Well, you know how it is this time of year. The afternoon temps hover between 75 and 85 degrees, the sky is clear without a cloud in sight and the mountain stands out with unusually sharp clarity.
And if you’re a farmer, it’s time to get the hay in before the whims of nature usher in that feeble breeze that hints at a change in the weather. God forbid, it could even rain tomorrow.
I’m not a farmer — I suspect you already know that — but I live on three acres and, given the price of hay trucked from Yakima, there are farmers in the Krain area willing to cut and bale my field. So, a couple of times each summer John Stolz shows up with his high-powered equipment and, after a few days of cutting and fluffing, leaves bales scattered all over the place. Given my screwed up back — a consequence of my woebegone, younger days as a roofer, but that’s another column — I’m not much help loading these bales. However, I’m pretty good at kicking back under a tree and supervising the whole operation.
And what a delightful kind of wholesome, country operation it is.
Joe Poleski is a healthy, strong, middle-aged fella who can throw those bales hither and yon like so many toy blocks. His two boys, ages 8 and 11, run aimlessly about the field from one bale to the next, jumping here and climbing there and generally having a wonderful time. This all-American Norman Rockwell scene wouldn’t be complete without a dog —specifically, a yellow Lab named Max — that exhausted himself chasing after the boys and tracking more odors than he could possibly classify, so he finally crashed beside me with his head in my lap.
There were other people as well, both men and women, and they kept pretty busy doing one damned thing or another. Yet, no matter how hard they worked, they still had time to chuckle, offer a ready smile and shout a playful insult at someone across the field. Fred Stolz, father of the Stolz mentioned above, stopped by to say hello.
Joe paused for a swig of water. (More than a swig actually; more like half a gallon.) Rest assured, cold beer was available but, as any practiced drinker knows, beer doesn’t really quench your thirst.
The afternoon wore into evening and the brightness mellowed and faded into a rich, amber hue. The mountain was bathed in pink. Things didn’t seem as loud, neither the machinery nor the passing traffic on 400th. People spoke more softly.
As the last bale was thrown on the trailer, even the amber faded and, as poet Carl Sandburg once said, “Night softly tiptoed in on little cat feet,” or something like that. And we gathered on the porch, cracked a few brews, savored a vodka tonic or two, and celebrated our warm camaraderie and a job well down, with Max still laying beside me.
My New York friends should see me now.