Friday, May 20, 2011

Potential Exploration

The humidity hung like an invisible fog. Charlie stood on the porch of the old farm house taking it all in. The thickness of the air seemed to heighten his senses. He searched deep for the smells covered up by the manure. Manure was what he always smelled.

Years later his mind would race right back to this place, to this point in his life any time he smelled cows or pigs or their droppings. He could smell the freshly cut hay in the fields just past the dilapidated barn. He could smell the eggs and sausages being cooked in the kitchen just beyond the screen door behind him. He could smell gasoline and gunpowder and the mustiness of the wine cellar. All of these smells swirled together and as he closed his eyes taking one more big breath in through his nostrils, he promised himself that he would remember this forever.

He loved how comfortable he felt around all of these seemingly dangerous things. His mother always warned him to stay away from the tractor garage because it was full of tools and machinery that could be unsafe for a “city kid.” The electric fence that surrounded the two pastures the cows hung out in during the day was strictly off-limits as well. Charlie and his cousins loved to hang out next to the silo next to the barn. There was a large wooden bin next to it full of corncobs minus the corn. None of them really thought about why they liked hanging out there, but in all honesty it was probably because they weren’t allowed. The adults took turns yelling at the kids to get out of the cob bin.

Despite all of these apparently hazardous objects, Charlie still felt safe. Even his Uncle jack, who at one point came sauntering down to the cob bin to whip anyone caught in it with his belt, gave Charlie a sense of safety. He had come down to the family farm a few days early with his grandparents for the annual reunion. He loved that he had extra time at the farm even though there was no one his age there yet. It was like he had it all to himself. He didn’t know it at the time, but this would be one of the last years the family would gather at the family farm. And what the family didn’t realize was that moving away from the farm and leaving just Charlie’s two great-uncles there, it marked the beginning of the end of their family’s farm. Soon these two great men would be taken advantage of by a charlatan and everything that they—and their father and their father’s father— worked for would be taken out from under them.

But at this moment, on a muggy summer day in western Pennsylvania, none of those dreadful things were reality yet. The only thing that mattered in this moment was the expanse of land that Charlie had in front of him to explore.

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