The Year The Crops Failed

–Stories From The Dirt Road

Summer came early that year, the thermometer reading past one hundred and it was only late April. The April rain did not come to fill the ponds and creeks with the water needed to irrigate the crops.  The heat was unforgiving and relentless in its quest to scorch the earth and turn the black soil into dry sand.

No one was exempt from the effort to water the crops; all of us taking our turn at the well taking one bucket at a time and walking toward the fields.   Mom cranked the handle drawing water from the down near the bottom of the well then pouring the precious crop saving water into silver galvanized buckets in neat rows around the well. 

It was a silent procession, humorless in the severity of this event, a dark time filled with fear, uncertainty, and desperation.  Daddy was wise in that he had us start at the far end of the field so as the day progressed, we would have a lesser distance to walk.  By the end of the day, we were grey from head to toe except for the hands that carried the buckets.  We endured this procession until the unbearable became bearable and we were no more than machines.

Our feet were swollen and blistered, our hands just as bad and our back and shoulders numb; yet, we would not stop until the sun’s painfully slow descent was complete, the air began to cool, and the last bucket emptied.  We all sat down exhausted, hot, dirty, and hungry.  We had a supper of leftovers, and then we all headed to the creek for a bath.  The well was so low we dared not use water from the well.  We all fell asleep on pallets spread across the front porch because the heat inside was unbearable.

The eastern sky had lines of pink streaking the sky.  Daybreak was near and the rooster crowed from a rail fence near the barn.  The sky was clear with no clouds in sight, and we all knew it would be another hot rainless day.  We could smell bacon cooking and knew we would have crispy bacon and eggs on biscuits with maple syrup and fresh milk.  Daddy had gotten up while it was still dark filling the buckets with water.

The wind was blowing dry dust across the fields making little dust storms.  During the night daddy had made a sled of two by fours and old barn planks and we started loading the full buckets onboard.  We could take eight buckets in one trip by pulling with a harness fashioned from rope.  It was still painfully brutal work, but it only took half as long with daddy and me pulling the sled, the sisters loading the buckets, and mom pulling water from the well.  The day went much better, but I could still see the worry on daddy’s face.  We needed a good yield that year. 

Sadly, this would turn out to, be our last harvest on the farm and all our lives would be different, changed forever.  I would always remember my time on the farm as the time that molded who I became later in my life.


Larry Tyler
Larry Tyler
Awaken the possibilities … then unleash them. After 55 years of successful retail management, I have returned to my passion of writing. I write Poetry, Storytelling, and Short Stories. As a child, I grew up on front porch storytelling. I would sit and listen to my Dad and his brothers tell these great stories that were captivating, and I always wanted to hear more. I wanted to experience the things they talked about. I started writing at a young age and reading everything I could get my hands on. At twelve years old I started a storytelling group and several of my friends became writers or poets. At 16 I hopped box cars and worked the tobacco fields, orange groves, picked cotton, and spent many nights around a campfire listing to life stories. Someone once asked me why I wrote. It consumes an amazing amount of time and I assure you it is not going to make me rich. I write so that my children can touch and feel my words telling of the ones that came before us and the stories they told me. These are the chronicles of our family and even though they come from my childhood memories and are deeply rooted in a child’s remembrance at least they may feel what it was like in the time before them and cherish the things the elders left behind. I am a Columnist & Featured Contributor, BIZCATALYST360 and I have The Writers Café, a group on LinkedIn that features Poets, Writers, Artists, Photographers, and Musicians . On Facebook I have two groups and one page; Dirt Road Storytelling, From Abandoned To Rescue Dogs And Cats, and About Life, Love And Living. As writers, it is true that we honestly do not know what we hold within us until we unleash it. When our words inspire others only then will inspiration return to the writer. I will spend my twilight years in search of the next story, the next poem, and the next image. I will take the time to enjoy my Wife, our Dogs, and Cats, and our amazing new home and I will always find the time to walk down a dirt road I truly hope is that I never have to read another book on Leadership, be on a conference call or see another plan o gram as these were the tool for what I did in life and not about who I am.

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  1. Great stuff, Larry, here’s a reflection: I misread ‘…the ones that came before us, and the stories they told me…’ The way I read that fragment was ‘…the stories that told me…’ In other words, I realized, (or my writer’s brain did), that we don’t tell stories; they tell us.
    Thanks for sharing.