t’s one of those brilliant fall days when even people who love only summer and dislike fall just because it isn’t summer and is one season closer to winter have to admit that today is almost perfect.
Not far from the campground that FH’s sister Bettyanne and her man Stan are managing we’re in a farmer’s field loading hay onto a trailer. Stan and I are walking in the stubble on either side of the trailer following rows of neatly made square bales of oat hay. I grab a bale and lift to my waist and then using my knee pop it up and onto the trailer deck where FH and Frankie are stacking.
We wear long sleeves to protect us from the stiff and sharp stalks sticking out from the ends of the bales. I wish I was wearing shorts and a tee shirt because the yellow sun is high and warm in a sky that is only ever this amazing blue in September.
Pulling the trailer is an old tractor with an iron seat and a heavy clutch pedal. I hope I never forget Nick’s eyes when he is told that he can drive. Kindhearted auntie Bettyanne puts a pillow on the hard metal seat and Nicholas sets down his bony little butt. Once the tractor is in motion it won’t need shifting again because it will crawl along in the lowest gear.
Nicholas grips a steering wheel half his size and stands on the clutch pedal. The tight old springs squeak and the pedal relents a little, but not enough to shift into first gear. He’s wearing his winter coat and a toque. His face is pale and his smile is fading. We watch him struggle and we hold our breath. Tears build in his eyes and our hearts collectively crack.
When the tractor jerks forward we cheer. My voice like a vent releases the grayness that is always building inside of me.
Nicholas and the tractor lead us around the field. We fall into a rhythm and enjoy the sunshine. I draw a breath. It tastes crisp. This has always been my favorite time of year. The best season.