By Stephanie Tolliver
The drive from the large old farmhouse to the field wasn’t long, just down the dirt road, past the chicken yard and the few acres of horse pasture. The big red house and land had been in the family for three generations, and used to be full of siblings and children, aunts, uncles and grandparents; now only the old farmer and his wife lived there; everyone else either passing away or moving off to bigger and better things. It seemed empty and lifeless now, and the second floor was hardly used at all.
The old man parked his blue ‘49 Ford pickup and slowly climbed out of the cab. He surveyed the miles of fields before him, fields of nothing but dry and withering plants. Even though he had expected this, had seen it coming, it didn’t keep his heart from sinking. This drought had gone on for far too long, his corn fields, his livelihood, were plummeting, dying. If the rain didn’t come soon, he would lose everything. The sky was pale, a few wisps of clouds here and there, but no moisture in the air at all.
He grabbed his hat off the dashboard and shut the door, running a tanned and weathered hand across his wizened face. With a sigh, he walked into the field, able to see the full extent of the damage caused by the hot burning sun and no rain to speak of for the past month. The crop was only two thirds of the height it should be, this late in the year, and the stocks were thin and browning.
He felt something soft and furry at his right hand, Maggie, his ten year old border collie. She had jumped out of the bed of the truck, following him everywhere he went like a shadow. Maggie nuzzled his hand again sympathetically.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do, girl,” the old man sighed, patting her on the head. “Never before has there been a drought this bad.” She barked, almost reassuringly, making him smile in spite of himself. “Always the optimistic.”
The ground crunched under his boots as he moved deeper into the crop, seeming to rattle through his head as though it was thunder.
He felt something soft and wet touch his arm, then another on his cheek. “Could it be?” he looked up.
A few sprinkles here and there, then the downpour began, soaking everything, including the farmer and his dog. But he didn’t care; this rain was life, each drop like medicine to the plants, to his soul. He stood in it, arms raised, letting it mingle with his tears. The tears of relief, of gratitude, and hope.
He smiled down at Maggie as she jumped around like a puppy, barking excitedly. “Let’s get home girl. We’re going to be just fine.” The two companions walked slowly to the truck, reveling in their happiness. And the old man knew, his farm was saved, at least for another year.