Farmer

Bruce Holbert
1999 Iowa Review : literary quarterly  
My wife and her father have decided I'm ill. They discuss this at length, I'm certain, though the subject never surfaces in my presence. Instead, once a week, Jeanene fetches me a set of keys for the old Ford pickup and a Ust of parts that we don't need. This trip is supposed to be therapy. No one ever asks to join me for the ride. When Nan, our daughter, runs to the truck, Jeanene carefully steers her away, as if miles are a medicine best consumed alone, or maybe she just thinks whatever I've
more » ... ot is catching. I've driven this road for six years now, all except this last one as a whole man. This is my final trip. On the passenger side, a truck carburetor and two spare combine belts rattle. A half empty bourbon pint clanks against the seat belt buckle. In my wallet are seventeen hundred doUar bills, a twenty, and a few ones. The banker's odd look is stiU with me. He's a friend of my father in-law. He nosed through my records, trying to find a reason to hold me up as I signed the forms closing the account. He date-stamped the document, still staring. I asked to use the rest room and pissed in his sink. Upright against the door is a rose starter packed in plastic. Its yeUow flower is Nan's favorite. I bought a package of sunshiny bows at the drug store and stuck them to the branches like blossoms. Perhaps she can find a warm win dow sill and transplant it in the spring. She loves flowers of aU kinds. Sum mers, she dalUes in the garden Uke she's amazed by color itself. Like me, she's stricken with growing things. Since my childhood, I've been a good hand. My father knew farmers on spreads in the Columbia Basin, and I hired out pulling rye, moving irrigation pipe, and spotting trucks in the field until I was old enough for a farm permit. My sophomore year of high school, I scrounged faU and spring work planting and weeding for a man who had no sons. I was always dirty?gritty in a way that made me feel pleased, even if I was dead-dog tired. My hands were covered with caUuses, healing scars, specks of blood and chemical, and good, brown dirt. You could see the work on me. In coUege, I met a farm girl from Davenport. After five years of farming summers and finishing my Ag degree winters, my new father-in-law signed over a lease to me on our wedding day. It was one third of his land.
doi:10.17077/0021-065x.5103 fatcat:sjizgfqcljfflgitlgp5l3xiji