Ralph saw the sorry exchange between his friend and he knew how his friend felt about Ellen so he decided to slip into wingman mode, “Hey, Jack,” he said from the other side of the small group. “I hear you’ve been working on the blue ranch quite a bit lately.”
“Harvested today,” Jack answered, knowing this would become a topic of interest and giving Ralph a quick wink in thanks.
Ellen turned back around and asked, “Did Old Ned get some?”
“Sent the first load over just after daybreak,” Jack said suggesting he had given the instruction to the driver to get the wheat to Ned right away.
“Oh, my mom will want a bag,” Ellen looked at Jack differently now that she understood Jack was working hand in hand with the Uncle.
“He should have some sacked up by now,” Jack said. “You want to go see?”
“Oh,” she paused a moment and then made plans of her own. I’ll need to wait until I can bring the car. Twenty-five pounds is heavy,” she gave him her best poor little girl look. She even pushed out her lower lip just a bit, a move that seldom failed her.
“I’ll walk with you and help you carry it home,” Jack’s plan all along. They said goodbye to the group and walked out of the store together, not hand in hand but bumping hands every so often. Jack made sure not to make any kind of eye contact with his old, piece of junk, red bike, it tended to have the opposite effect a fast car would.
“So how long have you been working with Uncle Toby? I thought he did all the work on his farm.” Her blue eyes sparkled as she looked at Jack like he was the only thing that could possible interest her.
“I’ve done some repairs on the barn for a few years now,” Jack said, not being too specific. “This is the first time I’ve helped with the harvest.”
“Are there just mountains of the red grains?”
“Well I spent most of my day dumping truckloads into the silo,” they were already getting close to the side road that led to Old Ned’s little mill.
“Truck loads, that must be hard work,” Ellen said, noticing the blue tint still in Jack hair and on his arms.
“It’s not physically hard, most of the work is done by machines, but there are things to hook-up and the drivers need a little instruction,” Jack hoped this sounded like not just anyone could do it. He was going to watch her eyes to see if she looked impressed but got lost in the freckles across the bridge of her nose. They turned down the road to Old Ned’s mill and could see Ned already had a short line of customers forming inside the single glass door in the front of his one room operation. They found their place at the back of the line. The line moved swiftly, most of the town’s population had accounts with Old Ned and it was just a matter of checking off sacks purchased. The mill was producing sacks at about the same speed they were going out the door. In just a few minutes they were back outside, Jack with a twenty-five pound cloth sack of flour on this shoulder. He tried to make it look as though the weight was nothing at all but considered that if he had brought his bike he could have set the sack on the seat and made this much easier. This was what his dad would call being led astray by the beauty of women.
Ellen lived on the same street as Jack. Her house was North of the main intersection; his was to the South. Both of their families were original settlers of The Village. They talked about school starting back up, about things they wanted to do before it did. Ellen’s mother was all excited, she said she had just run out of the red flour and nothing tasted quite right.
Jack smiled most of the way back to Woolworth’s. He said thanks to Ralph, grabbed his bike, stopped by Ned’s and picked up a sack of flour for his mother. It was much easier to carry on the seat of the bike. He pushed the bike home; still very much in love.