Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day


The rains that played havoc with your plans were due here by dawn
There were no puddles nor drops when the day began
Pure folly to think that the bales of hay would be brought in under dry skies
The farmers plight is to out-maneuver the weather
A moment passes as the east wind blows foul and the deluge commences

One hundred and twenty seven bales would need to be wrapped
All would need to be toted from one hundred acres
Before nine
Coffees were inhaled, rain-slickers applied
Faces lined with defeat head out into the storm
The sun would not rise on this day

Tractored paths give way to muddy ruts as the hay-wagons fall into well worn grooves
More moisture than the ground could absorb the trail now a rushing river
Instructions, directions compete with the sound of rain hitting plastic
Diesel engines strain as they idle, straining louder with each load
Hitching and unhitching wagons opening and closing gates
Hand signals replace the unheard voices that were greeted with shrugs

Seventy-three head of cattle penned in a pasture watch the passing parade
Water may be everywhere but they are cut off from their source
The hours pass, the rains ebb and flow, the temperature rises and falls and rises and falls again
Fences must be mended, vehicles must be towed, empty wagons must be moved
There can be no lunch for the dripping crew until there is first water for the herd

There are no quiet moments, no time for reflection
Eyes strain against the rain, the sodden foot moves gingerly on the clutch
A loss in focus could mean the loss of a digit, a limb or a morning of toil for not with an upended cart
Monet would not paint his grainstack haystacks in this tempest (though he had a penchant for the morn)
A touch of frost was all that he could endure, all that he could immortalize
Brushstrokes of despair, colored gray, paint this pastoral canvas
A watercolor of frantic activity will not subside before the storm passes through

Mocking one and all the winds pick up as the chores wind down
Secure the gates, return the tractors to the barn and shed
Batten down the hatches they say at sea, on land it is lash down the barn doors before they blow
Tired, beaten but not defeated the wet and the weary exchange grins as they head in
The day is done, bales toted and wrapped, fences built and mended, cows free to roam and drink
Laughter fills the farmhouse as lunch delayed is now called supper and the sun breaks over the horizon.


— Mark Butkus