underage with no one having the slightest suspicion except my companions. But occasionally A would sidle up to me and try to do some of them dirty dancing moves I used to love watching Patrick Swayze do. But A was no Patrick Swayze. At one point, A handed me yet another beer, and because I was starting to get weirded out, I decided to stop drinking. “No thanks.” He insisted I take it... He said, “Take it or you're fired.” So I took it and sold it to someone for $2.

There was one highlight of the night though. I got to see the craziest men's urinal ever. It was a big trough, like you might see for feeding and watering livestock, that stretched all along one wall and it had three targets: one said under 6 inches, one said 6 to 12, and one said over 12 inches. And I felt so ballsy for just walking in there and looking.

Eventually, it was time to go back to our hotel and I figured we'd take a cab, because A had had like at least 6 or 8 beers. But he said he just needed to eat a few hot dogs and he'd be fine. Everyone else said he would be fine too. So the three of us ladies got into the camper extension of the truck, and the three guys got in the cab. I was petrified. A knew I was scared. So he spent the whole trip back to the hotel deliberately swerving around the road to scare me. I don't know how long it took to get back to the hotel, but I was sure we'd die on the way. When we got back, I nearly kissed the ground.

I called my boyfriend, sobbing, who was training horses in Pennsylvania. He told me to call my parents because he couldn't do anything. So I called my parents at like 2 in the morning, and we talked and I calmed down and decided to stick it out for the next day or two. But my dad showed up the next day, gave A the dirtiest look I've ever seen on my dad's face, and he announced that he was taking me home. I was pretty relieved.

I never saw A again. A few years later, a boy I went to high school with was working there, and saw A go into the barn carrying a shotgun, heard a shot a few minutes later, and upon investigation discovered A's dead body with a hole in his head. I don't know why, and I can't say I'm sorry. Not that I have any lingering hard feelings... those evaporated on his death. But I have no real sympathy for this man and whatever reasons he had for suicide.


Mad Hatter said...

When I wrote on my blog that your experiences as recounted in this series were "raw", I meant exactly what I said. This story is a saw blade. I felt its barbs and pains and I felt for the young woman who was put into so many disturbing situations at such a young age. The metaphor of the stud farm--though literal, I realize--is chilling.

cinnamon gurl said...

It's funny. I wanted to rush over here and say, no it really wasn't that bad. I think I made it darker or more cutting than I meant to. But then I stopped and considered the significance that I truly am not sorry that this fellow human being was so troubled suicide was the only answer. And that is a big deal for me.

But I survived and he didn't, and it didn't leave me scarred or with post traumatic stress disorder.

ewe are here said...

I also thought it was a chilling story. Adolescents should not be subjected to people like this.

As for the perv's suicide in the end, that doesn't bother me much. Clearly, a troubled 'man'. What does bother me is that he did it in such a way that a young person not only heard him shoot himself, but found him. That's an image he'll always have in his head, truly sad.

nomotherearth said...

Vivid story. I applaud you for standing up for yourself.

Nancy said...

There is just something wrong with older men who make inappropriate advances toward young girls. It makes me absolutely sick to my stomach.

I am glad you held your ground as well as you did with him.