Toby stopped long enough to turn around when we reached the barn and by that time I knew where to find all the tools and supplies needed. His round Q-Tip of a head bobbed just above the lawn of wheat as he headed back to his pump and I prepared for the task at hand.
Three feet behind the barn, atop a firm foundation, rows of concrete blocks had been laid into a circle thirty feet across, over ninety feet around. Sixty-eight bricks formed the first circle and made a circle eight inches high. Another round of sixty eight bricks and the circle was sixteen inches tall and so on and so forth until the cylinder rose higher than the highest point of the barn by four feet and received a proper tile roof. This is where the red grain would be stored for the short time it would spend on my uncle’s property. The concrete tube had steel steps bolted to its perimeter. These steps circled the concrete blocks for almost one full turn providing a path to the domed top. A thoughtful engineer had provided a three-foot long alternative route at the top edge of the barn and this short walkway became a flat deck for my tools and tubes of caulk. I stand for a moment and look at the land spreading out thirty feet below me. I stand at the center of a blue square. The square is sharply defined by golden wheat on all four sides. A thin line of brown runs from where I stand to each corner making a huge “X”. I know there are also paths running along the edge of the square but they cannot be seen through the thick blanket of red-topped blue wheat. I close my eyes and picture the bright white lights I had seen from inside the dark barn. I walk carefully, keeping track of where the thick rafters run under the thin tin sheets and making sure to walk only over these beams until I find the first tiny hole. I brush off the dirt surrounding the hole with my wire brush and insert a glob of white caulk. One hole filled, one less bright light inside the dark barn. Being careful never to forget the thirty-foot fall penalty for a missed step I lose myself in the tedious task. As the sun climbs in the almost white blue sky the tin reflects the heat and I leave drops of sweat whenever I lean over to patch a new hole. The water dries quickly leaving a slight discoloration only I will ever see.
“Lunch!” the short, skinny man shouts from next to the small wooden house on the ground. He doesn’t need to ask twice. I leave my tools and caulk marking the next hole and let gravity take me down the steep staircase around the concrete cylinder.
“Come in and wash up, I’ll slice some bread,” Toby enters his house ahead of me and disappears into the kitchen while I enjoy washing roof dust down his bathroom sink with a flood of almost ice cold water. By the time I’ve cleaned, Toby has placed meat, lettuce, and cheese alongside the bright red bread in the center of his round kitchen table. The red bread is scarce this time of year, there is always just enough, and this year’s harvest will be soon. I’ll slice some bread is a common way to welcome a visitor in our valley and it always means bread made with Toby’s wheat. Bread made with ordinary wheat is served often in our valley but never announced as something special.
“How goes the war?” Toby asks, meaning the war on the roof leaks.
“Over half done,” I put together a sandwich and pour myself a glass of clear cold water. “I’ll check for missed spots before I go back up.”
“Stay on the ground with me this afternoon and help with the pumps. It’s too hot on the roof. That work is best left for early morning.” With that said I relax and enjoy the rest of our meal. I wasn’t looking forward to an afternoon of baking in the sun.
The old red bike needs a lot of help climbing out of my Uncle’s blue field. I stand on the pedals and push the high pedal down until the top of the foothill provides rest and then I push up to the top of the next hill.