“So there’s just the one strip of roof you haven’t checked yet?” Toby asked after we had already discussed my progress. We each held a sandwich made with thick sliced, blood red bread and plenty of turkey and greens. I finished the big bite I had just taken, remembering my father’s advice.
“Yah,” I answered and took another huge bite of my sandwich.
“We should go ahead and map out any spots you missed when we’re done here.”
“I finished chewing and said,” okay.” The best part of the yearly roof maintenance was the checking for missed spots from the inside of the dark barn at midday. Even the smallest pinhole would look like the brightest star in the sky. We took a piece of paper and drew all the rafters and the ridge on it so I could reference where each hole was when I was back on top. We closed the big doors and the inside of the barn became as night. At first I could not even see Toby standing right next to me but as our eyes adjusted we could see good enough to walk around without stumbling. The strip of roof I had not repaired showed nine holes, a couple of them big enough I might be able to stick my little finger though but most small. We walked slowly back and forth and from side to side looking for the smallest pinhole, each time we found one it would be marked on our map. The cool darkness, the patience required, and working side by side with Toby gave the afternoon a faraway feel, like we had left the world behind.
“Only four,” I said with a bit of pride in my thoroughness.
“Only four,” Toby agreed. “Not bad for a kid.” I put the map in my back pocket and headed for the big barn doors planning to finish the last fifteen minutes of my work. “It’s too hot up there. Come back in the morning,” Toby said as the bright light from outside caused us temporary blindness.
“All I’ve got is fifteen minutes worth. I can handle it,” thinking of the bike ride to and from the farm for nothing more than a quick climb up and down the circular steps.
“I’ve got some other things I need some help on,” Toby said with a grin that confirmed the honor he was bestowing on me. I grinned back my acknowledgment of the honor. “Walk with me in the field. I’ll show you how to tell when the perfect time for harvest comes.” We walked and talked for a full hour, examining stocks and leaves and heads of grain as we moved through narrow paths crowded by wheat. Most of the time Toby talked and I listened. But he took the time to answer every question that came to my mind, even the simple things that I should have known already.