55. Monday Mulching

That damn Jack Hance, thought Tom.
Tom rarely swore,
Not even in his head:
Riah’s dad had cursed,
But forbade him.
“Off to do some mulching,” Tom had said,
Just that morning,
Calling back to James.
Now he sat astride
The old Red Farmall,
Such a roar
He couldn’t hear his ears.

“What’s wrong with dust mulch, Jack?
Got to mulch!”–Tom’s
Temper had flared up.
Men at the store
Explained it long ago–
Ground water
Percolated from below,
Drawn up, must be capped
By dust mulch seal.
They weren’t too clear on why,
But they were sure.
Plow a mulch,
They’d done it for ten years.
“That’s the Campbell method,”
Jack had said–
Tom’d asked him out to his place
For a look,
Hoping against hope
No one would see.

“Got to do some mulching,”
Tom had said.
“Well, how I see it,” Jack said,
“You’re half right. Some
Trash mulch, stubble mulch,
That might be good.
But you men–you’re all
Way past that here.
You’re busting soil up.
It’s pulverized.” Jack stooped,
Rubbed it in his hand.
Pulverized, thought Thomas:
Pulverized. Another
Fifty-cent word from Jack Hance.
Tom had taken first place
In first grade,
Head of class–
None held a candle to him!
But they’d started moving.
Field labor. Then
No catching up,
Not anymore.
I may not be a college man
Like you, Jack. But I know
Some things about a farm.
“Don’t make sense,” said Thomas.
Jack glanced up
At the roughness in his tone:
McKenna’d seemed a reasonable
Man. “Let me
Ask you this, Tom–
Do you leave a summer fallow?
That’s Campbell method, too.
Would do some good.”

“Of course not,” Thomas said.
“Can’t afford to. No one can.”
Jack stayed crouching,
With a frown. He coughed,
Waited. He stretched out
His arm. The dirt
Slipped through his fingers
Like beach sand.
“Just look at it, Tom.
It’s beat to death.
What if these dusters keep up?
What will this soil do?
Why, you can see. It needs to
Fallow, off cotton a season.
Needs a rest.”
“Tell it to the bank,”
Tom had said.

The tractor shuddered to a halt.
Tom set the brake.
He must track down
A troubling squeak he’d heard:
A belt was loose. Tom sighed.
Jack had said,
“Just look–” like that
Settled the whole deal.
Well. Lots of folks is looking,
Thomas thought–
And no two see the same.
He stared sightless
At the steering wheel.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: