Hayride. Grandparents’ farm. Kansas. Fall. Hot? Maybe still, during the heat of day but cool, crisp-as-astringent this night. Smell of hay. Tractor, not horse, pulling. Going from farm to farm to farm. P/u kids. Yes, the fall air is sharp. A blanket welcome. Stars are huge all over the sky. City life in Wichita never allows unfiltered access to the sky.
On board a cute girl. Too shy to talk to her. Her name? I don’t know.
I’m an outsider. In from Wichita to visit Grandpa and Grandma. They all know each other. All the other kids. They are friendly but I am not part of the group.
The tractor – a Massey-Ferguson, perhaps – is manned (this is the 1960’s) by one of the local farmers. I have overalls in my mind. He’d be jovial. Or maybe farmerly-taciturn. Can’t remember now. The parents – my grandparents – are relaxed. After all, the hard work of summer has been prayed over, combined, baled, picked, sold, delivered, stored. The respite fugacious before wintry-surviving, but welcome. Lenitive. Time for a well-earned smile, not-dared-for in the rush to beat frost, beat flood, beat drought, beat time, beat nature.
Which can never be beaten.
I smell the hay. Dusty, fresh, right off the field. Movable. We play in it. I am somewhere in the juxtaposition between pre and post-puberty. I am very aware of the girls on this ride.
The night progresses, noise from the wagon abates. Road rocks and rocks and rocks. Talking stops. Sleepy eyes become sleeping kids. I am the last one or two of the last to be dropped and I wake up in time to jump off and wave goodbye. Apple cider, bobbing for apples, come to mind but I can’t remember now if we did so that night. So much I can’t remember these days.
So much to have remembered.
Farm – the farm, farming, farm folk, farm-life – is part of me, part of my soul still.
Looking back at that innocent time, I wonder what my life would have been like if I’d spent more time on the farm, more time helping my grandfather. We’d talked about me doing that before he suddenly died decades-early and Grandma had to sell the farm.
That hayride. I wonder at my shyness, where it came from and how it has persisted through life. I’ve overcome so much of it, but where did it come from? That lack of confidence.
Hay ride. This one reinforced how I felt like an outsider, yet it was magnificent, with every sensory portal open, pulling in the night. I have felt the outsider, looking in, often, over a lifetime. Different. Maybe that’s just pointing at the moon.