The Akins




The Akins


Marbury, Alabama

Verse 14

The wild gander leads his flock through the cool night, 
Ya-honk he says, and sounds it down to me like an invitation, 
The pert may suppose it meaningless, but I listening close, 
Find its purpose and place up there toward the wintry sky. 
The sharp-hoof’d moose of the north, the cat on the house-sill, the chickadee, the prairie-dog, 
The litter of the grunting sow as they tug at her teats, 
The brood of the turkey-hen and she with her half-spread wings, 
I see in them and myself the same old law. 
The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections, 
They scorn the best I can do to relate them. 
I am enamour’d of growing out-doors, 
Of men that live among cattle or taste of the ocean or woods, 
Of the builders and steerers of ships and the wielders of axes and mauls, and the drivers of horses, 
I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out. 
What is commonest, cheapest, nearest, easiest, is Me, 
Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns, 
Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take me, 
Not asking the sky to come down to my good will, 
Scattering it freely forever. 
Textual Analysis
Whitman, writing about education, once commented that "good brains ancient & modern agree that what is nearest & commonest is always last to be realized." Most of us spend our lives devoted to the distant and the abstract, only to recognize too late that the miracles all around us all the ...
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Textual Analysis


When you live on an 8-acre family farm with more than two hundred animals like the Akins do, everybody has a job.

Fayth, the Akins' oldest daughter, was 18 when we shot the video. Now she's almost 21, in the Army, stationed at Fort Bragg, working as a human resource clerk.

In high school, Fayth had a packed schedule: school, ROTC, soccer practice, homework, then taking care of the animals. And she had to get her jobs at home done before she could go out on the weekends, too. At one point, she told her parents, Bill and Susan Akins, she was done.

"I quit on them," Fayth says. "I went two or three weeks not taking care of the animals."

Her parents said okay. Fayth could give up her farm duties, but she also had to give up driving -- that was the deal.

A few weeks went by, and Fayth came back to her parents. "Okay I messed up," she told them. "Y'all are teaching us."

At that time, maybe it had to do with getting driving privileges back, but now, she sees the value in the hard work on the farm.

"It was a really great experience that I had," Fayth says. "It taught you responsibility."

Fayth's younger brother Nick, now 19, also has joined the Army. He left for basic training in Fort Jackson, SC, this past June. All his work, growing up on the farm, turned out to benefit him, too.

"My dad and I were unloading three tons of feed every month," he says.

Fayth confirms this. "He really was! Every time we would get feed, he would take the barrel out of the truck and put two 50-pound bags on each shoulder."

And basic training compared to that?

"I thought it was easy," Nick says.

Now he's in advanced individual training in Ft. Lee, Virginia, training to be a wheeled vehicle mechanic.

Amber, 13, has taken up many of the chores since Fayth and Nick have left. She takes care of the chickens (more than 200). She takes care of the rabbits. She collects eggs, resulting in her least favorite task.

"Washing the eggs," Amber says. "It's boring."

"And sometimes they're covered in chicken poop," Fayth adds.

Many 13-year-olds (and adults) might not be too thrilled with this task. But it has its upsides. Amber's not easily grossed out.

"I dissected a bullfrog last year," she says. "I dissected three frogs and a cat."

And she knows what she wants to be when she grows up.

"Forensic coroner!" she says. "Because I get to find out how the person died and it seems fun."

Cassie is 17. She used to be non-verbal and has been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. We were really taken by her reading for this project.

"Cassie's got a lot going on," says her mother Susan. "She finally got where she was talking. She's a really special American kind of girl."

Her job is to fill up the water containers. With 5 cows, 2 donkeys, 3 rabbits, 200 odd chickens, 3 dogs, 2 cats, and 2 fish tanks, that's no small feat.

"I like to fill [the containers] up," Cassie says. "My favorite animal is the rabbits."

Life on the farm does have its hazards as we learned that day of filming.

Fayth says that Cassie was walking one day through the pasture, with her head down, and she ran right into an electric fence, the wire zapping her on her forehead. Her brothers and sisters were trying to keep her from crying, and they ran to get her a popsicle.

"She had a line across her forehead for a good while," Fayth says.

While we were filming we had the electric fence turned off to film safely but, later on in the day, the electricity had been turned back on. I forgot. I can now tell you what 5000-7000 volts feels like running through your body. Fun times. Also, a cow head-butted me. Possibly on purpose.

Either way, it was a good day. Fayth, Nick, Amber and Cassie shared so much for us.

By Jennifer Crandall, as told to writer Liz Hildreth