A place for thought.

Leave a comment

Wheat #29

“It’s a date,” Ellen took her eyes off the road and smiled at him. He noticed a patch of freckles on her nose that looked like the Big Dipper. “I wanted to get there early too.

School, even with the fancy name of college, was still school. Ellen attended the four-year university while Jack attended the two-year community college but being freshmen their classes were almost identical. The first week left them both smothered in pages to read and with a long list of papers that would be due. On the rides to and from Bakersfield Ellen sat in the middle of the pick-up’s bench seat and Jack found the power steering to only require one of his arms, the other rested on the back of the seat behind Ellen. Eating may have offered the principal, although unnoticed at first, change. Breakfast, in their individual homes remained as it had always been but lunch had to be gleaned from the small shops surrounding the two campuses and they were always hungry for a snack on the drive home, which had the effect of making dinner a smaller meal. Overall, for the first time in their lives, they consumed less of the red grain. Wednesday was the day their weekend supply of the grain that grew on the blue stock started to deplete. Thursday would be the day they would debate any topic that came up on the way home and Fridays they sat in silence eager for the weekend. Being home filled them with feelings of security and confidence, homework was completed, plans were made; even with Jack working for The Uncle on Saturdays Jack and Ellen spent more time together on the weekends and enjoyed that time more. They had both been raised with the red grain as a normal everyday part of their lives. The wheat was commonplace “a good red bread” was something you said to your host when finishing a Sunday meal, but it meant nothing more than “thank you for the meal”.

Driving home after just over three weeks of class the pick-up was silent after a heated discussion over nothing at all when Jack pulled the pick-up over and shut off the engine.

“What now!” Ellen asked, about ready to give up on this guy.

“I know what the problem is!” Jack was all smiles and that confused Ellen.

“It was a stupid thing to say in the first place,” Ellen said trying to end the debate.

“No, not that. You’re right though. It’s the red wheat.” He sat back smugly knowing he had solved a major problem in their relationship.

“I going to need more words,” Ellen said hoping this was not the beginning of another disagreement.

“We are eating less of the wheat during the week and the effects start to wear off by mid week. That’s why we feel so uncomfortable and everything seems wrong.” Jack paused and waited for her to process this information.

She sat for a full minute adding things together and placing them into place using this new information and then agreed.

“So are we like drug addicts?” she asked.

“We must be. But everything effects everything, I mean when I eat a Snickers bar it kind of lights up my brain – it doesn’t just taste good, it feels good. That’s like a drug.”

“So what do we do about it?” she asked.

“Pack a good lunch that includes a wheat filled afternoon snack.”

“Simple as that? We find out we’re addicted to a drug and we just keep taking it?” Ellen was having a little more trouble with this than Jack.

“What’s wrong with it? I doesn’t make us mean when we don’t eat it. We don’t get sick, do we?”

Ellen went into thought mode again for a few seconds, “I thought we were better than the other people. We were the good secure country people, they were the high strung city folks.” She looked down at her hands like they had failed her. “We eat red wheat, they don’t – that’s what makes us hard working, even tempered, confident people. Wheat.”

Jack started the pick-up’s engine and pulled back onto the two-lane road. “We have goals and beliefs too, it’s not all the wheat.” They sat in a thoughtful silence for the rest of the drive home. In their own homes they both toasted a slice of red bread and thought some more about what they had been born into while the grain found it’s way into their blood streams and throughout their bodies.

Leave a comment

Wheat #28

A shiny, red, short bed Toyota pick-up truck pulled to a stop in front of the old aluminum sided Woolworth building. The tires stayed a good twelve inches from the high curb and the engine was allowed to return to a proper idle before the engine was shut off, the brake set, and the window rolled up. Jack slid off the like- new, gray mouse fur, high back seat, and closed the driver side door with a solid ker-thunk. He brushed the wrinkles out of his blue jeans and checked his teeth for defects in the oversized square back-up mirror screwed to the door. Standing a bit taller than he ever had when leaving the old brush painted red bike behind he pushed open the slightly green tinted front doors and walked toward the back of the store. The gang had pushed a couple of tables together and had at least three conversations going at once. leftover burgers and fries sat in plastic baskets in the middle of the table. A drink glass with a straw sat in front of each of seven of Jack’s friends. An empty chair just happened to be next to where Ellen sat. Jack sat down quietly and pretended he had been there all along.

Ellen must have felt the air move or heard a squeak from his chair because she stopped talking and turned toward him in her chair. “You,” she said, just slightly startled.

“Me,” Jack returned.

“I thought you were plowing up the wheat stubble.”

“Toby had pity on me,” he said while his hand found hers and gave it a little tug. “I want to show you something.” Ellen followed his lead leaving the group behind with out explanation.

“It’s beautiful,” Ellen said with excitement for an old pick-up only a farm girl could have.

“It’s nothing fancy,” Jack said trying to hide some of his pride. “It’s in good shape. Not many miles on her, hardly any at all for a Toyota. Take a ride?” he walked her to the passenger door and pulled on the handle.

“Can I drive it?” Ellen asked just to test how much he liked her.

Jack didn’t skip a beat but reached into his pocket and handed her the keys just like it wasn’t the last thing he wanted to do. He had pictured her in the center of the bench seat leaning up against him making the automatic transmission a good idea but instead he rolled down the passenger window and hung one arm over the side of the door and tried to look like he hadn’t a concern in the world. The rear tires made a little chirp as Ellen pulled onto Main Street and headed toward the highway.

“This is nice,” Ellen said. “Take me to school Monday.”

“Sure,” Jack said thinking having a pickup wasn’t a bad thing at all. “I have to leave early. I still have some enrolling to do before class.”

“It’s a date,” Ellen took her eyes off the road and smiled at him. “I wanted to get there early too.

Leave a comment

Wheat #27

“Good kid, I think you’ve chosen wisely,” Toby said to himself as the old truck rattled its way back home.

“Hey kid! Get out of that bed,” Jack’s mother pushed on his feet and pulled on his big toe.

“Sleep,” Jack answered from deep within his pillow.

“It’s ten, your father is almost ready to take you into Bakersfield.” Jack rolled over in the bed keeping the pillow over his face not ready to see his mother’s perky morning face. She gave him one final shake and left him alone to deal with the morning. Jack sat up slowly, slid his feet over the edge of the bed and looked down at the floor next to his bed. His clothes lay in a pile. He had slept without taking a shower. His sheets would need to be washed. He notice a slip of paper peeking out of the top of his shirt pocket and bent down to see what it was. The check Toby had given him was a full third more than he had expected. The quality of the car he would drive to and from school just took a leap toward decent. Jack, inspired, hurried through his shower, got dressed and dumped his bed sheets where he knew his mother would find them in the utility room next to the washer.

“Ready,” he said to his father who was sitting on the sofa hiding behind the morning paper.

“Ten minutes,” his father said without putting down the paper but taking a sip from his coffee cup.

“Look at this,” Jack dropped the check over the top edge of the newspaper.

First a grunt and then the paper lowered. Jack’s father picked up the check and looked it over. “Uncle’s a decent guy. How many hours did you work?”

“Not that many. I think he padded it a bit,” Jack took the check back and pushed it into his shirt pocket. “We can look at that Midget.”

“You’ll wish you had a real car when winter gets here,” Jack’s dad paused and then added, “but it’s your money. Sure we can look, but dependability is still the most important factor, right?”

“Right,” Jack could see Ellen’s red hair flying in the wind as the Midget hung to the curves in the road, the top down and the engine winding out between shifts. “It’s got to be dependable.”

Leave a comment

Wheat #26

For the next two weeks Jack’s life became bouncing across the blue stubble hanging onto the tractor’s seat, eating in a hurry at home or in the field and sleeping like a dead man. The only moments of note were when something fell off the tractor or plough and needed repair. Toby’s little wire feed welder used half a tank of gas during those two weeks and Jack got pretty good at some basic welding techniques. Jack’s friends made plans for the first days of school and enjoyed their last days of freedom but as every hour passed Jack computed the money that would be added to his car fund and how far away he was getting from having to drive a nineteen ninety one Ford pick up truck. Everyday the field became less blue and more brown. Jack’s pores filled with the brown dirt that held the secret of the blue stocks and red grain. He could feel himself becoming healthier and stronger as he spent long days immersed in the unique square of land.

“Just grind a little more of that rust from the edges and I think it will be ready to weld,” Toby said pointing to a spot Jack had missed. Jack moved the grinder to the spot and cleaned the rust off the metal.

“I’m going to miss this,” Jack said giving Toby’s field a general wave.

“Like I said every Saturday I’ll have something for you to do. And all the vacations you want to fill,” Toby added with a grin.

“There is something about not only being on this land everyday but being covered with it,” Jack blew some of the dust off his arm as a visual aid.

“I suppose we are the only two people on earth who know that feeling,” said Toby sitting down on the ground with his back against one of the tractor’s rear tires. Jack clamped the two broken pieces of metal together and prepared to start up the welder.

“It’s a combination of the hard work, your company, and whatever it is that this dirt does; but I’ve enjoyed this time I’ve spent on your land just about as much as anything I’ve ever done.”

“So you haven’t kissed Ellen yet?” Toby said with a laugh.

“Haven’t had time, but it’s gonna happen,” Jack said with a confidence that made Toby believe him. Jack’s eyes went kind of spacey, “She’s just about the prettiest thing.”

“Well, stop by the house on your way out tonight. I want you to have at least one Saturday off before you start school next week. I can finish up whatever is left.” Jack finished the welds and plowed the field until he could no longer see and then pushed into the night following the dim light the tractor’s headlights produced for an hour. It was ten thirty and dark night before he gave up the thought of finishing his task and headed the little tractor toward the barn.

Leave a comment

Wheat #25

In all of The Village there was one vehicle for sale. A nineteen ninety-one half ton pick-up sat two blocks away from Jack’s house on the brown grass of a front yard. It had been for sale for a month or more. The price was well within Jack’s meager budget. The truck’s three hundred cubic inch straight six-cylinder engine ran fine. The bed of the truck was rusted through.   The clear coat had all but flaked away leaving behind a brown finish that looked more like a primer coat than the high gloss paint that had once been displayed. Jack had seen the old pick-up around town his whole life it had not been mistreated. Jack and his father had taken the pick-up truck for a test drive. They had sat on top of the holes in the worn seats. The transmission shifted at the proper times. The blinkers worked. The air conditioner blew fresh, hot air and the radio in the dash of the old truck was capable of producing a high volume of static. All in all it was a good, sturdy, dependable means of transportation – the pick-up version of Jack’s red bike. Bakersfield, the town thirty miles from The Village, had hundreds of cars for sale, thousands of cars; Jack had a list of fifteen cars that sounded like they would meet his needs, be in his budget, and perhaps not make him the butt of all his friends’ jokes. After the newness wore off, after he had ploughed back and forth across Toby’s field for two hours or more Jack’s thoughts turned to which of the fifteen cars would be most likely to be accepted by Ellen as a proper means to get to school and back. He just thought about how pretty Ellen is for a while as he tried to keep the little tractor going fast enough to stay ahead of the dust he was creating. He went over each of the classes he was signed up for while wiping away sweat caused by the one hundred degree plus day. Before dusk and before the field was completely ploughed he ran out of things to think about and just mindlessly followed the front wheels of the tractor back and forth across the field. As the sun set Jack parked the tractor with the plow still connected in its place next to the barn, let the diesel motor idle down and then pulled the knob that shut off the fuel. The first silence he had heard since lunch rang in his ears. By the time his old bicycle hit the oak tree in his front yard Jack was well on his way to a hot shower and a long rest that would last until time to head back to Uncle’s farm.

Leave a comment

Wheat #24

A white pick-up truck with diesel tanks and tools followed by a red bailer followed by a red machine that would pick up the bails circled in front of the barn in a cloud of brown dust. Toby spoke to the man driving the pick-up and the driver waved his hand at the red machines. The Bailer started down the rows of cut straw bailing them into cubes followed closely by the machine that picked up the bails and stacked them on its back. Jack was stationed near the barn. He would be in charge of backing the loaded hay into the barn and straightening up any out of place bales. Toby made sure the man running the bailer had his questions answered and then went inside the house for his afternoon nap. It wasn’t long before the barn smelled of fresh blue hay and although ninety percent of the project required nothing physical Jack was covered in sweat with the process of rearranged misplaced bales in the tin roof heated barn. Brushing the back of his hand across his forehead pushed the blue dust into his pores but with or without the blue dust it was good work. Seeing the bales reach the top of the barn and the barn start to fill brought a feeling of accomplishment and worth and while this was encouraged by the dust from the blue wheat stocks the sense of well being was not a product of the wheat but produced by the work itself. The truck backed into the barn and pushed another load of straw tight against the already packed load and drove back out to accumulate more. No bales fell and the stack stood straight leaving Jack time to think about Ellen and about going to college in a few weeks. They would both commute back and forth to the town on the other side of the foothills to the west but she would go to the four-year state school and he would attend the two-year community college. A thirty-mile drive they would both need to make. Jack would like for them to make the drive together but the old brush painted red bike wasn’t going to do the trick. Foremost on his list of things to do was finding something dependable to drive that hopefully would be a bit more attractive than his current mode of transportation. He was lost in thought leaning against the bales of hay when he noticed Toby’s round face grinning at him from the barn’s doors.

“Not working you too hard am I?” Toby asked knowing from experience that the work came when a load fell apart and needed to be restacked. As long as things were done carefully and properly the physical labor could be kept to a minimum.

“Trying to complete a decent daydream here,” Jack replied while walking toward the open doors. It felt cooler out in the sun when the slight breeze hit the coating of sweat on Jack.

“Walk with me. Take a break,” Toby said as he led the way out into the field. It took just a couple of minutes of the hot sun to dry Jack out and then he could feel the hundred degree plus arid air of a day that had not yet reached its maximum temperature. The baler had made faster time and the field was half covered with bales of hay as the second New Holland machine sucked the bales up as fast as it could and piled them on the flat bed behind the driver. Toby and Jack walked into the part of the field that had had its grass removed and stored. Toby brushed the stubble with one foot like it was a beloved pet who had gone through a hardship.

“Not too many years ago we would burn off this stubble as soon as our neighbors had harvested their crop,” Toby said. “The blue and red wheat always seems to be ready to harvest first.” They crunched across the field just walking, not going anywhere. “Now we need to plough it into the dirt.”

“To keep our air clean,” added Jack enjoying the crunch, crunch their boots made.

“The whole town would party if the wind blew in that direction,” Toby said like he was somewhere faraway.

“I remember one of those parties, lots of barbecues on every street. I was just a little kid but I remember going from street to street sampling all the different foods,” Jack said trying to remember more about that day. “It was smoky! I remember wondering why we were all enjoying the out-of-doors on such a gray day until my mother explained the smoke was coming from your field.”

“I’ve always thought of it as a sad thing to do but, would you like to plough it under?”

Jack nodded, trying not to look too eager, considering how Toby felt about it.

“Okay, that’s the plan,” they turned and walked back toward the barn about the same time as the operator of the balewagon turned it toward the barn. “First thing in the morning you can turn my beautiful blue field brown,” the feeling that Toby was losing a good friend took a little of the fun out of the prospect of getting to plough the whole field but Jack could already picture himself bouncing across the field in the seat of Toby’s small tractor leaving the wheat stubble to rot underground.