So it Was
July 17, 2012 § 10 Comments
Every week or so, Penny and I take the boys on separate adventures. Given the amount of time they spend together, and given that both of them are just as rowdy and rambunctious as young boys should be, and perhaps even more so (never mind strong-willed, hot-tempered, and generally feral), it feels imperative that we occasionally pull them apart for a few hours, lest they thrash each other right into the emergency room. I exaggerate, of course, but not by terribly much.
We alloted this past Saturday morning for just such adventures. The rules of engagement are simple: the boys alternate between us from week-to-week, and can choose what they each want to do, so long as it doesn’t cost anything, and doesn’t require much vehicle travel. Generally, we stick around the homeplace; fishing is a popular option, as are mushrooming and the construction of catapults from scrap materials on hand.
This week, Fin wanted to go squirrel hunting, as he’d recently made what he deemed a decent squirrel potpie (actually, it was chipmunk, but truth is, there’s precious little difference between squirrel and chipmunk. They’re both disgusting) and was keen to replicate his success. So he loaded the .22, and he and Penny set off for the woods to stalk wild game.
Rye was having trouble deciding what to do. I offered fishing, romping through the woods, tractor driving instruction, and helping Melvin, our 65-year old dairy farming neighbor, load square bales into his barn. I’d seen Melvin baling at nearly 9 the evening before, and knew the hay would still be sitting in his wagon, which was fine so long as the weather held. But showers were forecast for the afternoon, and if that hay didn’t get under cover, it’d be ruined. It’s not that Melvin couldn’t've put the hay in the barn by himself, but if ever there is a task where the phrase “many hands make light work” rings true, it’s loading square bales.
I was a bit surprised when Rye chose the lattermost of these options. First of all, at 7:30 a.m., it was already wicked hot and humid, and would be more so in the loft of Melvin’s old barn. Second, he freakin’ loves driving the tractor – what boy doesn’t? Third, the bales weighed somewhere in the range of 50 to 60-pounds; Rye weighs somewhere in the range of 50 to 60-pounds. You do the math.
In any event, we puttered down the hill to find Melvin, which wasn’t that hard, considering he was where he is every single morning of every single day of every single year at 7:30 a.m. Which is to say, he was milking. “Melvin, we came to unload the wagon,” I said. He looked at me, then at Rye, and almost – but not quite – missed a beat. Within a half-dozen minutes, we had the wagon positioned at the bottom of the hay elevator, and Rye had climbed the sketchy wooden ladder with the missing rung into the loft. It was determined that I would load the elevator from the wagon, and Rye would pile bales in the barn. To be honest, I wasn’t sure he’d be able to do it, and I don’t think Melvin was either. But there was nothing to be gained by not trying, and so Melvin returned to his cows, and I started sending bales up to Rye along the clattering elevator.
Within an hour, we had most of the bales unloaded, and Melvin had finished milking, and he came out and we all stacked them neatly along the back gable wall of his hay loft. In the vast, open space of the barn they looked almost inconsequential, and I knew it was maybe three days worth of feed for his small herd. Three days out of the 200 or so days they’d need to be fed hay over the year, and for a moment I thought about all of the essential work that happens that most of us never see, that goes unheralded and unnoticed. Unappreciated.
That night, Rye showed me his hands, and the blisters that had already formed and burst. Little flaps of skin hung ragged from his small palms.
“That was fun,” he said.
And so it was.