305. In The Office

“No beating round the bush, Tom.
A proposition for you;
You’re the one I chose.”
The lucky one, thought Tom.
Jack’s fist came down–slam!–
Upon his desk.

“Denton,
The Experiment Substation–
D.C. sent them
Some new hybrid strain.
Forage crop.
A hybrid population:
Cross two strains, both
Natural, make new.
One had good deep roots,
But delicate.
Pretty stand, but
Dusters, bugs, or sun–
It don’t bear up.
Caved in,
Shriveled dry.

Second strain,
Was hardy as a rabbit.
Grew like common grass,
But short on roots.
Breeze hits,
And it’s past–
They’ve crossed these two.”

Always leaves a part out,
Tom thought: “Jack–
But what’s the crop?”
“Barley, Tom. Black
Barley, a new hybrid.”
“That’s old.”
“Hybrid. New.”

Barley?
To a lifelong cotton farmer,
Growing barley
Might as well be daisies,
Lady-slippers.
“That’s no crop!” Tom, scornful:
“That’s ground-cover.”

“Right!”
Jack’s eyes lit up.
“Ground-cover
Is what the hell we need!
Later, down the line,
You’d be strip-cropping, Tom.
Between the rows of cotton,
Rows of this.
First, though,
Grow a field.
A field of barley–
Shows folks
It will fly!
That’s the purpose, Tom,
You see: hell,
I could plant it, Denton could,
But farmers just ignore that.
Don’t know why….
But a farmer grows it,
Farmers listen.
They might….
Barley in this region,
It could hold the soil–
Give these parts a crop
When cotton fails.
We’ll supply your seed,
Equipment, fuel.
Holds the soil!
Holds it like a dream!
Saw it myself!”

“Well, I haven’t,”
Tom said. “Jack,
You’re talking soon–it’s
Not spring-seeded!”
“Yes.”
“But winter-sown’s
All that can grow,
Up here.”
“Nope. Spring-seeded.”

“They tried that,
When Riah’s dad was young–
I heard him tell.
Amarillo.
Spring-seeded.
All failed.”

“Ancient history, Tom!
And this is now!
You don’t know Black Barley!
Thomas,
Just in fairness,
In its favor,
Let me say a few words here.
Barley, hulled,
Feeds cattle good as corn.
Good quality.
Good yielding.
Good stand.”

“Let me say a few words,”
Tom replied.
“Barley leaf rust.
Barley stem rust.
Barley scald.
Spot blotch.
Don’t say I don’t know barley.”

“Not here!
We’re too dry!
Not the new Black Barley,
Why, I’ve seen it!”

“Well, sir,”
Thomas said,
“I have not.”

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