137. Out-of-Towners

Two cars pulled up. New.
By the Red and White the farmers
Stood, till the meeting
Started. Stood
Observing: two
Cars when one would
Do–two rode in
Each. Four men
Emerged, hats spic-and-span.
Suits pressed, bow ties.
And one wore–white
Shoes! Government men.
Brain-trusters. What
Next?

Windy day for
Summer. First man
Lost his hat,
Took off chasing
Awkward down the street.
Walked back panting:
“Always like this
Here?” The farmers
Traded glances: the world’s
Oldest joke.
“Oh,” they answered
Mildly, “no. Some
Days, like this. But
Other days–wind
Blows.”
On their sunburnt
Lips, ghost of
A smile.

Man who brushed his
Hat off missed that
Line, asked: “Got some
Weather station here?
Wind gauge?” By this
Time, the other
Three walked up.
Mr. Platt was puffing
His cigar. Nodded:
“Yep. Down that street, son.
Upright six-foot
Pipe with chain attached.”
Farmers stared off,
Placid. “When chain
Whips and clangs”–Platt
Shrugged–“means weather’s
Calm.”
Feeling their
Attention, he went on:
“When chain sticks out
Straight”–arm lifted–
“Means a breeze.” He
Drew in smoke. “And
When the pole’s yanked
Clean up from
The ground–why,
On that day, gauge
Tells us there’s some
Wind.”
Under brims of
Shade, their pale eyes
Danced.

The three suits looked
Nonplussed. White Shoes,
Though, caught on.
White Shoes knew one
Joke–his only–
Used for speeches
And times such as this:
“Gentlemen!
At the meeting, we’ll
Propose today,” he said,
“A new learning
Program for your school.”
“Oh?” they asked. “How’s that?”
“Well,” he said,
“Teachers will be issued
One nail each.”
They blinked.
“Each will get one
Government tin can.
They’ll be told then:
‘Poke holes with this
Nail. Pour water
Through.'”

The men frowned, but
Mr. Platt’s lips curled:
“So the kids can learn
What rain looks like!”
“That’s right!” White Shoes
Smiled. “Let me
Introduce myself–”
Gave a name they’d
Scowled at in the papers.

They each shook his
Hand: “Glad to
Meet you.”
Never would be
Rude, no matter
What.

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