The chirps in the mist bellowed under the summer’s sunrise. David, looked into the fields that he freshly mowed the day before. He could recall a time that tending to the fields from summers past was not worth his time. He neglected the farm he grew up on. It was filled with goats that from time to time got their heads stuck in the square fencing. It was a time of angst and pain. The angst seemed to be fading. A recent return to a open house for his teen nephew Bradley; opened that wound. It would be hours till the moon would set on this day. It was time to grow.
He stepped off the porch and began to walk to his next chore. The tractor was familiar, but he had forgotten a few things. As he sat there, he looked for the usual shapes. A rabbit for fast. A turtle for slow. They were faded to much and his next thought was YouTube. He typed vigorously, how to start a Massey Ferguson Tractor. The search was too broad. He hopped off the tractor. His tan military boots he bought from goodwill a few years past thud on the gravel. He looked for the model’s name or number. There it was on the side of the signature Massey Ferguson Red hood, 1655. He had it now. The correct google search popped up. He now knew to put it neutral, but still he could not find it. He thought of his father, he needed his help. David walked quickly, his hands grazing the dark brown railing and opened the storm door. It closed with a clack and a click. His father, Bill looked up from under the brim of his baseball hat.
“I can’t start it.”
“Did you put it in the right neutral?”
“There is more than one, he says quizzically.”
Yes, Bill said in low tone that his father usually spoke when David needed to learn something.
He rushed out with the new tidbit of information. Humorously, he annunciated the word information like, Doug from King of Queens. He smirked and climbed onto the tractor grabbing the black worn handle.
To his left, he pulled the lever forward, then backwards into the neutral turtle position. He checked the brake and turned the key. The blurp and rumble of the engine spat out a plume of dark exhaust. He recollected the first time at eight years old he started a lawn mower with his dads help. They still had it in the garage thirty years later. He remembered when summer was youthful and would twist a coke top to see if he won a free soda. He did that one time. The feeling was almost like that.
He had a few tasks before he could put the green t posts for the fencing so the cattle would not get out onto another pallet that was not rotten as his father articulated. He lifted the grader on the back of the tractor so it would not drag. As for the bucket, on his first try it dug in instead of up. He pivoted in his mind as he had a hard time with lefty loosy righty tighty. Bucket, Check! Grader Check! PTO off, Check! Reverse Check!! It was a little awkward as he backed down the steep concrete driveway partially. He knew if he went too far, it would be similar when he rolled down on a skateboard to catch the bus. Careful he thought. Forward ho. He watched his father several years ago detach and attach the bucket. He pulled up next to the forks that he would use to handle the job. He had to be careful. The cable for the wooden telephone pole was a little to close, but the distance was enough. He stepped off the left side, he thought it would be safer than jumping. He always tended to be extra careful. At 12, he first learned to pay attention after he ran over a baby bird with the lawn mower. He liked to work even at a young age. He grabbed the small handy 10 pound sledgehammer behind the seat for the stubborn levers that usually stick. The worn gloves were there as well. They were a little snug as he pushed his hands inside. He was looking for the large levers that were positioned on the inside and opposite sides where the implements attached. He found them. With a little more force than he thought they released and the bucket dropped a few inches to the ground. He stepped onto the tractor and backed up. He was getting the hang of it. He pulled up and lined up the forks. He could not tell if they were in the right spot. He began tractor aerobics, getting on and off to make sure it was lined up right. He was sweating from the heat and humidity. He finally connected the forks without the sledgehammer by brute strength. He put the sledgehammer back and made his way up the hill that led to the dilapidated barn. It had more than 40 years of use. It was not in good shape. He thought to himself if I only had done more.
His partner a thousand miles away; their home in Connecticut, never understood his passion for living in West Virginia. It was wild, wonderful and beautiful. He pulled up and said, “well dag gumit.” It was the wrong side. He just remembered from his previous visit five summers ago they were moved by him and his father to the other side of the barn. He reversed again and made his way through a wide spot in the fence that had been cleared of briers and weeds recently. Finally, he was there, but his luck ran out. There was a blackberry bush and a mess of stinging thistle partially in the way. His Lucky Jeans would not stand a chance. At least he was a sexy farmer, better yet a fashionista. He mustered the gusto and loaded the two pallets on to the forks by hand, instead of using the tractor.
A few minutes later the tractor found its spot and David lowered the forks with a whine from the engine. He had a feeling he was going to hear more whining. The last pallet was going to be used for the most rotten of the pallets. Backing up and pulling in front of the pile of t posts that were wrapped and entwined with morning glory and poison ivy. More rips in the jeans and struggling. Some of them were still tied together by one or two thin white plastic straps. He took a break mid-way; he breathed in real deep. The air was warm and breathed out. He liked to meditate in the back of his mind. The tension in the muscles began to subside. He took a swig of a warm Deer Park water. It was far from refreshing compared to the delicious well water he had home. He surveyed the last pallet he would have to dig up. The task did not take much longer. More than a few hours in he thought to himself, work smarter not harder. It was hard work still, wiping the sweat off his brow. He positioned the tractor to try and pick up the second rotten pallet. The forks dug in deep. The tractor struggled, whining shrilly as he pulled them out of the dark soil. He managed to get the forks aligned correctly. The forks were slightly uneven. From what his neighbor Mr. George as he was known, previously said, “the stabilizing bar had been broken.” Taking a moment, he pressed the brake real hard and flipped the small lever with the orange vinyl tip below the steering wheel to put it in park. No more tractor aerobics he got it right and pulled the remaining rotten wood off by hand. On the home stretch, positioning the tractor and all the t posts he lowered the forks. The forks bounced because he was moving the control lever to fast then to slow to try and correct it. Only a fourth of the t post fell off albeit on the pallet. Success never was sweeter. He felt good and finished the task of laying the t posts. He checked to make sure they were snug and would not fall off in the future when they moved them to build the fence. It was the step in the right direction. His sense of accomplishment was helped when he saw a Facebook post yesterday from his father with a image of a miniature cow with the comment, “It would be a nice start, besides your mom would love it.”
He parked the tractor in the same spot and hopped off. Walking away he turned back to the tractor an had a epiphany, a joke of sorts. He walked into the house sweaty and was debating whether he should. He was confident now that he would. He stood there in the doorway to the bathroom in his navy-blue Kirkland Signature underwear. He yelled down the stairs to his father with a grin, “Hey, Dad can do you me a favor?”
What is it son? Can you take a photo of me in my underwear, a pair of boots and my West Virginia hat. You know the one with the logo of WV.
He could hear his mom who was half deaf from working in a factory say, huh.
Ignoring his mom, David was ecstatic. Father and son with their ear-to-ear smiles, walked to the tractor.
David said in an excited tone, Dan is going to love this.”
He thought to himself that Dan might think it is weird. His father was in the military and besides the briefs looked like shorts. A few taps with his iPhone's camera his father took the photo. Bill handed the phone over and David looked closer at the screen. His face curled and wrinkled as he smirked. He patted the shoulder of his dad. He loved his father. Recently he had a few health scares being diagnosed pre-diabetic. He knew this moment would always be there even when his father passes to greener pastures. He showered and put on a fresh set of clothes.
A little while had past. He walked through the house to the breeze way. There was a assortment of chairs and a old white hanging bench supported by the original chain and somewhat new eye bolts in a beam. The slats are what you would expect in a bench that was about 80 years old. When his grandmother died from diabetes and COPD, his father took that bench. He could still smell the cut grass, as he slowly swayed back and forth. He was waiting to send Daniel the picture. He wanted to write a poem that would explain the feeling his partner did not understand or relate to. He started writing quickly till he was finished. The poem read.
Life with you is love so connected
Our souls are one in so many ways
The heart grows fonder when I am West Virginia wild and wonderful
I learn to appreciate the value of family that I feel you never experienced before
I feel love here in a different light
The peace of mind that I find here is like your love so deeply
When I wake up I think of you, but I also think of the sense of accomplishment I make here
The feeling of freedom we feel when we are together and how we have life by the balls
That sense of freedom will never die but a peace of mind away from everyone is what I want
It’s here for me when I am away
I feel our love in these mountains the fields of dreams that I mow
The sense of silence whispers your love as I sit on this porch thinking of our love
The tepid lips of your kisses stroke my nape as the dew dampened my steps walking through the fields
The presence of love is here
I feel relief and safety here
The safety that you provide me I feel it here
I love you.
I will never leave you nor want to
You are my North Star, my universe you are my everything
Just thought I would write this poem, so you know what this place means to me. I love you forever and always at your side.
The sun was setting. He sent the poem with the photo followed by two emoji, smile and heart.