A Farewell to Wilbur
The alpaca herdsman job comes to an end
By Crash Barry
Editor’s note: For the past two years, Crash Barry has retold true stories from his time working on an alpaca farm in Down East Maine, owned by a lunatic millionaire, in his monthly column for The Bollard, One Maniac’s Meat. This is the final installment of that saga. Starting next month, One Maniac’s Meat will focus on Crash’s days as a sailor in the U.S. Coast Guard fighting the War on Drugs and the War on Haitian Refugees.
My mother died on a damp and misty morning. Her deathbed was far away from the grassy slope leading to the alpaca pasture on the shore of Cobscook Bay. A recent spate of dreary weather had made the hill wet and slippery. Distracted by grief, I wasn’t aware of this as I drove the John Deere hydrostatic, automatic super-tractor down to feed Wilbur the Alpaca Farmer’s herd.
I’d barely begun the descent when the tractor started to slide sideways. The terror was instantaneous. Tractor accidents are a common cause of farm death. As the rig tipped to starboard, I knew that losing control of the massive machine could spell my doom. The manufacturer recommends the driver stay seated and hold on tight in these situations, but my seatbelt wasn’t fastened and the Mad Scientist had dismantled the roll cage the previous summer so the tractor could be driven into the barn. Staying aboard would almost certainly cause me to be crushed under the Deere’s flipped chassis.
So I jumped for my life.
Given the lay of the land, the height of my leap and the momentum of the toppling tractor, I flew through the air. Time seemed to slow. I thought of my old pal Andrew Weegar, one of the best writers I’d ever known. During the early 1990s, Weegar was the only reason to read the Maine Times. He knew the woods like no other scribe in the state. Armed with wit and deep intelligence, he loathed the office side of the job. And in a trade where procrastination is the norm, Weegar was the king. Eventually he abandoned journalism and deadlines and moved to a farm in Fayette to pursue a pastoral, productive existence with a wonderful wife and daughter.
Then he was killed by a tractor.
Three years after Weegar’s death, I was airborne in a desperate attempt to escape the same fate. Somehow I was lucid enough to consider the odds that two former reporters for alternative Maine papers would be crushed beneath tractors within the same half decade. They seemed low, but not low enough.
As I crashed to the ground, I caught a glimpse of John Deere green over my shoulder. I rolled and then got on my feet, ready to sprint away. But the tractor wasn’t moving. Still upright, the rig was stalled on the side of the hill, about 50 feet from where I landed.
I was shaking and bruised, but alive, so I had to get back to work. The feeding and other daily chores had to be done, plus my help was needed on several special projects connected to the weekend’s gala event at the alpaca farm.
Wilbur was on the board of a small private college, his alma mater, and had offered to host the board’s big summer meeting on the farm. He and his wife, Barb, outdid themselves planning the festivities. There’d be tours of Eastport, followed by a windjammer cruise, then a lobster bake on Wilbur’s private beach and a dance party featuring his favorite band. Sweetgrass and I were heavily involved in the preparations, but we wouldn’t be working the event because we’d be at my mom’s funeral.
An hour after leaping from the tractor, I’d given grain and water to the camelids and just finished scooping the last pile of alpaca shit when the boss appeared. Despite the overcast skies, Wilbur squinted like the sun was shining in his eyes.
“I heard you had a little accident with the tractor,” he said with an unkind laugh. “Is Crash having a bad day? Poor baby.”
Shocked and grieving, I didn’t know how to reply, but it didn’t matter. Wilbur was pissed and didn’t want an answer. Not having Sweetgrass and me to work the bash weakened the narrative he liked to tell to impress his guests – how his gardener was a beautiful musician and his herdsman formerly a hack reporter.
By this point, after seven months on Wilbur’s farm, Sweetgrass and I were thoroughly disenchanted. Working for Wilbur left us feeling slimy and complicit in his goings-on. Our plan was to try to keep the jobs until we could harvest the veggies from the garden Sweetgrass had lovingly nurtured. Just another month.
But the labor became more of a pain in the ass — not worth the mere 10 bucks per hour and free lodging we were getting in return. For a newbie to the agricultural trade, I was overworked. There wasn’t enough time in the day to adequately tend two dozen alpacas, a pair of pigs and a dozen laying hens, as well as weed-whack all the places Wilbur couldn’t reach with his little riding mower. Plus there was all the extra bullshit, like dealing with the cops who came looking for Junior in connection with his brazen shoplifting of two cases of Budweiser from the local IGA. Every time the police came to the farm, I gave the same answer: Wilbur’s son had been banished from the property since the Fourth of July, when he stole booze and smokes from his parents’ holiday guests.
Then a huge and unruly alpaca named Madonna was delivered to our stables. According to Wilbur, the beast had been sexually abused. That apparently explained her aggressive behavior and refusal to be handled during the monthly de-wormings, inoculations and hoof-trimming. What kind of sicko would have sex with an alpaca? And, more confounding, why did Wilbur bring the poor animal to his farm?
But the worst part of the job was dealing with Wilbur’s mistress, Candy. She was such a poseur — a terrible painter and faux-poet. I couldn’t stand the bitch. It really sucked that Wilbur was cheating on Barb, whom I liked. And whenever Candy visited, she acted like she owned the place. This was especially galling because Barb had spent years transforming the formerly abandoned farm into a genteel estate.
By mid-August, the craziness had become too much to handle and we quit before the garden was ready to harvest. The actual end of our employment was anti-climatic, compared to the drama we endured on the job. And my fears about unemployment were assuaged the next morning. My pal Kipper needed janitorial help at his new restaurant down on Water Street. Scrubbing the kitchen tile floors. De-sooting the wood-fired grill’s ventilation hood. Cleaning the bar that Kipper always left sticky and fruit-flied. Sanitizing the men’s and ladies’ rooms after swabbing the joint. Start at 5 a.m., done by 1. Ten bucks an hour, six days a week. Felt like I’d landed the cushiest job on Planet Eastport.
Nine months later, Sweetgrass and I were done with Washington County. Five years was long enough. We headed to a cabin in western Maine and didn’t look back.
Last month, Barb and I met for hot beverages upstairs at the Public Market House in Monument Square. It had been five years since I’d seen her. She looked beautiful and radiant. Her golden tresses flowed down past her shoulders. Her bright eyes danced from behind hip frames as she introduced me to her four-pound Papillon, whom she carried in a fancy case. She seemed at least a decade younger than her 52 years.
Her divorce from Wilbur had been finalized the week before. After more than three years of legal wrangling, she was free of her devious ex and floating on Cloud Nine.
“He didn’t want to be married,” she said with a laugh. “But he didn’t want to get divorced, either.”
Despite all of Wilbur’s money-hiding and manipulation, Barb ended up with lots of land and multiple commercial buildings, plus various residences, including their Florida condo. If she sold all her real estate, she’d be a millionaire several times over.
Wilbur kept the alpaca farm. Barb initially considered fighting for the place, but the farm was tainted by Wilbur’s affair with Candy, soiled with dishonesty. Candy is now queen of the manor.
“She had, and still has, a weird power over him,” Barb said, taking a sip of coffee. She explained how Wilbur allegedly tried, on several occasions, to end the affair. But Candy wouldn’t give up. “It’s a kinky thing.” Barb sighed. “Thanks to this divorce, I’ve become a lot more aware of many aspects of kinky sex.” She paused for another sip. “You know Wilbur’s guy Joshua, right?”
I nodded. The dude was his longtime Portland henchman. Loyal, due to his paycheck, he also witnessed many of his boss’ shenanigans.
“Well, according to Joshua, Candy is a dominatrix,” Barb said with a half-smile. “Joshua says he accidentally found all her equipment — the whips and chains and gags, or whatever she uses.” She laughed and shook her head.
The scenario makes perfect sense. Wilbur is the classic sort of capitalist who seeks discipline from a professional. A captain of industry and boss to many, he appears cocky and self-assured. In the privacy of his own dungeon, however, one could imagine how he would willingly become Candy’s slave, desperate to taste her boot heel, eager to make penance for a lifetime of sin.
The events preceding the divorce are soap-operatic. All the falsehoods and conniving double-talk Wilbur spouted are too lengthy to recount here. Suffice to say Wilbur got busted because Candy wanted him for herself.
None of the other gals Wilbur dallied with ever dared suggest that a fling become more than a simple affair. But Candy was different. Her obsessive personality and greedy desire for Wilbur’s time and money meant she couldn’t leave him alone. The penultimate proof was a desperate voicemail Candy left Wilbur during a Fourth of July. Barb’s heart sank after she listened to the message. It sank even deeper after she dialed the number on the caller ID and confirmed the infidelity at last.
“Once the veil of deception was lifted,” Barb remembered with a frown, “all his lies became apparent.”
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, especially an intelligent woman like Barb. Wilbur had always been dependent on her rationality to balance his crazy schemes. In the end, her smarts were more powerful than his guile. Her ability to document all their joint holdings and assets ensured an equitable split — an incredible feat, since Wilbur had vowed to fight her to the end. The battle was psychologically exhausting and traumatic for Barb, who needed the services of multiple lawyers.
“Even to this very day, he claims he never lied,” Barb said with another sigh. “He says he was ‘just being deceptive.’”
In retrospect, Barb can’t believe she’d been blind to Wilbur’s treachery for so long. He was an oddball, but she’d always thought he was a loving, loyal husband. Sure, he’d been a flirt, but she never imagined he’d actually cheat, let alone carry on an affair with a whack-job bent on destroying their marriage and family.
Many people were aware of Wilbur’s transgressions, but no one — friends, family, gossips, neighbors — ever said a word until their break-up became public. Since then, people can’t stop telling tales and wagging tongues.
Barb’s life changed dramatically. She said the hurt was overwhelming at times, and the anger occasionally overpowered her. I’d known her as a gentle soul who loved flowers, animals and sea glass. But pushed to the edge, she found herself capable of responding to hostility with a ferocity that surprised and frightened her. She sought guidance from a counselor, which helped a little, but she still experienced outbursts.
One of the worst incidents started when, unbeknownst to Barb, her twenty-something daughters (two vibrant and bright young women) confronted Candy in the parking lot of the building where she had a studio – rent-free, courtesy of their father. The girls never touched the mistress, but they ordered her to end the affair while preventing her from getting into her vehicle or entering the building.
Enraged, Candy got on her cell and called Wilbur, who happened to be with Barb at another commercial property in the same neighborhood. He ignored the call, so Candy called his henchman, who was no help, either. Now totally infuriated, Candy stomped across a couple parking lots, with the younger daughter trailing her, and stormed into the building where Wilbur and Barb were meeting with an electrician.
“You better tell your daughters to LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!” Candy screamed at Wilbur. “They’ve been harassing me since I got to the studio.” When Candy saw Barb, the mistress’ lips twisted into a sneer. She pointed and laughed. “Oh, by the way Barbara, I’m Candy.”
That did it. Since she’d learned of Wilbur’s cheating, Barb had wondered what would happen if she ever encountered Candy face-to-face. And suddenly, there she was. The sight of her triggered an animosity so deep that Barb completely lost control. She lunged at Candy, swinging madly, fueled by pent-up rage and frustration.
Barb, who’d never fought in her life, got in a couple punches and a good shin-kick before Candy – who was bigger and, apparently, a trained dominatrix – started fighting back. After throwing a couple punches of her own, Candy grabbed Barb by the hair and yanked, tearing a hockey-puck-sized patch from her scalp.
Meanwhile, Barb’s daughter – a rugged and talented athlete – entered the melee swinging, pummeling both of Candy’s kidneys a dozen times to get her off her mom. Barb then squared off with Wilbur and ended the brawl by delivering a solid kick to his balls.
When her anger receded, Barb felt terrible. She called Candy’s cell and left an apologetic voicemail, expressing sorrow and regret for her behavior. Candy never responded.
More incidents and fights followed, including one, reminiscent of Tiger Woods’ famous fracas, during which Barb bashed in Wilbur’s truck with a golf club. But now, with the divorce finalized, Barb has been able to put all the hate and suffering behind her. She’s experiencing a spiritual re-awakening and feels blessed. She still has her kids and grandkids to love. Plus, she’s rich.
And she’s met a nice man. He also had to divorce a lunatic spouse. He’s the polar opposite of Wilbur — a straight-talker. He rides a Harley, which she loves, so she got a learner’s permit and there’s a motorcycle for her on the horizon. She told me she’s having the time of her life.
“I feel sorry for Wilbur,” she said, and I could tell she meant it. She’s heard that Wilbur and Candy’s relationship had grown even more volatile. Meanwhile, she’s on the path to enlightenment.
“I’m not angry,” she said as our conversation wound down. “I’ve let it all go.”