Starvation Ranch Frank Hite, my mother’s father’s mother’s father, named his farm Starvation Ranch, and one July, I balanced high on a ladder to repaint those white letters on the same red barn where they’ve been for a hundred years. But that summer is a sketch, a note written in the margin of a book I gave away. I shot rabbits and learned to drive and listened to the same Lou Reed tape on loop in the upper bedroom of my family’s farmhouse. In a closet I found my grandmother’s high school yearbook in which she had crossed out the name of each classmate who had died. I learned there are three kinds of garbage— the kind that goes in the compost heap to feed the garden that grows the peppers and the corn, the kind that goes in the ditch to feed the coyotes who howl at night, the kind that goes in an old oil drum to burn I learned to love the indentation my grandmother’s pencil left in the paper over a name, like the tally marks I carved into a tree for each rabbit I shot. I learned that a stone arrowhead, taken from a newly plowed field that has held it for hundreds of years is still sharp enough to cut my palm. I learned to love the hiss of silence on the tape after a song ended, the sound of time like the susurrus of insects at dusk, like a broom whisking clean the floor of some upper room. I learned how to walk the perimeter of the house and feel in the grass the edges of the old foundation, a version of house that burned, that disappeared, that was rewritten, and I learned how to walk farther out into the pastures, to spot the earthen mounds left behind by people who remain only in names of rivers and country roads. That was one summer. Decades later, I learned that the barn I painted was not even the original, which had been replaced, board by beam, years before. And I learned that barns are red because red paint is cheap because iron is abundant because dying stars sighed iron atoms into space and those atoms gathered here on earth, became the earth, became blood and arrowheads and steel girders holding up towers and the red paint of barns.