319. Visitor: Late Afternoon, May 30, 1935

“…the pitman.
I sure hope it’s not that.
Excuse me, ma’am–have you
Heard what I said?”:
In the doorway
Riah hesitated,
Not stepping farther in.
Miss Flynn seemed
Remarkably disheveled,
Hair mussed, face drained,
Ill. Knuckles pale,
She pressed a pen to paper–
Something she’d been writing
At her desk.

Miss Flynn blinked.
Sun streamed in the door:
Riah in a rumpled, too-big blouse,
Folds of white, that Relief
Had bought–Miss Flynn
Knew her clients’ clothes.
“I–beg your pardon?”:
Miss Flynn blinked again.

Riah smiled,
A bit more confident.
Here on business.
Miss Flynn, still dazed, stared.

“I said–” Riah seemed
To search for words–
“I guess, that I’m
Good with tools, I said.”
Speaking with an effort,
Her voice died.

Riah cleared her throat.
“Said
I’m good with tools, I’d
Heard that west of town,
Where the migrants camp,
The tenants farm–
There’s a windmill there,
But it don’t work.
That’s a thing–” she shrugged–
“I might could fix.”
Riah finished:
“Might be they could garden,
If it worked.”
Miss Flynn sure don’t talk much,
Riah thought.

She went on:
“Did you notice,
Is it steel, or wood?
I was just a kid
When steel ones came.
Steel’s weak, they all said,
And won’t repair.
That’s not true these days,
But if it’s old–
Did you notice, if it’s wood–
Miss Flynn?”
No reply.
Riah queried:
“Is it an Eclipse?
Might be wood.
Or Sunflower, or Milo?
Wood for sure.
Or Swan, Ariel Roller–
They’re wood too.
Those are mighty old.
But some have stood.”
Miss Flynn’s eyes burned–
Tiredness, and the sun.

“Oh, and Louise said
Before she left, she said
To tell you, you should
Drop by at the Harlans’. They
Can’t fill out their forms. She
Said–well, said it rude, in other
Words–to tell you, hurry.
Now, on the vane,
The name there–painted
Red? That’s Aermotor.
Or on one side,
Star in red and blue,
Name in black?
Star Model. Back-geared–
Long, clean stroke.
Lord, those
Direct-stroke!
How they’d jerk and pull!
Remember? Did you
Live near here?”
Absently,
Miss Flynn began to
Squint, focusing her vision
On her guest.

“Or have you asked
The tenants there what’s wrong?
They’ll know best.
Sucker rod can come loose
From the mill–sometimes
Busts above the pipe–
That job is no fun,
But can be done. If
The rod has broke, though,
Further in, we’ll have to
Pull pipe–awful
Rough. Must be
Something odd, since
Most things, they can
Fix. Sucker rods–
My folks always said,
Fishing out them rods
Drives good men mad.”
Riah found, with talking,
The less she minded
Miss Flynn’s puzzling gaze.
At least she’s
Woke up now, Riah noted:
“Easiest would be,
Lubrication–
Just needs oil.
We won’t be that lucky,
Don’t you guess?”

This brief question
Seemed to strike Miss Flynn.
She picked up
A pencil, fingering it
Slowly, as in thought.
She paused: something
Flickered in her face.
Then she said: “I’d say–
Unlucky, that’s–
A safe bet.”
She let out her breath.
What lay at her hand,
She brushed aside.
Soundlessly,
It fluttered to the floor.

“My guess is,” said Riah,
“What’s broke–
The wood pump rod.
Red rod, we say here.
Got a foul-up
In the mill or pump,
Red rod’s what will break.
That’s not too bad, though.
Can be fixed.
Wouldn’t mean much
In the way of cost. Problem,
For them, might just be
Money. That’s all. The rod,
We can fix.”
That’s all: money. Cost.
Miss Flynn had
Her first thought. Form
40. Little-known form, but
One she recalled. Strange, that
Form must go through
CCC: “Reimburse Community
Equipment,” Subsection,
Drought Aid. Take
About a month, to
See it through. Surely
Windmills qualified, and
“Community,” why
Not? If she cleverly
Phrased it just right….

“But if it’s the drop pipe–
Bad for sure.
You and me, though,
We’ll drive out together–
They got no good water.
One shrunk pond.
My boy says, his
Friend–oh, never mind–
But there’s plenty people there
Know windmills,
They’ll help.
Like I say,
I’m handy–
Get that windmill working,
Would be grand.”
Worn out by this flourish,
Riah halted. Then she added,
As a troubling thought–
“I just hope to God
It’s not the pitman.
You know that,
Miss Flynn?–It’s the thing–”
She struggled to explain–
“In the windmill,
Pitman changes motion.
From the round-and-round
The wind makes happen,
To the up-and-down
Pumps water out.”

Desktop
Shuffling, Miss Flynn
Plowed great mounds of papers.
She snatched one stack
Written in her hand–
Seized a sheaf, then spread it,
Spilled the inkwell–
She looked up, voice rising
With fresh ease.
“I have notes here,
Last year’s. Says,
‘Tenants: drop-pipe fine.
Pitman fine. The problem is
Unknown.'”

Riah half-smiled,
Nodding: “That’s
Good news. Well. We’ll
See what we can do.
How are you this evening?
Free to work?”

Miss Flynn said, I am.

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