Shortly after I moved my family to Oregon and started working full-time for Trato Diablo Farms, in a matter of weeks Cornelius was effectively absent from it. The little time we spent together at work was contentious and the only thing I learned was how to deal with immature egos and arrogant attitudes. Next thing I knew it was just me and my “assistant” Billy, who knew more about video games than farming.
But Billy was Dick’s beast of burden and since Cornelius was no longer on the ground directing farm operations, that meant Dick the CEO had to step in. He would communicate with Billy the day-to-day agenda which Billy would then communicate to me. That quickly became more akin to taking orders from Billy, though Billy didn’t want to step on my toes. He was a polite guy. But we all knew the score. I was getting screwed.
I was still having a good time on the farm, though, I loved the job. So I didn’t really mind not getting a reach-around. I thought whatever Cornelius was dealing with was certainly temporary. Or he would have told me. Right? I mean, if it was something serious, he would certainly tell me. We’ve been homies for almost twenty-five years.
I put it past me and carried on. The weeks stacked up. I went from randomly seeing the guy in the parking lot to hearing absolutely nothing from him at all. He stopped answering his phone, he didn’t answer his door. Billy and I would get random text messages from him asking us to feed his cats for several days while he was gone.
Meanwhile, I was having a lot of fun exploring Southern Oregon with my family.
My mom and her husband drove my Tacoma and utility trailer from Arkansas, then spent a week with us. The farm couldn’t afford to let me have any time off, but I did take them up to Crater Lake National Park that weekend. I then paid for their flights back home.
Billy flew his girlfriend out from Florida and my little tribe and I took them on their first hike to the top of Upper Table Rock. If I’m not mistaken, it was the first hike Billy had ever taken. He didn’t quite get it, but he was a good sport about it. When we reached the top of Table Rock we had a gorgeous line of sight to the farm.
At some point in late August, I received a text message from Cornelius. I hadn’t seen the guy, much less heard from him, in nearly eight weeks.
Swing by after work. Won’t take long.
At 4:30 I knocked on his door.
The door opened.
What stood in front of me, in a white medical gown, holding a metal stand on wheels with an IV bag hanging from it, with tubes running up his nose, was the pale, emaciated ghost of my long-time best friend.
I shut the door behind me.
We stared at each other. I could hear the hum of the refrigerator. I couldn’t believe my eyes. What had once been the strong, sinewy guy who used to be a dead-ringer for Lee Van Cleef in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, had been reduced to a shriveled Dickensian version of his former strapping self.
I burst into tears.
“Dude, dude,” Cornelius said.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I closed my eyes and shook my head, trying to compose myself. I looked back at him. “What the hell is going on with you?”
“Let’s take a seat,” he said.
He shuffled to the dining table. We sat across from each other. He fired up the dab rig.
“I’m getting my pancreas removed,” he said.
“I’ve had chronic pancreatitis my whole life, dude.”
That rang a bell. Back in our wilder days, I remember Cornelius complaining after a long night of drinking, that his side hurt and he’d be out of commission for a day or two. I just thought he was being a wuss. As far as I knew he never told the boys about his pancreas problems, that pancreatic cancer ran in his family.
“I’m in so much pain now it’s unbearable. I can’t take it anymore,” he said. “But they can’t do surgery because I’m malnourished. They say I have to gain some weight. That’s why I have this feeding tube up my nose.”
“Holy shit. When do they think you’ll be healthy enough to get the surgery?”
“What are you going to do till then?”
“I obviously can’t work,” he shrugged. “I’ll just have to stay in contact with you through the phone.”
We had barely communicated for almost two months. I knew it was unlikely Cornelius was going to make any more effort to change much of anything, considering his new situation.
“I’ll probably be gone a lot. I’ll need you and Billy to feed the cats,” Cornelius said.
“No worries, bro, I got you. Whatever you need,” I said. “So, how are you going to live without a pancreas?”
“I’ll essentially be a diabetic,” he said. “I’ll have to take insulin shots. Which sucks because I hate needles.”
Cornelius hit the dab rig, blew out the smoke.
“Y’know, Nate,” he said, “I always had this fear in my head that just as soon as I’d made it, know what I’m saying, that as soon as I started getting successful, I’d die. Have it all taken from me.”
He pulled on his nostrils with forefinger and thumb.
“But I should be back to work a few weeks after surgery. Once things are manageable I’ll be back to work, no problem,” he said.
I took him at his word. We’d get through this. I’d help him. This was going to be like Rocky III.
“I’ll be your Apollo,” I said. “I’ll help you get the eye of the tiger back.”
Cornelius laughed then hunched over groaning in pain.
Minutes later, I was out the door.
Simple as that.
September 9 
And the next thing you know, we’ve moved to Oregon.
Yep, we moved here in late June.
I’ve been so busy since I last wrote, I put off writing in here – always thinking things would settle and slow down, and then I’d make the time to sit down with this pen. No way.
And now harvest starts this week – should run six-eight weeks. The grind is about to begin. Most likely I won’t be back here till it’s over (six days a week – twelve-hour days).
Moving here has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Chelsea and the kids love it out here – as do I – for various reasons. Mainly we’re stoked to be out of Arkansas and all that comes with it.
Of course everyone misses family . . . but our lives out here have improved so dramatically that it has certainly softened that blow.
Just about every single weekend (if I didn’t have to work) we have been out getting into adventures. The very first weekend we had we took off to Crater Lake National Park, the weekend after that we spent on the coast. While I’m at work, Chelsea and the kids are getting out there and having more fun. But that’s not the only PLUS we’re getting by living here.
There’s better options for so much – shopping, healthcare, recreation, arts & music, and FOOD. Oh man, the options for locally grown organic fruits and vegetable is awesome – we have been feasting on the local bounty here.
And let’s not forget the climate – the weather in Southern Oregon is RAD.
Of course, so much has happened since I first started writing in here.
After my initial visit I started flying back and forth – staying for a week at a time, working my butt off. The toughest stretch was the three-week stay during May, in the heart of planting season. I missed Chelsea and the kids something fierce. Couple that with the fact I was occupying Cornelius’ living room, sleeping on his couch – and let’s just say Cornelius isn’t the cleanest person on earth. I flew back to Arkansas and the packing commenced and within two weeks, we were loaded up and headed west.
Work on the farm? For the most part, I love it. I’m outside a lot, working in the fields – but the weather is killer and the scenery even better. The work has been challenging at times, mostly because so much of this Hemp Farming stuff is so new, and it’s dynamic and always changing – it’s a new industry, a new market, and it’s booming – and just about everyone in this game is new to it.
Unfortunately, Cornelius has been laid up essentially since we moved here. I think he was around for the first two weeks . . . at this point he hasn’t been back to work in over two months! Long story short, he’s getting his pancreas removed. He may not be back to work for several more months. He’s been in really bad shape. We’ve hung out only a few times – he’s hooked up to a feeding tube, he’s tired, in constant pain . . . he hasn’t even met my family! Really looking forward to having him back. I mean, I have my personal reasons – he’s my best friend – but also because with him absent from work, that’s left me to deal with Billy and Dick! I’ll save that for next time. . . .
Okay, times up – off to the farm.