Monday, April 09, 2007


By midsummer the unused portion of the field, which we had let go to seed, because we could not plant between rains until it was too late (and we were too tired to deal with the situation once vine planting was finished), was overrun with weeds.
Something had to be done.

So Ralph had his friend come over and brush scrub the whole thing—and then Ralph plowed again. But this brought up, quite literally, another problem—rocks.
Ralph had ripped our fields earlier in the year—and now plowing them again emphasized the large rocks that filled our dirt.

We needed to go out and collect the rocks. They would eventually break tractor teeth or plows, or knock the heck out of the bottom of the truck. You know all those New England stone walls you think are so nice? We grow ’em in our farm!

So, I came up with an idea. The boys always love riding in the back of the pickup truck, but I think it’s too dangerous. But here was a good compromise.

I would go five miles an hour around the farm and let them ride in the back if they helped me to pick up rocks. I wasn’t sure how long they would last, but it was worth a shot.

They went for it in an instant. They were beyond thrilled, holding onto the back of the truck cab as I slowly pulled into the freshly plowed dirt fields. The dirt was turned over and springy like a big brown and gray sponge.

They began slowly, tentatively. I wouldn’t let them pick up anything too big—those were mine. But the medium and small ones were ripe for picking. They especially liked the ones that were half buried.

As the mid-day sun began to rise high in the sky, and the heat began to get to us, the boys asked if they could take off their shirts. I said sure.

Dominique came out and brought us water. There we were, three sweaty men, drinking water in the hot field like from a scene on a Southern chain gang. I was very proud of them. Dom asked if they wanted to stop and have lunch. No, they wanted to finish the field. So I made them a deal.
When we finished the field I would take them to the local Dairy Queen in Ghent for hamburgers and ice cream.

Suddenly the boys began in earnest. I had trouble keeping up with them. They hustled, pointing out rocks to each other. Boom! Crash! Ping! Bonk! Rocks clanged off the inside of my truck bed one after the other. Soon the bed began to fill up and my two little boys were working like field hands. They began to race against each other, and soon the field was being cleared as they hollered to each other.

"There’s one, Dylan!"
"Behind you, Dawson!"
"Here, help me with this one."

I had never seen such cooperation and speed in them for a chore. It was like the scene in Cool Hand Luke when they tar and sand the road at breakneck speed, George Kennedy and Paul Newman pushing each other.

Well, I guess that made me Strother Martin—but there was no failure to communicate. We finished fast. My back was aching from picking up so many stones, but it had been an awesome workout.
We went to Dairy Queen and we ordered away. Big Cokes. Big burgers. Big sundaes. We all were smiling at each other telling stories of rocks we had lifted, and marveled at the size, shape, and texture of the rocks.
And we were all three of us very happy.


Blogger Francis said...

Thinking of Mr. Vineyard today on the occassion of the death of Kurt Vonnegut. From that story about meeting him at the Vertical Club.

You see, you people think I don't remember this stuff but I do.

4:26 PM  

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