Bluish dust followed the machines back and forth across the field. When the operations came close to Jack and Toby Jack watched to see how the pile of grain had grown inside of the dump truck bed. When a mound of grain could be seen above the side rails of the bed of the dump truck the truck left the combine to crisscross the field alone and headed for the silo behind the barn. Jack started the tractor and put it into the proper gear. Toby stood a few feet away but let Jack back the truck to where it needed to be. Jack opened the hatch in the back of the tailgate just an inch, closed the hatch and had the driver move to the side a foot. The second time Jack opened the shoot the grains hit the funnel that would lead the grain to the auger dead center so he opened the gateway a little more. The red grain poured into the lift, was pushed to the top of the silo and fell from the top of the silo onto the freshly cleaned floor. After a few seconds when the driver saw the grain’s flow decrease he raised the truck’s bed slightly and Jack signaled him to back up a few inches. The grain poured into the center of the funnel. As Jack and the truck driver settled into a patient rhythm the truck from town passed between the house and barn with a honk of greeting and the truck returning from town found its place next to the green harvester. The arm-like cylinder resumed shooting grain that fell into the truck’s bed. The day would repeat; one truck dumping as one truck filled, as the level inside the silo increased. The men inside the equipment ate their meals on the run, one hand controlling their movements the other hand holding a sandwich. Toby brought Jack a sandwich and showed his trust in the crew by taking an hour for a quick nap. By the time Toby returned the silo was almost full and the continuous blue pile of straw was all that was left of the wheat crop in the field. A tired Jack was covered with a pale blue dust and tiny leaves of chaff stuck to his white tee shirt but when the last of the grain was dumped and the dust cloud following the train of vehicles returned down the dirt road to the West he felt more like celebrating than resting. There had been no problems, no equipment failures, everything had gone smoothly from start to finish.
“And that’s the way we harvest the grain,” Jack said proudly to Toby.
“And I don’t even need a shower,” said Toby as he brushed a token bit of wheat dust from Jack’s shoulder. “Come on in, let’s get a drink.” Jack looked at the tractor still hooked up to the auger. “That can wait for morning,” Toby said, letting Jack know he had more for him to do on the farm. Jack dusted himself off and followed Toby into the house thinking life as a farmer might not be a bad thing.
It was still mid afternoon when the bike finished with the cow path shortcut and bounced onto the paved road. Jack continued on the main street past the turnoff to his home and put the wide front wheel of his solid steel monstrosity into one of the bike rack slots in front of the Woolworth’s store. A local couple owned the store, it no longer had ties to the Woolworth’s chain, but when Matt and his wife Flo moved into the building the gold letters in the red strip above the door spelled out: “F. W. Woolworth Co.” and since the letters were in good shape they kept the name. Inside the store sold the same merchandise it had for fifty years although the prices had kept up with the times. One full wall was lined with a coffee shop that still supplied hamburger, fries and sodas to the locals. Padded, red, round stools stood side by side next to a plastic covered counter. Two thirds of the stools were empty, a few stools held couples having a late lunch. At the far end of the counter, at the back of the store, a group of high school kids sipped sodas like high school kids had done when the store was new and ever since. Jack made his way toward the back becoming aware too late of the blue dust that still rested on his clothing.
Before he could back out of the store and head home for a shower someone in the group shouted, “Hey, blue boy! I heard you’ve been working for the Uncle but I didn’t think he let people roll around in his field!” The shout came from Ralph, a good friend. Jack had learned never to trust a good friend in situations like this. He found the first vacant stool and crawled onto it pretending nothing had been said. Jack had been so involved in not being noticed he had not noticed he had sat next to Ellen. Not that he didn’t enjoy being near Ellen but that he found it hard to speak when she was this close.
Before he had time to prepare himself Ellen turned on her stool and faced him with her freckled covered face, “You’re a mess,” she stated blinking lids over the bluest eyes and insuring Jack’s response would be lame. He thought of several witty replies but none of them made it out of his mouth so he just sat there. “Have you really been rolling in Uncle’s hay?” she added giving him a second chance at speech.
“I helped Toby,” Jack said, as soon as he said it he knew this would inspire an in-depth conversation that would lead to a lasting relationship with the prettiest girl he knew. Ellen turned back around on her stool and rejoined the conversation already in progress.