The Green Fields of Home
by Tony Noland
Water ticked and groaned in the pipes as the center pivot irrigation came to life. Dozens of rainbows flashed over the bean field, dancing in the spray. The sun-shot mist covered the undulating rise of greenery as Plot 621 rose up to meet State Road JJ.
"And what did he say when you laid down the law?"
Tom Wallott didn't respond, but continued leaning on the side of his pickup, watching the rainbows move over the land.
His neighbor, Bill Campbent, snorted. "I thought so. You didn't, did you?"
"You think that second pivot is running a little strong?"
"Don't change the subject, Tom. We both know damn well the pivots are calibrated properly. Why on earth didn't you just spell it out for Tom Jr.? He knows what's at stake, he'd do the right thing."
Tom reflected that the main thing about Bill was that Bill was a horse's ass. It used to irritate the hell out of him, the way Bill would give advice on matters he knew nothing about. Since Donna died, though, Tom had come to a sort of peace with lots of things. It wasn't Bill's fault he was a horse's ass. He couldn't help it.
"Thomas knows his own mind," Tom said. "We talked about it, one man to another. He's married and has own his life to lead in Wichita. He knows his affairs better than I do; he's made his decisions and I respect his judgment on them."
"Tom, him going off to Kansas for college is one thing, but turning his back on the farm completely? That's just wrong! Your great-great-grandfather cleared and claimed this land. Father to son, it's been worked ever since. Farming is in your family's blood. Doesn't that mean anything to him? And what are you going to do without a son to carry on? Sell out? You can't do that and you know it."
The leaves in the field were rippling, soaked with the false rain being sprayed on them. Thousands of years old, that water. For age on age it sat down in the aquifer, Tom thought, until just now. It was my soil moisture sensor that sent the signal, my control panel that closed the contacts, my electricity that fired up the pumps to draw that ancient water up to push these plants to produce on command.
On my command, he thought.
Tom adjusted his cap, mopped the sweat from his brow. June 14, 1974 was just such a day as this - bright and hot. It was two weeks to the day after he'd graduated from Iowa State with a degree in soil science, and a minor in English literature. The day his father laid down the law, the day Tom had boxed up his books and come home to do the right thing.
The plants were leaning, bent with the weight of the water. Bowed down, they were slowly being pushed face first into the mud of his great-great-grandfather's land.
"You know, Bill," Tom said, "the calibration must be out of whack. That second pivot is running too strong."
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