Illinois Farm Scapes

Another day figuring it out.

Photo by Josh Massey on Unsplash

To find that side thing.

Where is it hiding? I know you’re there, just out of my sight. I can feel you. I can sense you. I can smell you. I can hear you.

You are just there, shy as always. Why so shy? What makes you so damn special that you insist on staying out of sight, my friend? You’re there in the shadow, you’re there in the late afternoon sun lighting Chicago back alleys. You’re there in front of me, touching me, caressing me. I am yours, you’re mine. I am you; you are me. We are inseparable.

Yes, I remember we carried your beautiful Illinois farm scene chalk pastels into the back door of that highbrow art gallery in Chicago. Three hours’ drive from the countryside. Eight of your best works. God, it was beautiful work, far superior to the crap your professors put out. The bastards at the gallery said if anything sold, eighty percent was theirs, twenty yours. Bastards.

Art galleries…

My ancient friend, you’re no longer here, but I am and as long as I can, shall keep reminding.

As we carried your work, it was there, that thing, the energy, clinging to the side of the old brick. It was right there, but eluded still.

Yes, yes, the muse. That now over worked word. Used to identify so many things. The spark. The inside track. The subtle nod that I’m there. It’s never far, never impossible. Yet always kind, always giving, always fruitful. You attract me; I attract you. We are on a one-way street. Down Main Street, old Route 66 still there, always will be. Stop for that coffee before continuing on the endless ride, chasing you down, loving you. Bowing before you.

Late afternoon, in the rental farm house, sun dropping like a slow stone across endless fields of soy and corn. Lightning bugs enter stage left, right front, back. They dazzle, they remind me of all the joys I ever lived. The sparkles give me the reprieve I so much cherished all those lonely years ago. So alone and yet not alone at all.

Dairy queen, car full, up to Carlock, laughter, that tall cup of soft vanilla, chocolate, caramel, sweet frosting topped with peanuts. The constant worry, the threat of the future. Where will I fit? Will I fit? How will I fit? I can’t fit. I’m not from here. I’m not of here. This is not my place, even though this is heaven as close as we’ll ever come. Careless evening moves, wind, gentle, comes of an evening, crinkly growing crops. Fluttering corn stalks, sound unique, speaks of generations, plague, famine times, suffering, and in between the times of incredible joy.

Driving home, yellow full moon on the rise, carved pumpkins and sheet goblins in front yards.

We laid him to rest. A saint among men. Patience that of a powerful angel. ‘Tommy boy, that’s it, you see? Add just a little more water, okay, now stir until the chunks are gone. There you go, son’. Kind guidance, never a raised voice, not once in twenty something years. He was always teaching, showing, how to improve, how to produce for the good of all. Therein lies the joy of human existence, give and receive. ‘Use your hands. You will amaze yourself what you can do with patience, gentle yet firm dedication.’

Overhead, the big Canada geese squawking, barely audible, the suns last, high, so high. Huge V flying south already. The lead birds struggle, we all need to take a turn… The long cold will come soon. Right now, though, one of her cool lemon juices stokes my joy. Overruns with happiness. Didn’t know I could hold so much joy, it overflows.

She’s cooking up a storm. Lots of zucchini from the garden, bowls of cool Raita, vinegar delight. Spinach and cheese and a curry platter. The Naan, butter slathered, stacked high and smoking, seemed to appear magically.

Her sweet voice calls to our firstborn. Wash hands. Laughter.

A woman so fine. Unattainable. Those cornered moments when I think on it. How? How in this world did I, me, ever end up with this incredible human friend and partner, lover, a cornucopia of joy. She was gold, she radiated, her innate wisdom always trying to teach me. A tireless, impossible toil.

The stomach, years later, it finally took her away. Pained her no more..

I shake my head, sitting out on the old farmhouse rented from old farmer Rusty, concrete steps not cast perfectly, ill fitting. Weeds, two or three dandelions, creep up through the gaps of the poorly reckoned steps. A breeze fluffs the rainy aspen, the lone tree near the front yard, leaves showing hints of Autumn color. Another apple tree dropping apples like rain so plentiful, rotting. Rusty comes over uninvited and chides me for not doing a better job of cleaning up the rotting mess.

Having arrived almost two years before from El Salvador, under life threats, Marxist rebels and violence, I am in no mood. Have no space for amateur hour. I tell the old farmer who thinks he’s entertaining my too accommodating wife by talking to me like I’m an idiot. Finally, I tell him: ‘go fuck yourself Rusty’. Stare him down. Holds my gaze, I hold his easily, he looks down. ’Asshole’ I add for good measure.

I didn’t care how old he was, ancient. I knew I’d be just as old one day, with luck.

Since working at the factory, I’ve changed. Cut away the bullshit, gotten down to the wire, down to the bare nerves. No time for being on the receiving end of an old fart who thinks that just because he works a farm, he’s got say over me. There was a time not long ago that telling off an old man would’ve been impossible for me.

Room for misunderstanding. Please don’t. Every human has a limit.

Simply raised to respect one’s elders.

I’ve changed.

Last thing I will allow at this point of my up and down life is for this old codger to treat me as a fool. He climbs into his hundred-year-old pickup and drives off the crumbling gravel drive to the blacktop.

The wind howls around seven like clockwork as the sun disappears. A hot air cool air thing. The old, wood, two story farm house creaks and moans and moves with the wind. As the wind increases, a howl sets in and the old place begins to speak an ancient language. Hard times there were. Sometimes nothing grew. People starved. Winters, the house drifted over, windows had to be shoveled out to get out the foul air. No market for silos full of corn went to seed and rats. People died.

The now forever unused coal bin in the basement still stains my jeans black.

Briefly back to Rusty. Those were not my times. Yes, I feel bad, but they were not my times. Like they were Rustys. Tough. My concerns are of right now, not of another’s reminiscing of how he worked fingers down to the bone.

Now it’s all about my family. My wife and my boy.

I have my own worries now. What in hell are we going to do now? My wife started studying accounting at the local college. Soon she’ll get a job in an office in the town. My factory job, now almost two years, is the best I can do for the moment. Third shift. Work all night. Not too bad. Covers rent and food, gas.

Wind dies down, crickets take over, night insects flying through irresistible porch light. What is it about being drawn to the good stuff? Stuff that will get you killed. Bats dodging in and out of the post lamp, going after the insects and rotting apples. Our hammock tied from the tree to the edge of the house, a place of peace, relaxing. Three of us look skyward; stars assuring me all will be fine. I think of all those less fortunate, way I was raised.

The dying wind brings the smell of wonderful things growing. The full bellied, yellow, ears of corn now visible as they burst from green wrap. There’s a corn smell, indescribable. Smells of green, good health, a sweetness. Illinois black soil brings its own essence.

Getting close to time to head into the plant. I put in my ten hours. Eight hours on the clock, two hours back and forth from the countryside.

As the people at the plant used to say: ‘Life is like this, yer fuckin born, you fuckin work, you fuckin age, you fuckin sicken, you fuckin die mother fucker, so get over it…’

Sun rises driving home, the corn fields stretching as far as I can see. Today we’ll go fishing for bull heads up the marshy river where it lets into the lake, take some sandwiches. Ever hear those little boogers croak and cry? Peeled and pan fried are delicious.

Life at its prime.



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Tom Jacobson

Tom Jacobson

Discovered the world of Medium some years ago. Amazing! Published first book, romantic adventure in Guatemala and Nicaragua, on Amazon. Title Lenka: Love Story.