When the dust settles chapter 1
Every morning starts the same after personal hygiene and dressing I grab a cup of coffee run out the door. I don’t commute to work I live it every day. In the summer the heat and dust can be so overwhelming it zaps your energy if you are not used to it. Winter, you fight the ice and cold keeping your fingers and toes warm staving off frostbite.
Today I need to get the wheat harvested then go back and bail the straw for fresh bedding needed for the livestock. I chose this over cubicles any day. My father and his father gave their lives for this farm. Henry and I married in the barn. Today I will work with the crew to harvest the grain and then later Henry and I will bail the straw, I drive the tractor pulling the bailer behind as Henry lifts the bails stacking them onto the trailer. It will take us at least 5 hours.
By the time the wheat was harvested it was well into the afternoon we did not stop for lunch until 3 pm. Henry and I sat under a large oak tree eating sandwiches, potato salad and drinking cold ice tea. My throat was so raw and dry I winced when the first gulp went down. I sometimes think I am too old for this at 50 but there is no retirement plan for farmers we just keep farming till we are called to the field in the sky.
Henry reached for my dirty dry cracked hand and gave it a kiss: “Monica you are the best wife and partner a man could have always worked alongside me but you know you do not have to try and keep up with the men. I would not have a problem with you taking the afternoons off to do house chores, prepare meals and such we have plenty of help here on the farm.”
I looked at Henry and said: “I would feel guilty taking it easy while you are out here busting your britches.”
He laughed and said: “Women were not built for this kind of work I don’t care what anyone says besides I miss how your mom used to have a hot meal ready at the end of my day. That gave me something to look forward too and such pleasure with every morsel shoved in my mouth.”
I know Henry isn’t a chauvinist and he did have a point my entire body right down to the torn cuticle on my left-hand hurts. I looked at Henry and said: “I don’t want to let you down. I want to do my share.”
He gave me a long gentle kiss and said: “It isn’t possible for you to let me down, in fact, I would spend less time worrying about you. Charlie from town needs the work he will be here to run the tractor while I stack the bales. Go, take a cold shower and whatever you need to get done in the house instead of staying up past midnight to finish the laundry.”
My heart ached and I was relieved at the same time. After we finished our lunch I walked toward the house and Henry walked toward the tractor where Charlie was waiting. I heard the engine of the tractor start up as well as the bailer rotation starting its complaint as Henry gave it a hard know with a hammer before it turned over. The darn thing needs a good oiling neither of us has had the time.
I took a shower washing my hair, as I wrapped my hair in a towel I looked in the mirror. My face has more wrinkles than my neighbor who stays out of the sun. My eyes have a tired hardness to them instead of feminine softness. I wonder how Henry can still consider me desirable but he really does. After towel drying my hair and body, I changed into some clean shorts and T-shirt. I decided to start the laundry and just before I grabbed the vacuum I decided to bake cookies. In between batches I spun the vacuum in different rooms and switched out loads of laundry. I hung the laundry on the line, came back in finished the floors and started on biscuits to go with the roast I had planned for dinner. It was after 7 before I heard all the farm equipment go silent. Henry came up the steps stomping the dust off his feet, slapping his hat against his jeans. He sat on a chair and kicked off his boots. I took him out a cold beer and sat down next to him to enjoy one of my own.
He looked at me and said: “Now this is what I need more than you as one of the hands. There is nothing more for a man than a wife with her hair down sitting next to him with a beer.” He reached over and said Cheers; we clicked our bottles of beer together in a celebratory toast.