Packing up was hard. Sarah wanted to take along their big backyard with its maples and oaks, its coverts of viburnum, honeysuckle, and barberry, the ornamental crab-apple trees and flowering almond, the tiny playhouse you had to crawl into, even the path out the unused back gate, and the back alley where she fed stray cats and where she walked to visit her few friends. Her best friend Maria who was a year older and prematurely pubescent absolutely guaranteed Sarah that cowboys would rape her in Montana and that she best get herself a pistol to defend herself, a matter over which Sarah spent a good deal of time brooding.
One Friday afternoon in mid-April her father showed up with a huge three-quarter-ton black pickup and a long trailer. Two neighbor men helped load the trailer and on Sunday there was a yard sale for what had to be left behind including Sarah's ancient piano. What would she do without a piano? Her parents, of course, hadn't thought of that. Her piano in a real sense was her speech, her only viable conversation with the world. Her father talked sparsely and her mother didn't listen in her busyness of figuring out what she was going to say next. Sarah stayed back in a thicket during the yard sale watching people paw over her bedroom furniture and beloved piano. So much had to be left behind to make room for Frank's tools and equipment, including a large floor tent they would live in while Frank built them a log cabin. She wept behind the honeysuckle bush when a man bought the piano for thirty bucks announcing loudly that he would tear it apart for its hardwood lumber. This man was going to murder her piano and it reminded her of when she and Maria would ride their bikes over to the Humane Society to visit the lovely dogs and pick out which ones they'd like to own should they ever be permitted a dog. Only after several trips did they learn from a brusque docent lady that most of the dogs would be euthanized because no one wanted them. They would kill the dogs like the man would kill her piano. Brushing her tears with a shirtsleeve she had the idea that children like herself were kennel dogs.
The jump from the piano to man to herself to dog wasn't difficult. Unlike most people, she knew her own story while she kept on making up a new one. She had figured out that it was the big gaps that were the problem so she tried to keep busy. Did her father love her? Off and on. Did her mother love her? She doubted it. Her mother loved the certainty of her own religion. She had only an obligatory, perfunctory love for her daughter. Peppy always reminded Sarah of that grinning, porcelain cat on the windowsill near Grandma's piano.
Excerpted from The Farmer's Daughter by Jim Harrison. Copyright © 2009 by Jim Harrison. Excerpted by permission of Grove Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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