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kerry rawlinson

My route here along the preordained pathway of Office-Wife-Offspring was certainly circuitous … The path turned crooked; the kid into a crook. The wife? Bored herself right out the door. My grandad warned me: you need to feed the soil. So after coming to a standstill in that particular rut, I finally heeded his words.

I bailed to Saskatchewan. Who’d have bet odds, eh? Just buggered off and bought a farm, up the road from my sister. Learning farming the hard way with my brother-in-law’s help, I can disavow city-folks’ assumptions of farmers being dreary, or stupid. I educate myself daily in meteorology, botany, pest biology, mechanics. The guys on my porch sporting ballcaps and swigging Pilsner are proof that farming is almost alchemy.

Two years ago, disaster threatened our bucolic community. Persistent winds blew topsoil clear off the land. Nothing could take hold. Terrible drought crept right across the continent.

Bud, scion of our community and its natural leader, called a Town Hall conference.

“I been cogitatin’,” he growled, scratching his chicken-pocked chin. “Think I found the problem.”

Uproar ensued.

“Gen’lemen, gen’lemen,” Bud bellowed, soothing the cacophony with knotted paws. “The reason we can’t grow rapeseed is coz there ain’t enough female in the dirt.”

The throng hushed, bewildered.

Yuri’s Ukrainian; and purchases his needs of women. “Whaddya talkin’, Bud?” he snickered. “Plenny dirty girls in Regina!”

Bud persisted.

“Fellas!” he intoned. “Here’s the deal. We have to turn a little hair into our soil — but only women’s. Only female hair.”

To all gathered there, it made no sense. My grandfather’s words echoed. But when I told my sister, she laughed like I’d slipped a widget. Wasn’t it worth trying?

“Snip off a bit of your hair for me, Tilly, and I’ll do a test,” I suggested. She did; and I did. Unbelievably, the patch I hoed with Tilly’s lock grew a canola crop as brightly yellow as a whore’s frock. I offered Bud my proof, and word spread like weeds.

Instantly, hair salons blossomed. Women transported cut tresses to family farms in knapsacks, grocery bags, aprons. Manufacturers cranked out wigs as we farmers married snippets of our wife’s, daughter’s, sister’s hair with the flighty soil.

After corporate mega-farms upped the ante, women’s hair suddenly became rare as hen’s teeth. Young girls surrendered their curls, becoming indistinguishable from boys. Now we can spot girls instantly, because they’re bald.

We didn’t predict the more severe repercussions. Like prisons overflowing with a new breed of “scalper.” Or some women choosing to defend their follicles to the death. Murder’s cursed farming, too.

But mother earth defies us. A bewildering new predicament’s unfolded. I don’t know how to break it to Tilly, but our beets just won’t grow. Canola and wheat seem fine — but beets and cruciferous wither inexplicably in their rows. Bud called another Town Hall congregation. He’s absolutely adamant the soil’s deficient in a certain type of haemoglobin … XX blood. Women’s, that is. Just a few drops, he insists …


Decades ago, autodidact and bloody-minded optimist kerry rawlinson gravitated from sunny Zambian skies to solid Canadian soil. Fast-forward: she follows literature and art’s muses around the Okanagan, barefoot, her patient husband ensuring she’s fed. She’s won contests (including Geist) and appeared in Reflex Fiction, Painted Bride, Connecticut River Review, Pedestal, Prelude, RiddledwArrows, and ArcPoetry, among others. http://kerryrawlinson.tumblr.com/; @kerryrawli.

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