The hoar frost drifted off the trees this day, this rest day I had worked hard to earn by reading student work on the computer pretty much from afternoon through into evening. Outside it was cold, but not bitter.
This winter, more times, than ever, has pushed me back to when I was a little girl playing in the wonder of the snow drifting, the cold searing my feet, waiting for my dad to come home. Sometimes I soaked up my mother’s fear, the wind blowing so hard, that his headlights turning into our road, were smeared, bleared by blowing snow that laid down, blocked the road. My dad’s bad knees would cost him that mile long walk. The snow banks, rose and rose, like they rise this winter. Along one east west road, well, the banks are nearly to the wires.
Bruce said he had to do something to clear the drifts in the paddocks, especially for Tessie. Yesterday, she followed her second cutting orchard grass into a drift, the snow so firm, she toppled over. He called me to come look, but she was standing again. He is afraid the mares will break their legs. He walked out to our little Kubota to push snow before breakfast. (I want to eat, to ease into my day, before the hard work of chores. I watched a Sunday talk show on legal marijuana, skimmed through Facebook.)
He stomped back in. “I’m wore out with this farm, the work of it. Everything is such an effort.” The house shook with the door closed.
I looked out at the tractor parked, the high bank of snow that would take forever to melt. I said as much.
“I don’t know where all this snow will go when it melts,” he says, something he’s been saying. The township installed a new culvert, that is buried, that could ice up, that is not even marked, and it sticks out, making more dam than drain.
“All I know is I am wore out.”
“What should we do? Sell the place?” I ask. I too am tired. I see the deep lines in his face. I wish he’d see a doctor for this fatigue.
I am troubled by how this farm has not been kind to our work–his wood, my writing and even the horses. Yes we agreed to buy the place, to make it fit us, like our realtor suggested, because the place is planted in a good neighborhood, close to the toll road, and work and parks and the barn where I train. But it’s been like a harness that doesn’t fit right.
But I see the cracks in the barn’s foundation, the shingles curling on the house and that after spending a hard year to make the place fit. Our fences are ramshackle.
“We need to be partners. You need to let me help you. You should have had breakfast first. We should have worked together. Should we sell?”
“People don’t have this kind of money floating around.”
“There are rich people. Amtrak is coming.”
“They won’t want this place. We’d lose a bundle. You’d sit on it for years if you decide to sell.”
“You don’t know that. Can’t you be happy, at least on the good days? It’s a choice you know. We could end our day picking out where God has been good to us, writing them down, stuffing them into a jar.”
He just looked at me. (Yeah I know I shouldn’t say these things. All these “you” statements are not good. But I don’t know what to say. I should have piled on clothes, gone out to help, but I was hungry.)
I sighed, turned my phone over. “I can’t move this year. I have my novel to promote. I can’t…”
“I want you to have your dream,” he said. “You have the chance to to drive Morgen. Promote your book. You’ve wanted that a long time.”
“I want you to have your dream,” I replied. “You could build a workshop, do your wood. I see how you love that. You could make furniture for hard to fit places. You could apply for an Illinois Arts Council grant. We could make a website.” I mentioned my new friend, who lives a few roads away, whose husband has a workshop, and who is thinking of starting a furniture building co-op. “What a gift from the Lord to get you back working.”
We walked outside to look the snow pile. “You drive it. The tractor is too light. It can’t push this snow.” I saw what he meant. He could not go around the back of the barn and down to the gate because the drifts are big, wide, too much for him to move. You need a pay loader to move this.
I wonder what will happen when we get the twenty inches forecast for next week. I see how the snowbank will make a windbreak for wind coming out of the southwest.
Later we hear banging and Bruce walks out. The mares ears are forward. They are prancing. The coyote hunters are shooting and a coyote is running for his life across the field. We don’t think he was hit. “They shouldn’t blast away like that,” Bruce says.