The dark blue stocks leave only enough room for the small house and large barn. I walk though the barn just to see how I am going to spend my day. I’ll leave the final decision to Toby but I already know my fate. The barn makes my uncle’s place look like a plastic Monopoly house. Weather checked planks a full one-inch thick and twelve inches wide fill the ten-foot spaces between at least a hundred twelve-inch square posts driven into the ground to form the four widely spaced walls. High overhead corrugated sheets of tin provide a covering for the thousands of bales of straw and tons of grain the will soon be stored here. Tiny beams of bright light shine through holes in the tin providing the only light once the huge doors are closed. I leave the doors open for now and count the beams of light coming through the roof, as they will provide my most exciting work. Toby is not in the barn. I expect him to be inspecting one of the massive pumps that provide water for the wheat. After adjusting to the shade of the barn the light outside is blinding for a few seconds. I keep my eyes half closed and look away from the sun into the waves of blue with just a hint of red across the top, like the ocean with red caps instead of white. Shoulder wide paths lead to each of the four pumps that supply the extended life wheat needs to mature. Grass grows naturally here but only in the fall and early spring. When temperatures reach a hundred degrees anything without an unnatural water source turns brown way before the first day of summer. I choose the first path and let my arms brush the wheat on each side. A head of wheat breaks off in my hand without my having to think. Uncle’s wheat does that to people who have eaten it before. I run the head between my fingers being careful not to lose any kernels and munch them one at a time. The bright red bits are like candy coated nuts made from the very best candy and the very best nuts. The first massive, pill shaped, water pump sits alone in its corner of the field but it shows signs of new grease and fresh paint. I choose the path that leads directly to the next pump and start work on a new head of wheat.
“Uncle!” I shout to the little man with white hair scraping loose paint from the second of the four pumps that supply ground water to the thousands of acres. He looks up from his work and waves a putty knife at me, chips of dark green paint provide highlights in his full beard but his unkempt beard and thick mustache can’t hide his almost permanent grin. His stick figure and five foot four height disappear behind the round ball of white fur he uses for a head. His sky blue eyes dart back and forth with life.
“Jack, I was just thinking this would be a fine day to put you to some worthy occupation,” he puts down the putty knife and uses a hand shake to pull me close enough for a bear hug. I feel like a giant next to him even though I’m just a kid.
“Mom reminded me,” I answer, trying to be honest about my motivation.
“Well, thank God for mothers then”, he starts walking down the shoulder wide path leading directly to the barn and I half run to keep up with his energized short legs. “Let me get you started on the barn and then I’ll get back to weatherizing these pumps,” he says over his shoulder.