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.