He wakes to early morning darkness, slipping from the warmth of the bed and pulling on jeans and boots. The dog shakes and stretches, slithering off the couch to follow at his heels. The screen door clatters and shatters the quiet stillness, announcing that the day has begun.
The sun is not yet peeking over the world’s edge. Mist hangs in the air, dew clings to the blades of grass. There is a deep chill as the last wisps of summer are chased away by an early autumn. It doesn’t matter what the calendar says, every fiber of him knows that the comfort of the warm mornings is gone.
The wind whispers around him and his companion as his boots crunch the gravel beneath. His hands, his arms, his legs…they are strong, but used. Worn thin, like a leather belt or the souls of your favorite shoes. This will be the last harvest of the season and it has been a hard year. He is no longer a young man, and maybe it is time to move on. Leave the hard, difficult days of working the land and tending the herds to a younger body.
Though his bones creak, and his skin shrivels with each gust, he walks on, making his way to the barn. The cows anticipate his arrival with an internal clock he’s come to know as well as his own. Each stall unlatched after the barn gate is open and they make their way into the field, heading first for the stream before munching on the lush green buffet before them.
As the sun’s fingertips grasp the earth’s horizon, and the sky takes on that orange-purple glow, he cranks the blue tractor to life and heads toward the golden tendrils waiting for him. The dog sits at the edge of the dirt, watching him zig-zag up and down the field. Occasionally a rodent or cat will catch her eye, and she’ll pounce and roll only to end up back in the same spot she’s sat for years.
The sun is high and has burned the mist and dew away by the time he finishes. The old machine is not running as well as it should be. He smiles, thinking the same could be said for him.
He walks the fields, checking the animals. His rough hands grasp a handkerchief and wipe the moisture from his brow. They are callused from turning rusty bolts with wrenches. They are weathered from laying seeds in the thick dirt. They are wrinkled and spotted from a full life. But they are soft for coercing milk from a cow. They are nimble for removing wool from a sheep. They are gentle for pulling a colt into the world. And it is this gentleness, this softness that makes him the farmer. Strength is important, but it is love and tenderness that push him out the door each morning.
The warmth of the day quickly scurries off as the sun falls back to the horizon. As the colors of the sky darken, he surveys his work. So much left to be done. Tomorrow maybe? He’s running out of light. Running out of warmth. Running out of strength. He sighs and thinks, never enough time.The dog sits at his feet. He smiles at her and says in that gruff, ragged voice that comes from a life worked outdoors, “Well Sis, I reckon that’s about all.” And with that he makes his way back home, towards the sun, towards his rest.