Down on the Farm

June 8, 2010

The air was brisk and humid as thin slices of light awakened the day.

“Arlo.”

“Arlo.”

Buried beneath quilts I barely heard my father calling me by the name I would have been baptized with had I been born a boy. Luckily I dodged that bullet.

Squinting out my bedroom window I watched my father herding our milk cows into the barn.  Scrambling into my already soiled work clothes I grudgingly looked for shoes. Uh! I hated wearing shoes. Still do, and many is the time, when I had a real job, my superiors clucked in shock and dismay when I scurried to find my shoes, which were who knows where.

Before I reached the barn to begin milking, my father was busy greasing the plow, fueling the tractor and filling the planter with seed. He left me to milk the cows, separate the milk from cream, feed the calves, pigs and chickens. By the time I turned the cattle back to pasture my father had already plowed and seeded, and had returned to grab breakfast before continuing spring planting.

Spring in North Dakota

After finishing my chores I hurried to wash up, make breakfast for my self and my younger sister, and dash off to the main road to meet the neighbors who would take us to school.  When school was over for the day, my mother would be waiting to take me home. There was more work to be done.

I had to quickly change clothes and bring dad a mid-afternoon snack, and cold water.    As my mother packed his tidbits I cleaned a glass gallon jug, and with as much strength as I could muster,  break up ice cubes into tiny pieces and force as many as I could through the narrow neck of the jug.  To keep the water cool I secured burlap with twine around the jug, and with food in tow I would head out, barefoot of course, along a gravel road before reaching our field.

The warm breeze still had an undertone of mid-April coolness, which prickled my skin.  As I stepped into the freshly turned, dark soil, my heart quickened, I felt alive.   With each step the heat of the earth beneath my feet gave way to a cool, moist, shelter, as I plunged ankle-deep into the dirt.

Whiff’s of the previous crop, now plowed under, still mingled in the air along with spring grasses and the deep, rich, smell, of newly over turned earth.  I breathed deeply and made myself a promise that I would never forget this heavenly fragrance of the earth. To this day, with each passing spring, my heart pines for the aroma of dark, sweet, soil; turned up, waiting to bear seed, and produce wheat.

Dad waved as I approached handing him refreshments.  Above the roar of the tractor he instructed me to start milking and to let mom know he would not be back until dark.

Barn yard chores finished, I helped my mother prepare supper, wash dishes, iron clothes, and butcher a chicken for the following days’ lunch.

Homework had to be completed before I fell asleep.

ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz




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