A place for thought.

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Wheat #31

Ralph had always been a friend. Fifty years before Jack had been born one of the new families built a house on the Next Street, the second street from Main Street, after living and growing old the couple who had built the house died leaving the house to their off-spring. Their off-spring chose not to live in The Village, which put a house on Next Street up for sale, something that rarely happened. One of the very new families purchased the home, moved in, and among other things produced a baby boy and named him Ralph after his grandfather.

When Jack was three years old he stood in his back yard facing the back fence.   A six-foot high wall of red wood planks stood between Jack and the rest of the world. A foot and a half above the ground a two inch by four inch by six foot piece of wood ran parallel to the ground, another two by four ran parallel at four foot off the ground and a final length of wood ran parallel to the ground five and one half feet off the ground. Cemented into the ground every six feet stood a four by four post. Each of the two by fours butted into the posts and were nailed securely. This lumber provided a strong surface for the planks of the fence to be attached to but they also provided a chance for a small boy to see more of his world. Three-year-old Jack tried to pull himself onto the lowest of the two by fours by pulling with his hands on a four by four post and swinging his leg to the two by four but even when the toe of his tennis shoe reached the wooden step he could not pull himself up. Jack pulled his red wagon to the fence and climbed from the wagon to the first two by four he stood holding the second two by four and looking at fence plank an inch from his face. He stood like this for a minute getting his breath and adjusting to the height. His head was above the third two by four but still below the top of the fence. Jack reached upward toward the top edge of the fence plank and was able to curl his little fingers around the top edge of the three quarter inch thick fence plank. He pulled his self up and felt the rough edge of the plank dig into his hands as his feet left the two by four ledge. He dangled in the air as he pulled harder and climbed at the flat fence planks with his tennis shoed feet. Just before his fingers could hold no longer his feet found the second two by four and he was able to stand. His eyes and then his head and shoulders moved above the top edge of the fence and he could look, for the first time, into his neighbor’s yard. Jack stared at a three-year-old boy who had been watching the fence from the other side wondering what all the noise was about. Ralph stared back at a boy’s head standing seven feet tall.

Jack said, “hi, my name is Jack.”

“Hi, Jack,” Ralph said with his eyes wide, “are you a giant?”

“I’m standing on a board,” answered Jack.

“Oh,” said Ralph, a little disappointed.

And from that day on they were best friends. Before they were four years old there was a gate leading from one back yard to the other and their parents went back and forth between yards as often as the boys did.

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Luke 15

“But father,” the older son stood with his feet apart and his hands on his hips, “he smells like a pig.”

His father allowed a slight grin, “he said he’s been sleeping with them,” and then all signs of mirth disappeared, “he coveted the food the pigs were eating.”

“Serves him right! He wasted half your money! No telling what kind of life he led,” the older son showed no sign of accepting his brother back into the family.

His father let his arms hang to his side in defeat, “he too, is my son. I have no choice but to love him.”

“You barbequed a calf. The party still goes on.”

“I would do the same for you.”

“But I have stayed. I’ve worked hard to build up this farm.”

“And everything I have belongs to you,” his father leaned against a fence the oldest son had built and looked across the well-cared-for fields.

“So what do we do with him?” when the oldest son said him it sounded like he was referring to a stinking dead animal on the side of the road.

His father’s eyes sparkled with wetness that would soon drip down his cheeks, “We will give him good ground to work. We will provide tools and help when he needs. He will be my son and your brother once more.”

“It’s not quite fair,” the older brother was starting to understand, “is it?”

“No it’s not fair at all,” his father said with a smile, the kind of smile the older brother only saw when he had accomplished a worthwhile task.

“You think they saved us any of that meat?”

The father put his arm around his oldest son’s shoulders and together they found their way to the party. The oldest son found his brother and pulled him into a two-armed hug. The air pushed out of his brother’s lungs and for a few seconds he wondered if his older brother would let him take another breath.

“It’s good to have you home, brother!” the older brother said giving his younger brother a proper slap on the back.

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Wheat #30

Farming in the winter contains a lot of sitting in coffee shops talking about great past accomplishments but Uncle Toby had taken little time for upkeep and maintenance over the last few years and always had plenty of work set aside for Jack on Saturdays. This morning had been spent hauling all of Toby’s things out of his bedroom, finding places to stack them, and now Jack held a putty knife in

his hand as he searched for small holes and dents to dab a bit of plaster patch into.   Toby sat in a wooden backed chair watching Jack’s every move and looking for places he had missed. He had the chair tilted back resting against a part of wall it was okay to scuff because it was about to get painted anyway.

“So it sounds like you’re going to pass all your classes,” Toby said after listening to Jack’s report on how finals had been.

“Hardest thing so far is deciding which classes to take next semester,” Jack said while he pushed a tiny bit of patch into a pinhole with his thumb. He looked over at Toby and with a grin said, “I have to decide what I want to be when I grow up.”

Toby let his chair’s front legs fall to the floor looking more like a child about to get scolded by his parents than an old man, “Want to be a farmer?”

“Need land for that. Being your farm hand is great for now but not for the rest of my life.”

“What if this land was yours?” Toby said like it was no big deal.

“Great, sign it over,” Jack said wondering where The Uncle was going with this.

“I never had kids, wife’s been gone for thirty years, I’ve out lived all my close relatives, I’d like you to take over in a few years, when I’m too old,” Toby got kind of a far away look in his eyes and added, “If you say you want it I’ll put you in my will,” he looked Jack right in the eyes letting him know he was dead serious.

Jack stopped patching and just stood next to the bedroom wall rubbing the dry patch off his thumb, “I’d say yes, but I’ll need to talk to Ellen first. You sure?”

“Are you two that serious?”

“I’m gonna ask her to marry me before she has too much time to think it through,” Jack said with a nervous laugh.

“Okay, take your time, make sure she wants to be a farmers wife, get a degree in something you like, a farm this size leaves you with a lot of spare time.” It was hard for Jack to keep his mind on painting the bedroom after Toby’s offer. He thought of a thousand ways to present the idea to Ellen.

“Of course you’ll take the farm if he offers it to you,” Jack’s father returned to his chicken and rice assuming the conversation had come to an end.

“Well, he might have other plans, Ebb, not everyone wants to be a farmer, after all”, Jacks mother was always there to defend his rights.

“He wouldn’t be a farmer. He would own a small farm it would take care of all his needs. Uncle’s farm takes care of itself, a few weeks two or three times a year is all it requires, he could do whatever he chooses the rest of the time.” Jack’s father stared at his wife daring her to keep him from his dinner.

Jack broke the silence, “I’ll have to check with Ellen. I can’t make a decision like this without talking to her first.”

“Ellen,” both of Jack’s parents spoke in unison. His mother nodded to his father that he could take over.

“Why in heaven’s name would you need to talk it over with Ellen?” Jack’s father asked while his mother continued to nod in agreement, looking directly at Jack.

“If she’s going to be my wife she…” Jack didn’t have time to complete his sentence before he was hearing a long dissertation on the evils of marrying too young, of why it is important to find the absolute right girl and that four months of dating wasn’t near enough time on which to base such a decision. Jack listened and smiled and nodded but he knew Ellen was the girl he would live the rest of his life with. Dinner was finished long before the conversation ended and then throughout the night as his parents thought of information Jack needed they would break into the television show they were watching, yelling through the restroom door to give him additional information he needed to prevent him from ruining his life.

Even as he relaxed between the covers of his bed his mother gave him one more encouragement to, “think.”

“She is a very nice girl,” Jack’s mother said to her husband as he lay beside her in their bed.

“Of course she’s a nice girl. He couldn’t do better. Her parents are two of our oldest friends.”

“Remember when they were both just learning to walk and we made jokes about how someday they might marry?” Jack’s mother said in a whisper. “He’s just so young.”

“He’ll wait. I’m pretty sure he understood,” Jack’s father assured his wife.

“He’s just a kid.”

“We were just kids.”

The ride into town had been abnormally quiet. Jack was lost in thought and Ellen’s attempts at polite conversation had all failed. The little pick-up hummed around the corners as the two lane road found a path between foothills. A small brown bag containing a muffin for Ellen’s history professor sat on the dash separate from her own lunch which was stashed into her book bag behind her seat.

Jack cleared his throat before he broke the silence, “that extra five muffins a week must cut into your families supply of the red wheat.”

“It’s worth it, history is a much better class if he gets his muffin. He gave us an actual lecture last week and it was slightly interesting,” Ellen waited to hear what had kept Jack quiet.

“What if you could have all the red grain you could ever want,” asked Jack leading up to his bigger question.

“I’m trying to cut back. I want to know what kind of person I am without it,” Ellen said, not giving Jack the answer he had expected, his script would no longer fit the situation. It would need a major rewrite so the trip returned to silent mode and the tires of the small pick-up could once more be heard gripping the corners of the black asphalt strip between the two towns. Jack dropped Ellen off at her school and drove across town to his school thinking about some of the things his parents had said and realizing, for the first time, that they might be right. Maybe he should wait, at least until after finals.