A place for thought.

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Wheat #23

The old, heavy, brush painted, tank of a bike bounced in and out of ruts in the cow wide path following the most direct path to Uncle Toby’s. Jack sat up straight in the oversized seat and kept both hands on the handle bar. He was thinking about the weekend, about sitting next to Ellen in church, about school starting in a few weeks. This morning would be all about hand chopping the wheat.   The bailers would show up this afternoon and he would help some with stacking the bails in the barn but most of that would be done by machine. The sun was already sitting on top of the mountains when he parked the bike next to the house. The barn doors were open and Toby was already inside the barn raking up the last bits of last year’s straw. Jack stood at the open doors watching The Uncle put a hand full of the blue stocks into a wheelbarrow – nothing would be wasted.

Toby noticed Jack at the door and leaned on his rake, “’bout time you showed up,” he said with a grin that announced he was fine with Jack’s time of arrival.

“Us young guys need our beauty sleep,” Jack responded letting Toby know he knew he was kidding.

“Us old guys seem to want to sleep all the time,” said Toby, shaking his head at the shame of getting old. “I remember when I’d work day and night at harvest time.”

“It’s all that blue dust,” Jack offered. “I’m still energized from being covered in the stuff Friday.”

Toby looked at Jack, remembering how things used to be. “You may have something there,” said Toby. “I’m around this stuff so much I forget its effect,” he picked up a few stocks from the wheelbarrow and rubbed them between his fingers. “All my life,” he said quietly, more to himself than to Jack.

“I’d better get started, said Jack.

“I might come out and give you a hand when I’m done here,” stated The Uncle. “Might do me some good to get a good coating of blue dust.”

Jack watched for Toby from time to time while he chopped at the stems of grain. He chopped the stocks close to the ground and then picked up handfuls. He leaned each handful of wheat on the edge of the trailer and gave the heads a glancing blow dumping the grain, chafe and tops of the stocks into the trailer. He threw the stocks onto the nearby piles of straw the combine had left behind. It was slow work but he could look behind him and see progress. Toby found other things to do and never showed up to help. When lunchtime came Jack headed to the farmhouse where a picnic of sandwiches and soup waited on the porch steps. They munched on the blood red bread and watched toward the West for the equipment that would bail up, stack and place the bails of straw in the barn.

Wondering why Toby had never come out to help Jack asked, “Would it be rude of me to ask your age?”

“It’s not rude to ask, but I never answer,” said Toby. Jack accepted the answer; he did not need to know. “I’m one-hundred and thirty-two years old.”

Surprised at being answered and at the answer Jack said, “I thought you never answered.”

“Well, you’re special,” The Uncle said, dead serious. And then he added, “don’t tell anyone,” just as seriously. “It messes with their heads. Everyone knows I’m old but no one is sure just how old.”

“People in The Village do live long lives. But I’ve never heard of anyone living over a hundred ten. Wait, ole lady Sarah was a hundred and fifteen.” Jack paused a minute to let the hundred and thirty-three sink in, “So, it’s because of all the red grain you eat?”

“Old Lady Sarah? That’s nice. What am I, really old Toby?   But the grain surrounds me, I work in it and I consume a lot of it. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been sick.”

Jack notice a cloud of dust about a mile to the West, “here they come,” he said while pointing down the dirt road.

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Just Who Is This God Person Anyway?

A small group of people, say twenty to a hundred thousand, could believe in Jesus. Maybe they just heard a few words He spoke or maybe they followed Him for years, but they knew Him. A larger group heard first hand the things He did and said. This group believed in the people telling them the stories. And then, of course, the Bible, short books written and dispersed, gathered and bound by people we do not know but believed by many to contain truth, believed by some to be completely true. By definition everything after the first small group is idolatry. We can believe, as has been labeled by some, in the Living Word of God. We can believe in a personality that within ourselves we know. And, by faith, we trust and hope that this personality is real, and that this personality is God.

#1. Trust, hope, and believe that there is a knowable right and wrong.

#2. Decide that good is better than evil.

#3. Through Faith know that God is that good.

My religion:

The first salvation is: the potential to do good. This salvation is given to everyone without reason of cost. The second salvation is: good is eternal. Could there be a better gift or more incentive? -david-

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Wheat #22

It was still hot at ten til six but the street was completely shaded by the tall houses and trees. Jack had put on his black leather Sunday shoes with white socks with the faded jeans and blue tee shirt; he felt pretty good about his outfit. It was a short blocks walk to Ellen’s house, it would have been faster and cooler if he had taken the bike but the bike never made a good impression and they would have to walk to Woolworth’s anyway so he had left the bike where it had fallen in the grass. Ellen’s house was a lot like Jack’s with wood siding and six-feet of porch across the front. Jack climbed the steps and prepared to knock on the front door when it opened. Ellen stood in the doorway smiling at him.

“Mom says I should invite you for dinner,’” Jack had eaten with Ellen’s family before; his family and hers went to the same church and had Sunday lunch together every so often.

“I thought we would go to Woolworth’s?” said Jack, wanting to keep the emphasis on this is a date.

“She already set a plate,” Ellen replied, suggesting that once a plate was set it was a final thing. “They said they would give us the whole front room for the movie.” Jack was ready to give in even before she added, “They said they would take a long walk after dinner and give us some space?” Letting him know she had already negotiated the best outcome possible in the dinner debate.

Dinner went well. There were questions about Uncle Toby’s farm that kept Jack talking, everyone in town knew about Toby and the blue wheat but very few had done more than walk by the field and even fewer had talked to Toby much more than to say hi. The questions tapered off. Ellen’s mom was a very good cook and Jack found himself to be very hungry. He had seconds of everything, which inspired Ellen’s mom to heap a double sized piece of hot apple pie with a scoop of ice cream into a bowl for Jack at the end of the meal.

“We’re going for a walk. We might go as far as Uncle’s and take a look at what you raked up, Jack,” Ellen’s mom said letting them know how long her and her husband would be gone. “You’re welcome to come along,” she added knowing Jack and Ellen had other plans. The parents left and the kids had the whole house to themselves. Ellen took Jack to the racks of DVDs hidden behind cabinet doors near the TV and they made comments, good and bad on the hundreds of movies until they settled on an old Star Wars episode neither of them had seen in years. They sat on the sofa close enough to each other to suggest they were a little more than casual friends but not committed to anything close to a relationship. On the walk home Jack felt good about the night and was already planning ways of running into Ellen in the morning.

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Wheat #21

Bright royal blue stocks with baby blue chaff clinging to blood red kernels do not produce super powers. No part of the unique wheat can restore life or keep away all sickness. But livestock that eat the straw grow faster and need less medical care. People who consume the grain improve their overall health so that a person with the grain in their diet is sick less often and a sickness is likely to be less severe. Some say that if your diet is heavy with the grain for a long time you will live longer. But what is noticed when the grain is first eaten is a sense of well-being. A slice of pinkish toast at breakfast can take away those Monday morning blues. A pinkish roll with dinner helps to set aside the cares of the day. When you have had blood red bread, made entirely with the red flour, for several days in a row and then absorbed the dust of the blue stocks into almost every pore the sense of well-being – the overwhelming confidence the special wheat gives – requires some getting use to. Jack stood and pushed down the pedals on the old heavy bicycle, climbing the last hill before The Village. He felt better than he ever had. He looked back on the day of hard work with a sense of accomplishment, a job well done. He looked forward to the hot dusty task of hacking away at the remaining stocks and producing another trailer or two of the grain to be given to the poor. But this evening he had other plans. He slid off the seat and let the bike hit the trunk of the hundred year old oak tree in the center of his front yard. He climbed the steps letting the screen door slam behind him before the bike finished falling and rested on the grass.

Jack hollered to his mother, “taking a shower!” He showered, pulled on a pair of Levis without holes in the knees, and put on his newest blue tee shirt. Feeling clean and ready for anything he sat down on the sofa and scanned through his phone contact list for Ellen’s number.

“What ya doing?” Jack asked as soon as Ellen said hello.

“Who is this?” Ellen asked slowly, like it wouldn’t take much of a wrong answer for her to hang up.

Jack answered fearlessly, “Jack,” and waited for her pleased reply.

Ellen paused a second, like she needed to figure out which Jack it was, “Oh, hi Jack.”

“How about dinner and a movie?” Jack asked, and then added, “burgers at Woolworth’s you can pick the DVD.”

There were another few seconds of silence and then Ellen answered sounding a little unsure, “Okay.”

Jack answered immediately, “Great, see you at six,” and hung up the phone. Jack stretched out on the sofa felling quite proud of himself. He considered ways he might keep himself occupied for the next three hours and a slightly disturbing thought occurred to him.

“Mom!” Jack yelled from his place on the sofa. “Mom, where are you?” he hollered. He was just about to shout once more when she appeared standing near the arm of the sofa. “Oh, there you are.”

“What is it you need, your highness? I have things to do.”

“If you ate a lot of the red flour and got to feeling real sure of yourself how long would that feeling last? Couple of hours?”

“Couple of days, more likely. We’ll probably have to put up with you for a week after all Uncle has fed you.” She walked out of the room and back to her chores.

Jack smiled a contented smile and said, “good,” out loud and to himself.

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Wheat #20

They sat and chewed for a while. Toby knew the questions Jack wanted to ask but wasn’t completely ready to answer them. Jack had a question he wanted to ask but had been raised to believe the question was inappropriate. So they chewed their food in silence.

With just a little juice left in his glass and his sandwich completely gone Jack blurted out his question, “why does it do that?”

Toby understood the question but asked, “What do what?”

“Why does the grain in your field, and only your field, grow blue stocks with red grain?” It took a lot for Jack to get the question out; he had heard Toby reacted badly when people asked it.

Toby didn’t care for the answer so he asked, “what have you heard?”

“Some people say you have a special spray you put on the ground that you will not share, others say it’s a special seed, I’ve even heard you’re from outer space.”

“Which do you think is right?” asked Toby as he finished the last bite of his red bread and chicken sandwich.

Jack grinned and said, “I’m pretty sure you’re from outer space,” but the smile on his face said he didn’t believe that at all.

“Well,” said Toby with a big pause and then a deep breath, “You’re not going to like the answer but I want you to know the truth.” Toby just sat there on the steps looking at Jack like he was the grandkid he had never had.

Jack waited a little longer than the proper time and then said, “Well?”

“I don’t know,” Toby watched the disappointment displayed on Jack’s face. “Sorry, it’s not an answer I like either. If it makes you feel any better it is what my father told me.”

“It can’t be the seed you use, there would be some regular wheat mixed in at the edges of the field and a few of your seeds would jump across to the other fields. There is none, not even one stock.” Toby let Jack think while he finished his juice. Toby had left this question behind a long time ago. “Can’t be something plowed into the soil or sprayed for the same reason; you just couldn’t keep the edges that straight.” Toby leaned back on the steps and enjoyed Jack’s thought process. “Has to be a beam from outer space,” Jack concluded.

“Well, I’ve never seen it,” Toby used the handrail next to the steps to help himself up. “Want to turn over some of that blue hay so it can dry?”

Jack watched the wheels on the hay rake spin. The hay turned its moist, bottom side, toward the sun. Jack tried to find a reason for the blue hay until his head hurt. Finally he surrendered to the unknown and lost himself in thoughtless passes back and forth across the field for the rest of the afternoon.

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Wheat #19

Instead of heading toward the barn for tools and equipment Toby just started walking in the blue stubble left by the combine. The stiff thick grass was dry and crunched beneath their boots with each step. The only sound for miles around was the crunch, crunch, crunch of the old man and young boy.

“You okay with turning this over after lunch?” Toby asked waving at the long row of cut straw they were walking beside.

“Sure,” Jack answered and then decided on a more complete answer, “I never have but I know how.”

“Fine, I’ll keep watch for the first pass of two.” Toby bent down and picked up a few of the blue stems and rubbed them between his fingers. “Feel that,” he said handing the stocks to Jack. Jack assumed his thoughtful face and rubbed the grass as he had watched Toby do. He tried to learn whatever it was Toby meant for him to learn. The grass was dry but still had enough moisture in it to turn his fingers blue. He let the wheat straw fall to the ground but rubbed his fingers together a couple more times holding them up so Toby could see the blue finger tips.

“Well what did you learn?” asked Toby.

“I say we turn it once this afternoon, let it dry for the rest of the weekend and get the balers in after the dew burns off on Monday morning.” Jack said with a grin, repeating a phrase he had heard all his life almost word for word.

Toby laughed out loud hearing the mimic in Jack’s voice. “Your dad may not be a farmer but you’ve stayed pretty close to the land.

The old man and young boy walked to the boarder of the farm where two paths the width of tractor tires had been worn all along the East edge. They approached the dark green water pump that marked the end of the tractor path and the Northeast corner of the farm. Looking straight down the dirt road they could see another green water pump at the far Southeast corner of the square of land. But the view that pointed out the uniqueness of Toby’s land was the view to the West. Looking West the combine had turned as close to the end of Toby’s field as the operator knew how but between Toby’s field and his neighbor’s field a line of blue wheat remained. Sometimes the line of blue wheat with its red grain was only six inches wide, sometimes a foot and sometimes where the turn had not overlapped a curved point of red grain ran into the harvested field four feet or more but what startled the eye was the perfectly straight line of blue topped with red next to a perfectly straight line of his neighbor’s golden grain that still remained un-harvested. The line between the blue and gold couldn’t have been straighter if a string line had been stretched from one corner to the next. It was an impossible thing that obviously existed. They both stared at the North edge of the field as their brains tried to make sense of the information sent from their eyes.   Toby had seen this scene from the time he was a small boy and still had no explanation that would make it an ordinary thing.

Toby broke the silence; “This is your job until it’s time to turn the straw. Get the trailer hooked up to the tractor and cut any grain you see. Most will be along the North and South boundaries but any places the combine missed,” he was so close to the forced acknowledgment of the impossible that his speech was soft, reverent.   “We won’t store it in the silo, it belongs to the poor.” The walk back to the barn felt like coming home from church after a service that left the power of God undeniable.

Cutting the stocks of grain by hand was hard, slow work and the combination of dripping in sweat and hacking away at the wheat left Jack’s areas of exposed flesh a dark blue. His brown skin gave sharp contrast in places washed clean by his perspiration. When lunchtime came the small trailer was filled with the first load of the red grain and Jack let the tractor chug its way back to the barn being careful not to bounce over bumps in the road. Toby let Jack wash himself with the garden hose and brought sandwiches outside where they ate sitting on the front steps of the farmhouse.

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A heavy quiet covered the hillside, even the stars were quiet this night. The roots of the grasses felt their way into the old hard soil careful not to disturb. A bit of space dust lit up the dark sky for just a second and then decided not to intervene and burst into a long trail of flame. The silence continued to rule. The small boy looked out from his place behind the rocks and tall grass. He was overcome with fear. He did not fear the darkness or the quiet. He feared what they suppressed. Clear beads grew on the edges of each blade of grass and slid down until they nestled next to the thin stems. The stars split into all their colors inside the clear beads of moisture and gave the simple grass elegance it had not earned, pastoral grace. The boy child watched the stars swim in their blackness until he earned one of the precious beads, it moved from the corner of his eye to the mound of his cheek and held its ground, a jewel of red and blue and green and purple. He broke the peace with a sniff and once the spell was broken there was nothing to stop the vocalization of his mood, he whimpered and sniffed and snorted. The quiet ran for the next valley embarrassed to have been chased away by such an insignificant thing. The boy dripped the ornaments of water from the tip of his nose into the grass and the grass accepted them as gifts. He continued until the water no longer came and the sounds relaxed. All that was left behind was a gasping for air that he could not control and then even that came to an end. The quiet peaked through the blades at the top of the hill and inspected the valley. The quiet slid back into its place of comfort, pausing for a second near the small boy for one more gasp and when the boy slept the silence relaxed with the night. A cool breeze came down the draw between the hills; not enough to shake the jewels from the blades of grass, not enough to stir the thin brown hair on the head of the boy, felt more as a few less degrees of heat, just a hint of change. Fire appeared on the edge of the highest mountain in the East, a fine line of light marking the peaks and turning the sky from black to dark blue. The boy rolled onto his stomach sticking his nose into he bend of his arm with his forehead resting on his elbow. The damaged grass under his arm released its scent and screamed without hurting the boy or the quiet. And then the sun, no longer content to hide behind the mountains, jumped into the sky and pushed the stars into nothingness in an instant. The cool breeze demanded its place but knew it would lose once more to the ball of fire so far away and it, which once had thoughts of overtaking, became the hunted. The boy squirmed in his sleep. His feet moved in a mock run and his hand pushed an unseen, to anyone but him, assailant.

The squeak of hinges in need of oil, “Timmy!” and then with more respect for the quiet, “timmy?” a girl, still just a child herself but also a mother stood in the gap of the open door. “Timmy, I’m sorry. Come inside and talk with me,” she paused a second and then added, “I love you Timmy.”

The small boy woke in time to hear only the last words. As he stood his mother came to where he was near the rocks and reached out her hand. Timmy placed his tiny hand into hers and let her help him stand. Inside the house she poured him a cup of coffee cooled with an oversized portion of milk. She sipped her black drink and listened, first to the story of his recent dream and later to what had made him afraid. They covered the fear with toast and jelly and smiles.