By Tomorrow They’ll Be Gone
June 24, 2014 § 10 Comments
I walked up from Melvin’s an hour or so ago, tired enough that I actually paused to consider my route: Should I got short and steep or long and low? And if the former, along the cow path or straight against the pitch, leaning into the hill as the blood hammered in my veins and the flow of sweat that had just stopped started again, one brined drop at a time.
The cow path seemed a good compromise. Besides, if one can follow a cow path home is not one obliged to do so? Seems to me that choosing otherwise might be considered provocation by whatever gods watch over rusticated footworn fools like myself, so I tripped one heavy boot in front of the other and let the cows lead me home. I don’t need no more trouble. I know when to be good.
I was tired because of haying; over the previous two days, we’d put up nearly 2000 square bales, never mind 34 round bales that needed gathering and transporting and rolling into the high drive of Melvin’s barn. In all, it was maybe 125,000 pounds of hay, give or take a few ounces. And most of it stacked twice, first on the wagon behind the baler, then into the barn nine and ten bales high, so high you have to design ladders into the stack so you can reach the uppermost rows. Not all by ourselves – don’t get me wrong, we’re not heroes, just idiots – but still and all, it’s heavy work, haying. There’s no way around it. Many hands make it less heavy, but it is never light and we are always as ready for it to be over as we were for it to begin. Isn’t that strange? How you can so look forward to something and then so look forward to its end? Sometimes I think what we were looking forward to all along was the end itself and with it the knowing we have another year of feed under tin. We have bought ourselves another year of butter and beef and shit and honesty.
Why do I say honesty? Because putting up 2000 square bales is honest work. Because Melvin putting off his own chores to help us put the last few acres into rounds because the forecast changed and we lost of day of sun is honest. Because us helping Melvin with his bales the next morning because he did chores late the night before because he was helping us with our bales is honest. Because making butter is honest. Because milking on a 20 below morning in January in an unheated pole barn while your cow munches contentedly on the hay you put up six months prior is honest. Most things in this world, you can make ‘em dishonest if you try just a little. These things, you cannot. Or maybe I’m just not smart enough to figure out how.
By the time I’d followed the cow path to where it dumps into Melvin’s big hayfield and by the time I’d walked halfway across that hayfield to where I could see the roof of our house, my sweat had flowed and stopped yet again. Tired. So damn tired. But I could smell that uniquely sweet scent of fresh-baled hay wafting up from our barn. I could look behind me and just see the dark line of the cow path beat into the dirt. I was tired enough that for a second, I questioned if that was where I’d really come from. Looking backwards it seemed illogical, like so many things do. Maybe I should turn back to find proof of my passing. There’d be boot prints in the dust.
But why? That would be stupid. Anyway, by tomorrow they’ll be gone.