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A conversation between a midwestern farmer and his wife



Joe Matthews is a second-generation soybean and corn farmer in western Indiana. He and his wife of 32 years, Cecilia (“Cis”), live in the small town of Fairview Park, not far from the Illinois border. They have one son, Joe Jr., who lives in nearby Covington. Joe Sr. voted for Donald Trump in 2016; it was only the second time in his life he voted for a Republican (the first was in 1988, when he cast his ballot for George H.W. Bush). Cecilia has voted Democratic all her life. Both are Christians; Joe favors a more conservative, evangelical flavor, while Cecilia was raised Roman Catholic. The couple have their differences politically. They allowed me to record them one recent evening after Joe returned from the fields and they sat around their kitchen table over coffee.

Joe: Looks like Trump really stepped in it with this Harley Davidson business.

Cecilia: Didn’t he though. First he praise them, then he goes and put them tariffs on stuff and Harley has to fire workers and move to some foreign country. Now he’s threatening them.

Joe: Well, they’re the ones oughtta stay here and keep them workers busy. They don’t hafta go abroad just so’s management can get richer.

Cecilia: I dunno, Joe. Look like Trump want it both ways. Make sense to me if he put them tariffs on European stuff then they would put tariffs on American stuff. Retalia—whatever it called.

Joe: I guess so. But you gotta believe Trump know what he doin’. The boys down at Duffy’s Tavern still back him up.

Cecilia: That true? ‘Cludin’ Big Al?

Joe: Big Al Sisley?

Cecilia: Yup.

Joe: Yeah.

Cecilia: Because his boy, Reed, work down at the big Harley plant in Bloomfield, don’t he?

Joe: Yeah. Big Al say he probably gonna get pink slipped.

Cecilia: How that make Big Al feel? I mean, he was Warren County chairman for Trump, wasn’t he?

Joe: Yeah, he was. He pretty torn up ‘bout Reed, but I don’t think he any less supportive of Trump.

Cecilia: And you–?

Joe: Well, you gotta dance with the one what brung ya. I reckon I’ll stick with him.

Cecilia: We gonna have to get a new combine next Spring, Joe. I heard Lally down at the general store say Trump’s tax on steel gonna push the price up a lot.

Joe: Mebbe so.

Cecilia: And that mess with the Wall. I mean, he promise Mexico pay for it, but nobody believe that no mo’ except fools.

Joe: Well, Trump say there’s ways to make Mexico pay for it.

Cecilia: Such as?

Joe: Don’t know. But Trump a smart guy and like he said, he surround himself with the best people. Gotta believe he know what he doin’.

Cecilia: We’ll see. I gotta say it don’t set right with me the way he separatin’ those kids from their parents and all and puttin’ ‘em in jail.

Joe: They ain’t jail, they nice tents with T.V. an’ games an’ such. Anyhow, they done broke the law. If I go into Spencer’s and pull a gun and rob the damn place they gonna lock me up too.

Cecilia: Joseph, watch your language.

Joe: I’m just sayin’ Trump doin’ what he supposed to be doin’. What’d Obama do about that border? Just left it wide open as a barn door and let them rapists in.

Cecilia: Joe, your own crop supervisor is Mexican. Juan ain’t no rapist.

Joe: I know, but he a good Christian man. Lots of those illegals, you gotta believe they bad people. MS-13 and what have you.

Cecilia: Sometimes I just don’t recognize this country no more. Things so complicated. Why, down at the church bazaar Mrs. Hazelton and Mrs. Rooney ain’t even speakin’. They so upset with each other.

Joe: Over what?

Cecilia: Mrs. Hazelton come in wearin’ her MAGA hat and Mrs. Rooney just about hit the roof. ‘Course, those two been at it for years over abortion. You know, Mabel Rooney dead-set agin it and Grace Hazelton a member of Planned Parenthood. Funny thing, too, because I’ve known Mabel since she moved to Fairview Park, gotta be 40 years ago, and I remember when she was ‘bout 16, 17, that boy Parker Stanfield—remember him? He played football for the Gators and got hisself killed in Iraq—he done knocked her up and Mabel went “on vacation” to Mexico for a couple weeks. We all knew what was up. Now that she’s beyond her child-bearing years, she all huffy ‘bout other girls gettin’ an abortion.

Joe: Well, even your Pope against abortion.

Cecilia: I know, but he a good man, and I sometimes think he not really, in his heart.

Joe: Well, I am. And Trump is. And now he got that chance to pick somebody conservative for the Supreme Court and I hope it’s a damn righteous person who will rule against that damn Roe versus Wade.

Cecilia: Joseph, your language.

Joe: What get me is how these liberals are against anything Trump do just because it’s Trump. How that make sense? They was even against his tax cuts.

Cecilia: How much we gonna save this year on his tax cuts, Joe?

Joe: Well, I ain’t sat down and figgered it out yet. Not much, likely. On the estate tax, Joe Jr.’s gonna save some when he inherit the farm.

Cecilia: At Sunday service Rev. Wooley asked us all to pray for Trump. Say if anybody need prayer these days, it Trump.

Joe: Amen to that. He gonna need plenty of prayers if that, what’s his name, special prosecutor hit him up on charges.

Cecilia: You think that gonna happen?

Joe: Dunno, but you gotta figure if it’s takin’ this long, he must be diggin’ up some pretty serious stuff. I mean, the guy’s reputation gonna be shot if after all this he say Trump didn’t do nothin’.

Cecilia: ‘An what if they say Trump broke all kinda laws? You stick with him?

Joe: Cross that goddamn bridge when I come to it.

Cecilia: Language, Joseph. Well, look to me like he did do somethin’. Colliding with the Russians, like.

Joe: Colluding. But don’t it make sense Trump want America and Russia to be friends? I mean, we been at each other’s throats for so long, we don’t even know anymore why we fightin’. Remember, Cis, Trump did say he gonna drain the swamp.

Cecilia: And he drainin’ it by putting all them billionaires in his cabinet.

Joe: Well, I ain’t gonna hold it against no man just ‘cause he a billionaire.

Cecilia: Nor me. But what Trump doin’ don’t appear to be drainin’ no swamp.

Joe: Guess we just gonna disagree on that, Cis. Anyhow, what you got cookin’ for dinner?

Cecilia: Oh, I made yo’ favorite: You mama’s pot roast with creamed corn. Jes the way you like it.

Joe: Dayum, Cis, you sho do pamper me.

Cecilia: Language, Joseph. You may like Trump, but you don’t hafta talk like him.

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