August (year 1)

I finally arrived in Iowa. The trip to the Midwest was reasonably innocuous. Traffic was light. I guess the summer was winding down. Labor Day was just around the corner, but school across most of the country has already started. So the travel for Summer’s unofficial last day will have to wait another week or two, whatever day Labor Day falls on this year.

When I think about that, I remember a story my mother used to tell me as a child. She said, “You share your birthday with two other important events. You were born on Labor Day.” I used to think, So what. Isn’t that what giving birth is all about? Going into labor. “And you share your birthday with you great-great grandfather. He was born on Labor Day 1892. When he was 40, he headed west toward Iowa. This is important,” she said. “The Dust Bowl started around 1930.”

I’d laugh at this. “You mean he started the Dust Bowl?” My mom would roll her eyes and shake her head. And sometimes wave both arms at me and walk away. Other times, with extreme exacerbation she would say, “No. I meant he had to learn new farming techniques the farther west he went.”

I once even tried to explain that Iowa wasn’t all that impacted by the Dust Bowl. More of the Great Plains, western Kansas, Nebraska, and eastern Colorado. But she would have none of that. Once she even stormed out of the house, hands waving in the air above her head, cursing. She had thrown the screen door so forcefully the screws holding the absorber yanked free. The resulting crash busted one of the large plate windows. Mom went from pissed to hysterical. Calling on Jesus and cursing God at the same time. After that incident I never said another word about the Dust Bowl. Better to pick battles that could be won.

Anyway, here I stood in front of the Clever Motors showroom entrance. What was I going to do? I started sweating right there in the lot. Nausea roiled up deep in my gut, and threatened to spill out in the lot. I placed my hands on my hips, and with head down, started walking small circles. I focused on breathing and holding back whatever threatened to erupt. I knew then I was making a mistake. I dug my cell out of my back pocket and asked Siri to dial LWG. That’s when I heard him call out. “Maddy you look a bit green around the gills. You feel okay?”

LWG is my long-time childhood friend. No, we aren’t friends with benefits, so don’t ask. He’s an incredibly clever person who can somehow read situations like he’s already been there and seen, felt, smelled, heard what would happen before it did. It even feels like he knows me better than I do. Unsettling as all get out, by the way. Clairvoyance is creepy. He is also my farm manager. More on that later.

“You aren’t quitting already, are you?” How does he do that?

“No,” I lied. “I’m feeling jet lag.” He shook his head, not buying my fib.

“Hey, I have lots of stuff to show you. And I bought you a peppermint iced tea. It’ll help with the nausea.”

“You can’t buy peppermint iced tea” I said. “Where did you get this?”

“I’ll tell you later. Come on we have a ton to do. But don’t worry, I’ll take care of everything just as we discussed.” He waved me to follow and climbed into an old white pickup. It reminded me a little of Uncle Jesse from the Dukes of Hazzard. With leaden feet, I followed and climbed into the truck.

As we pulled out of the lot, LWG glanced at me with a sly smile, “I scored you a federal government subsidy. Don’t give me that look. Farmers all over the country receive subsidies for various reasons. It’s going to cap out at fifteen million, though.”

I gasped. “What! You must be joking.”

He raised three fingers in a salute. “Scouts honor. Don’t get too worked up about the money. Fifteen mil isn’t all that much. Land here is expensive, and we need to get you some large equipment or you’ll be out here for years. That money will go fast. Don’t worry, I’ll keep on them for more money, grants, deals with manufacturers. You’ve earned it after the cluster they made of your family’s estate.”

Stunned into silence, I sat and stared out the window at the green, rolling hills. My new life as a farmer was really going to begin. I wished I had realized how hard, and how busy, I would be from that point on. If I had, I’m not sure I would’ve gotten in the truck with LWG.



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