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.
Byron, Thank you for your insight. I often feel that the stories tell us.
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.