My tired eyes open. Mom already told me once to get up, so I figure I better do it before she has to come in a second time. My nine year old self slowly sits up on the edge of bed.
It’s Saturday morning, and the summer sun blares through my east-facing bedroom window like a silent siren. Dust particles dance through the rays of sunlight coming through my bedroom window; it’s old weathered edges sealed and re-sealed over the years with layers of caulking to keep the cold and heat and moisture at bay.
I hear a sprinkler chirping outside; Dad is sure to be out adjusting it or preparing to mow, Mom is sure to be ending some unlucky weed’s life in a flower bed burgeoning with summer color.
Then I hear another noise, a throaty grumble, growing louder. I jump up, throw on some clothes, and race outside. My older sister is already standing at the edge of the thick alfalfa, waiting for the show.
We watch as our landlord’s swather edges the alfalfa field that crawls up to the border of our little country acre. The ground hums under our feet as we watch the swather’s header and reel feed the alfalfa into the cutter. Hay spills from the conditioner in the swather’s wake, leaving behind a neat windrow that will be raked and bailed after it dries.
We’ve seen the swather at work many times, but nonetheless, something captivates us when we get the chance to watch it up close. Not just hear, but feel the roaring vibration, and smell the sweet aroma of the freshly cut hay.
The smell of our childhood.
As the swather passes, we watch the man driving.
We know him, John. He waves, we wave back.
He’s completely alone, a big blue water thermos next to his seat. He toils at his solitary task, hours of work yet to be done, just his thoughts to keep him company on the long road ahead.
We don’t know it at the time, but one day, we’ll both be behind the wheel of a swather. My sister will be in a literal sense, someday farming part time while raising a family.
I never was one for mechanical work. Although I admire it as I grow into adulthood, it never quite clicked for me. Writing becomes my primary pursuit, so I never take the farming path. But, in a way, I end up behind that wheel as well. With my family lineage being comprised largely of farmers, loggers, and truck drivers, all solitary pursuits, I was somewhat preordained to gravitate toward a solitary pursuit myself.
As I sit in my desk chair, alone in my study, I reach for a highball of whiskey and coke, half-empty.
The red summer sun sets behind Rattlesnake outside my west-facing window. A fresh line of caulk around the window keeps the sand and wind at bay.
With only my thoughts to keep me company, I return to the empty page in front of me, waiting to be filled.