Thursday, June 22, 2006

Whatever Gets You Through the Day

We went to work in the fields just after breakfast. By most people’s standards, we’d already done half a day’s work. Before the sun rose, the three milking machines were cleaned and attached to forty-five cows. If it weren’t for the oppressive summer heat, the low, churning, pumping sound might have lulled me back to sleep. It only took a couple hours, but at 5:30 am everything seems to take much longer.

Breakfast was always the same. Lots of food and noise. Afterwards, the men would drink coffee and talk about politics or the weather. They masterfully pretended the women tidying up around them were invisible. At 15 years old, I didn’t mind being unnoticed in that house.

I must have been daydreaming again. Someone hollered for me from the porch. It was already 8:30. We were getting a late start. I adjusted a pair of bibbed overalls and ran out the door. They wouldn’t hesitate to leave me behind to walk out to the field. That would give them something to laugh and joke about for the next few days.

It was haying time. The work was hard. The tractor moved slowly along the pre-cut rows, pulling a bailing machine behind it. The bailer cut and tied the rectangular bails and fed them to two of us on the wagon. We stacked them neatly until they were well over our heads. Once loaded, one of us would use the old John Deere to haul the wagon back to the barn. A machine with giant hooks lifted eight bails at a time and deposited them in the barn loft above. Later, before dinner and milking, we’d climb into the loft to stack the bails properly.

By the end of the day, my entire body was covered in layers of alfalfa, sweat and dirt. Bits of prickly hay were in my hair, eyes, ears, the crevices of my neck, my clothes, under my nails, absolutely everywhere. There was no escaping it. It itched and caused little scratches all over my body. The only thing that got me through the day, the only thing that made it possible to tolerate that torture, was my secret scheme.

Whenever I thought I was too tired to go on, the heat was getting me down, or the itching would make me go mad, I reminded myself that it would all be better soon. No matter what, I was going to a place where I could forget about the heat, dirt, stench, and noisy, annoying people. And when I reached my destination, when I made my dream a reality, every part of my mind and body would feel right again.

Once we got back to the barn and finished the evening milking, I could grab a quick dinner and make my escape. The light would last til 8:30 or 9, and no one would notice my absence. Even if they did, I could always say I’d gone for a walk. They’d never suspect me of anything questionable. I was a good girl. So, at my first opportunity, I stole away. It was easy once I made it under the electric fence and behind the barn.

I knew the paths into the woods as well as anyone. One went through Jake and Anna’s farm and down to Marshmiller Pond, and the other went back to the Chippewa burial site and around to the stream. If I followed the stream far enough, I’d get to a deep pool where I could finally enjoy the relief I craved.

As I walked along the path toward the stream, my legs seemed to go faster and faster. I forgot that I was dead tired. I almost forgot to stop and pay my respects to the dead Indians. Once or twice I looked behind me, delighted that my plan was working. I laughed out loud with the knowledge that I wasn’t being deterred. Perhaps I’d really get the luxury I’d been dreaming of all day. In minutes, I’d be soaking up to my shoulders in deep, cool spring water. It would be just me, alone amongst the trees, bathing every inch of my weary body in my private sanctuary. It almost seemed too good to be true.


At 6:26 AM, Blogger something from me said...

Some great writing and insights.
I liked the poetry too.
Is the poetry based on a real event?
Your site looks good too.

I write on some similar themes.
I am new to this. So would welcome your comments.


At 8:09 AM, Blogger Dick the Boomer said...

Just when I think I know you, I learn something new. This is incredible. Thank you for sharing, Theresa. Strength and hope...

At 9:20 AM, Blogger theresa said...

SM - Thanks.
The poem below is all true. This story is mostly true ... more accurately, Creative Non-fiction.

Dick - This story is mostly true. I searched for the bathing pool in the woods, but never found it. The lake/pond across the field was either lily pads or rocks and leeches.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could create all the endings to my stories.

At 9:43 AM, Blogger ZooooM said...

My grandpa had a huge farm in PA. I never had to work on it, but through your story I feel like I know a little bit more about it. At the mention of the electric fence, I was immediately taken back to my own childhood where I learned exactly how those things kept livestock "in".

Thank you for your posts.

At 9:49 AM, Blogger Spin_Doc1 said...

I grew up in farm land, but we did not have a farm. I always wanted to go haying with my friends, now that I am little lazier I can't imagine what I was thinking.

At 10:47 AM, Blogger Anonymous Assclown said...

Where's the cow-tipping? There should be cow-tipping somewhere in there.

At 11:10 AM, Blogger JayneSays said...

Wow - I always suspected I couldn't handle farm work and now from your descriptions I know it. Thanks for sharing this insight into your past (and I was sorry to hear the pool wasn't there.)

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Ron Southern said...

If you were a real writer, you wouldn't discuss the background of the story. But it's a damn good story, whatever category it falls into! I rushed toward the ending.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Ron Southern said...

I only worked at haying ONE day with some of my cousins and it nearly killed me. Too much heat, too much strain, for the city boy!

At 12:27 PM, Blogger theresa said...

Zoom, I grabbed hold of an electric fence ONCE. The memory is vivid in my mind. I was 6 or 7 years old. Since there's enough electricity going through those things to deter a half ton creature from wandering away, the same amount of electricity landed my skinny ass on the cold hard ground.

Spin, You should definitely stick with golf and football.

AC, It's not enough that you abuse other people, now you want to hurt animals for your sick amusement.

Jayne, With your allergies and sensitive skin, we'd have to call the paramedics before the first wagon was loaded.

Ron, I always suspected that I wasn't a real writer. Now I have proof.

At 4:03 PM, Blogger Al said...

All I can do is think of T doing a Zsa Zsa .. "new York is where I'd rather stay..."

that talking pig always made me laugh

At 10:01 PM, Blogger theresa said...

Al, I'd definitely prefer lingering in a charming coffee shop in Manhattan to arranging bails in the sweltering, dusty hay loft.


Post a Comment

<< Home