You Don't Necessarily Reap What You Sow

Submitted into Contest #118 in response to: Set your story during a sudden change of season.... view prompt


American Fiction Fantasy

“Can’t wait to get back into the fields and get my hands dirty in God’s green earth,” farmer Frank Albertson said.

           Every year for the past 15 he had carefully arranged his corn plants in perfectly constructed rows--and carefully irrigated each of his three fields so they would bring him the greatest yield to produce the most profit--and the ideal climate of Caroline County had never failed to work its magic on his crops.

           “It happens every year like clockwork,” Frank proclaimed. “Won’t disappoint this year either. Can’t wait to finish getting the plants in the ground, then harvest my crops and sit back and count the profits in the fall after I get this yellow gold delivered to all the markets across the peninsula with their buyers waiting with open arms.”

            So he got every piece of his machinery in top shape, hired a full crew of extra hands and started out on “the bumper season to end all bumper seasons.”

             The 4:30 am wakeup time six days a week didn’t bother him--he could rest later in the day, or better yet, later in the season, after harvesting nature’s gold and counting the plentiful yield from the gold of mankind.

         Every growing forecast for the last two weeks had substantiated his predictions--no reason to doubt anything this year.

          Frank had lined up everything for the first Saturday of the first week in April and both men and machines were rarin’ to go.

         The rooster crowed its early morning alarm and Frank awoke to the smell of fresh coffee and biscuits in his wife Ida’s  kitchen, already humming with the excitement of the first day of harvest. He finished his hearty breakfast and headed for the back porch door ready for a hard day of work but also looking forward to the pleasant exhaustion in an evening following a true sense of accomplishment.

     Then, just as he headed out the door and slammed it behind him, he looked up to see not rows of yellow and green stalks sprouting from the artist’s palette of the wonderful earth, but an endless sea of red.

      Red--not the promising hue of the spring corn planting--but a weird calendar reversal of the cooler days of Autumn arriving way too soon.

     Nature had played a cruel joke on the weather forecasters and taken a cruel swipe at the livelihoods of the Albertsons and every farm family throughout Caroline County.

     “What can we do Ida?,” Frank asked his wife, “we have bills up the wazoo, extra farm hands I already agreed to pay and Johnnie’s tuition soon due at Delaware State. Do I have to go back to plucking chickens at Perdue for minimum wage?”

     “Somehow we’ll work it out,” Ida replied. “We have had hard times in the past and somehow survived them. Maybe this climate thing just came along temporarily and it’ll reverse itself tomorrow. Forget about doing anything more today. Check all the forecasts and we’ll start over again tomorrow.”

     They went into the house and settled in front of the television, waiting for better news.

      Believing the crazy climate reversal plagued the entire area, the Albertsons listened to every report from Caroline County--nothing optimistic from any of them.

      Frank and Ida went to sleep that night--if you want to call it sleep--for they lay awake for eight hours wondering about the future and praying for a quick turnaround to save their livelihood--and their futures.

          Morning came far too soon, and it brought no better news from the crop forecasts for their area. 

          The forecast for the entire county also provided no more optimism the following dawn than it had the previous evening.

         Suddenly, the jangling of their restless nerves was interrupted by the jarring “ring,” “ring” of Ida’s cell phone as she began talking in animated tones with Carol, her sister-in-law, the wife of Frank’s brother Sam.

     “What the hell does she want?” Frank whispered in a conspiratorial tone in his wife’s ear, “they live in Allegany. Worse corn producer than Caroline in a good year. They lookin’ for another handout? We could barely afford to bail them out in a good year. This year looks like we’ll just scrape by ourselves--without pulling them out of the fire again.”

     “You will never believe it,” Ida shouted, “Allegany’s weather also reversed itself. Their forecasters are saying they will get their first bumper crop in 10 years.”

     With that, Sam grabbed his wife’s cell phone out of her ear and told Ida he had to talk to his brother.

     “Calm down Frank. If everything goes well I will have the best corn crop in a decade. In our lean years you shared your profits with us. If things work out like I think they are going to I will be happy to return the favor. After all, I want that nephew of mine to get his fancy degree from Delaware State so he can show all of us the most modern scientific farming techniques to allow us to put the lean years behind both of us--permanently.”

     Things were a little leaner for the next month than Frank or Lena had predicted before the season, and he didn’t quite cotton to taking “charity” from his younger brother.

     However, just as quickly as the weird early autumn hit Caroline County it turned around in two months and corn-planting-and-growing weather returned--yielding profits greater than anyone had predicted--or expected in light of the “red plague” that had descended on them.

     What’s more--the reversal pattern that had brought record crops to Alleghany remained throughout the season there--bringing glad tidings to both counties and a new harmony to the relationship between two of the hardest working “agronomists” in Maryland--as Johnnie began calling his dad and his new “best buddy” Uncle Sam.

       Agricultural experts throughout the state continued to study the strange phenomena that apparently had turned the natural order of things topsy-turvy in two of the state’s previously most predictable crop-producing regions. Their studies produced little explanation, but the local farmers remained grateful at the final outcome after the bizarre chain of events over the last few months.   

October 31, 2021 19:36

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