Soybean Summer


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The air conditioner kept the tractor cab to the same comfort level as my living room in spite of the ninety-five degrees of searing, July heat. I hit the hydraulics to raise the cultivator, made the turn, and lined back up on the next eight rows of soybeans. Another tap on the hydraulic lever caused the gleaming sweeps to bite into the rich, black, Illinois soil. It used to be hotter and harder work, but I liked it more when my ears were filled with the sound of the tractor exhaust instead of the local radio station, and when I could smell the freshly turned dirt and herbal scent of the weeds.

There’s an old saying about being able to take the boy off the farm, but not the farm out of the boy, and I know it’s true. Farmers all have dirt flowing in their veins; we get it from our parents. I’ve loved farming since I can remember. She loved it too, even though she got a late start. The dirt was there, given to her at birth, and once she’d experienced working the land, she never looked back. To my grandkids, that was ages ago, but it seems like yesterday to me.

When I was eleven, the arrow-straight rows of beans seemed to stretch to the end of the world. In 1962, I was twenty, and knew they ended half a mile North at the fence line between us and Jake, and a quarter mile East to the timberline. Experience had taught me it would take the best part of a week to clean up the weeds the cultivator left hiding in the rows of bushy green soybean plants. In the early sixties, herbicides were expensive, as well as being somewhat less than reliable, so Dad stuck to the time-tested method of walking the field with a six-pound grub hoe. Why he carried the grub hoe instead of a smaller garden hoe, I could never understand. His instructions, from the time I was old enough to walk from one end of the field to the other without resting, were to pull all the weeds. He used the heavy hoe only on particularly thick stands of cockleburs or the occasional, deep-rooted jimson weed.

Dad had married late, and was getting on in years. Most of the farm work was becoming difficult for him. I had decided before I finished high school that farming would be my life, and that summer, I suggested that I should start doing most of the farm work. Dad didn’t like the idea very much, but he finally agreed. We became partners. I was the worker, and Dad was my advisor and kept the books. That meant he was also my hardest critic, but it suited me fine. I didn’t have a huge income, but I didn’t need much. I was mostly my own boss, was learning from an expert, and Dad was getting a well-deserved rest.

Since it was late June, the air still had a spring chill, but once I started walking, my T-shirt would be plenty. It would probably be getting hot by eleven. I tested the edge of the hoe with my thumb, and started toward Jake’s fencerow, half a mile away. I followed the method of weeding used by Dad and most other farmers. I walked between two rows of beans, and watched both those rows and the two outside them. When I saw a weed on the outside rows, I’d step over the inside row and pull the invader out by the roots. Before I turned thirteen, Dad only let me walk two rows. It was somewhat a coming of age thing when Dad let me walk four at once, and I had been proud. This field had taken most of the week, but I would finish today.

Dad had always been a good farmer, and I moved quickly because the weeds were few and far between. That’s what forty years of weeding by hand could do. I could see our neighbor, Jake Hanson, just turning to another four rows in his field on the other side of the fence.

Jake was like Dad. They both got up at four, even on days when it was raining or there was no urgent farm work to do. It was just a habit from the days when they had to milk cows and harness horses every morning, I guess. I never really slept in, but six seemed early enough for me. I could still get a cup of coffee and be in the field before the dew dried.

The morning went pretty quickly, and before I realized it, the sun was high overhead and I was starving. A quick trip back home for lunch fixed that. Dad laid down for his usual nap, but I wanted to get those beans finished. At four, I straightened up to ease out the kinks. I was done, and tired, but it was the good kind of tired that comes with the satisfaction that you’ve done a job well.

It was Saturday, but Jenny was off visiting her cousin, so I would be staying home. Jenny was not exactly a girlfriend. We went out on Saturdays, and it was fun being together, but I didn’t think we were exactly in love. I had kissed her a couple times, and once in a while did we hold hands, but we’d never gone any further. She seemed to enjoy being with me as a friend, and we had an unspoken agreement that we wouldn’t push the relationship any faster. I was in no hurry to settle down with a wife, anyway. Money would have been a problem unless I could find more land to farm, and there were no places available. Jenny said she felt the same way. Her mother had been twenty-five yetişkin porno when she married, and Jenny saw no reason to start any earlier.

A month later, the beans had grown to nearly full height and it was time for the final cultivation before they bloomed. I was driving the tractor and cultivator through the field of waist-high bean plants. A heavy rain had almost caused me to wait too long. I saw a few blossoms peeping out of the broad leaves. I also saw the button weeds stretching for the sun above the broad spread of rows that nearly overlapped. My last pass through the field with a hoe would clean them up, and the beans were big enough now that few weeds would get enough sun to sprout.

The next morning was hot and the humidity was crushing. I would be soaking in my own sweat before I went a hundred yards, but that was old hat by now. The steel water cooler in the back of the pickup was filled half with ice and half with well water. It’s surprising how a cold drink of well water can drain away the heat. The routine would be weed to the fencerow, turn around, weed back, stop and get a drink, and then start back.

As I neared the fencerow, I saw Jake’s pickup just pulling into the field. I didn’t often get the chance to rib him about his farming methods, but this was an opportunity I wouldn’t pass. The next time I saw him in public, I’d tease just a bit about him getting older and not being able to get out of bed. I could see it all now. Jake would be buying chicken scratch and I’d say in a voice loud enough to be heard in the next county, “Hey, Jake. I saw you pull into your beans last week…about eight, I think. I’d been through sixteen rows by then. You forget to set your clock or something?”

All the other farmers would laugh, and Jake would sputter something about having some chores to do at home. Then the banter would start.

“Well, Jake, I thought you quit hoein’ beans years ago, at least that’s what your missus tells Doris.”

“Yeah, she told my wife somethin’s the matter with your hoe, and it don’t work no more.”

Jake was used to this, and would just smile before returning in like kind.

“Ain’t nuthin’ wrong with my hoe, Don. It’s bigger than that little thing you’re carryin’ ever was, if I can believe what your Doris tells Irene. If it was longer, you could get to them really deep roots. Course, if you’d like some help, it’d only be neighborly to oblige. Doris might not be the same afterwards, though. Once you start getting’ to them deep roots, it’s hard to go back.

“Same offer goes to you Mike. Your Lizzie’s a cute little thing. Told Irene you hoe real fast, too fast usually. ‘Bout time somebody showed her that a good weedin’ takes more’n a couple minutes.”

I’d never get the best of old Jake, but it would be fun trying.

Jake was moving through his field. He seemed to be working a little slower than usual, and he looked so slumped over that he must have been about three inches shorter. I felt for him. He and Irene had no children, and now that they were nearing seventy, they had no one to help them. Jake was too stubborn to give up the farm. He’d probably die riding his tractor or putting up hay or something. I slowed up so we would both get to the fencerow at the same time. It seemed right to offer to help him once my beans were finished. I wasn’t prepared for the woman’s voice that yelled “Hi”, when we both walked out into the end rows.

She was older than I was, but by how much, I couldn’t guess. Jake’s old pith helmet almost hid her face. I could barely tell she was a woman. Jake’s bib overalls were baggy on her small frame and way too long. She’d rolled the cuffs up so they didn’t drag in the dirt. The overalls and the man’s work shirt hid all traces of any figure she might have had.

“You could at least say hi back”

“Oh, I’m sorry. It’s just that I was expecting to see Jake, and you kinda caught me off guard. Hi.”

“I’m Karen, Karen Mason, Jake’s niece.” She held her hand out over the fence.

“Jeff Dillard. Pleased to meet you.” Her hand was small and soft, but the grip was firm. It was also electric. I felt the tingle shoot up my arm and land in the hairs on the back of my neck. “I didn’t know Jake had any relation.”

“Well, he doesn’t really talk much with my father, so I suppose he doesn’t tell anybody else he has a brother. Uncle Jake’s a little funny that way, but he and I always got along pretty well.”

“Is Jake OK? I don’t figure he’d let anybody take care of his crops unless he was really sick or something.”

“He’s fine, but he couldn’t get his breath yesterday and the doctor told him to stay out of the heat as much as possible. I came down to visit for a few weeks, so when he said he had to hoe his beans, I told him I’d do it. Between Aunt Irene and me we convinced him. He didn’t like it, but we convinced him.”

She pulled off the hat to wipe the sweat from her forehead, and waves of gleaming brown hair youjizz porno spilled out over her shoulders and around her face.

“Whew, I think I should have stayed in the shade, too. It’s hot out here.” She wrinkled her pert nose, and laughed. “I think I’m starting to smell. My deodorant must only be good for the city.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet. That heavy shirt doesn’t let much air through, and it’ll make you hot. That’s why I just wear a T-shirt. When I get really hot, I take the shirt off and that helps.”

“Well…I really can’t take my shirt off, now can I?”

I don’t know if it was the coy little smile, the impish flash of her eyes, or the realization of what I’d just said, but I suddenly felt like the biggest fool in seven states. I knew I was blushing, and had a strong urge to run away. Instead, I stammered back an answer.

“N-N-no. I guess that wouldn’t be a good idea.”

Now I was staring, and I knew it. She also knew it, and stared back with those eyes and that little smile. After what seemed like hours, she picked up her hoe.

“Well, I’d better get back to Jake’s beans. See you on the next round.”

The way it worked out, it was after two rounds, because I was making about two to her one. She was never going to get done at this rate. The first couple of times we got to the fencerow, she said “Hi”, and after that, we were so far apart, she just waved.

By the end of the week, I was nearly finished. I walked back down the end rows and waited for her to reach the fence.

“Karen, I’m about done. I’d be glad to help you finish up, if you want. You need to get through these, or you’ll be knocking off blossoms and that’ll hurt the yield.”

“Right now, I’ll take all the help I can get. Uncle Jake’s getting impatient with me because I’m taking so long. It’s getting harder and harder for us to keep him at home.”

“Ok, I’ll be over tomorrow. About seven OK?”

“Seven is fine. Only one thing, though. Jake probably can’t pay you anything.”

“I wasn’t expecting any money. Jake and Dad always helped each other. I’m just continuing the tradition.”

“I know Jake will appreciate it as much as I will. So, seven it is. I’ll bring lunch, if that’s OK.”

The next morning, I drove to Jake’s field. His old truck was parked under a big maple tree by the entrance culvert and I pulled up beside it. Karen was sitting on the seat with the door open. Instead of the baggy pants, she wore jeans that, in my estimation, fitted her very well. The short-sleeved white cotton blouse fit well enough that I could tell she had a petite, but well-developed figure. She’d piled her long hair up under a new straw cowboy hat.

Karen saw me looking, stepped out of the truck, and turned around.

“Well, what do you think? I went shopping last night. Is this what all the well-dressed farm girls are wearing today?”

Again, I caught that little smile and the flash of her eye, and the effect was the same.

“Y-Y-Y-es. You look nice.”

“Only nice? I was hoping for cute, at least; maybe even pretty if I was lucky.”

“Well…you are pretty.”

“Thank you, sir. You’re too kind. Now, I’m new at this two-person weeding stuff. How do we do it?”

We started down the rows, and walked for a while without saying anything. I was racking my brain for a conversation topic. It was never this hard talking to Jenny. If I could just think of something to get started…

“Whatever this weed is, it’s hard to pull. What is it, anyway?”

I stepped over my rows and walked up in front of her.

“That’s a cocklebur. See the little seedpods? They have little barbs – the burrs. You already have some stuck to your pants. They’re really hard to pull. Just use your hoe and dig ’em out.”

Karen bent over and began digging at the plant. She’d left several buttons undone, to stay cooler I suppose, and the blouse had a tendency to gape open. I could see the tops of her breasts bulging up and shaking from the violent motions she was making, and could just see the edge of her pale blue bra. She looked up and caught me staring, but didn’t seem to mind. She just smiled, and kept on digging.

“There. I’ve been pulling those damn things all week. It’s a lot easier to dig them up, but Jake told me to pull everything.”

I laughed. “Dad always told me the same thing. They tell you to pull because they know it’s easier to use the hoe, and you’ll only cut off the top of the weed. The weed will just grow back from the root in a day or so. With some weeds, you just can’t pull them out. It’s OK to dig ’em, as long as you get all the root.”

We walked along, silent again for a while. Karen had said “damn”, just like she said it every day. That was different. None of the women I knew ever swore, at least not in public. Jenny never even said “darn”. It was a little shocking, but it made her exciting and a little mysterious at the same time. Jenny never left the top four buttons of her blouse youporn porno unbuttoned either. Maybe city girls didn’t have all the inhibitions country girls seemed to have.

Slowly, we began to talk a little, but the conversation seemed to be centered on me. What I liked about farming, what I did for fun, and simple stuff. We made one round and stopped for a drink from my cooler.

“Wow, you have ice! Jake gave me a jug, but their old ‘fridge only makes two trays of ice. I figured they needed it more than I did. It’s OK up until about ten. After that, it’s like drinking bath water.”

“It’s half ice, and it’ll stay cold all day. Tastes really good when the sun gets up.”

Damn, all I could do was make some stupid comment about the heat. She already knew it was going to be hot, and the cold water would taste good. Why couldn’t I think of the witty things I always said to Jenny?

“Well, Jeff, I thank you for your cold water, and I thank you for your help, but mostly, I thank you for your company.”

“Company?”

“Yes, company. I’ve decided I like being out here, but it’s nice to talk with someone while I work. You’re a pretty interesting guy. Got a girlfriend?”

“Well, there’s Jenny, but she’s more just a friend than a girlfriend. We go out sometimes, but it’s nothing serious. Jenny doesn’t want to get married to anybody for a while, and anyway, we really don’t feel that way about each other.”

Karen picked up her hoe.

“Jenny sounds like a smart girl to me, and you must be a pretty understanding guy to accept her feelings and still be friends with her. Some men wouldn’t.”

“Oh?”

“Nope. They’d probably try to talk her into bed, and eventually make her choose between that and ending the friendship. It never works, by the way. Girls won’t give themselves unless they feel something for the guy. If she does give in and sleep with the guy, the friendship is doomed to end anyway, and she knows it.”

“You sound like my Mom.”

“Well, if your Mom told you all that, she did a good job of raising you, and it’s no wonder you’re such a good guy. Now, let’s get back after those weeds.”

We followed the same routine until noon. As the morning went by, we both got more comfortable with each other. No, that’s not exactly right. I got more comfortable with Karen; she seemed comfortable with me from the start. At least we talked about more than the weather.

I learned that Karen’s father had left the family farm, gone to college, and was a store manager in Chicago. She had been born and raised there, and had been to Jake’s farm only a few times before. She was laughing about her ignorance of country life when we walked down the end rows to the trucks for lunch.

“I came down here once, when I was about sixteen, and Uncle Jake showed me how to milk a cow. I knew milk came from cows, because all female animals can make milk, but I didn’t know how they got it out.”

“It comes out pretty much the same in all animals, goats, horses, and dogs, as well as cows. To milk a cow, you just have to imitate the motion the calf makes when he sucks.”

“Well, the way Uncle Jake was pulling away on her nipples…he called them teats, I think…, anyway, it made me feel sorry for the cow.”

Karen giggled.

“I’d hate to think of anybody doing that to me. God, would that ever hurt.”

“Actually, they like it. If you don’t milk them twice a day, they get too full and that’s when they hurt.”

“I’ve heard women with babies say that too – that it feels nice when the baby nurses and hurts if they get too full. This one girl I know, she said she had her husband…well, help her out when they hurt. She said he liked it a lot, and it felt pretty good to her too. She even had an or-“

She looked at me and grinned. I finally woke up and closed my mouth.

“I’m embarrassing you again, aren’t I? I’m sorry. It’s just really easy to talk to you. I’ll make up for it with this lunch.”

Karen opened her truck and pulled two foil-covered pans off the dashboard.

“I made fried chicken and baked beans. I hope the sun kept them hot. Could you get that picnic basket and blanket off the floor? We’ll spread the blanket out under the tree so we’re in the shade.”

I spread the blanket while Karen busied herself retrieving plates and silverware from the basket.

“I guess we’ll have to have some more of that ice water. I forgot to bring anything to drink.”

Karen handed me a plate with a plump, golden-brown chicken breast and a huge serving of baked beans. She watched as I bit through the crispy outside. The cracker-crumb breading held in all the moist flavor of one of Mrs. Hanson’s plump white leghorn roosters. Karen may have been raised in Chicago, but she knew how to fry a chicken.

“Well, how do you like my breast?”

I stopped chewing and almost choked. I looked at Karen and watched as her face and neck turned a livid shade of pink.

“Oh.. I-I meant the chicken breast. Do you like it?”

The muffled “It’s great” managed to slip out through the mouthful of chicken. I finished chewing and swallowed.

“Where’d you learn to fry chicken like that?”

“Well, my husband’s mother taught me. She grew up on a farm in Michigan.”

“I didn’t know you were married.”

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