Making hay was satisfying but monotonous work. It was nice to see the cut hay come off the end of the rake, like a green waterfall, cascading into a long even wave. And it was satisfying to look back and see row after row of mounded hay stretched out across the flat field. At first, Terry had paid close attention to the tractor and rake, worried that something might break, and listening for the telltale rattle of things amiss. But the steady thump-thump of the old two-cylinder Deere soon became just background noise for his reveries.
“That’s the nice thing about some farming operations,” Terry thought to himself. “Raking hay and harrowing are mostly brainless. It relaxes me and give me time to think about things.” He let his mind wander as he thump-thumped across the field. He wondered if Isolde was more than just a pretty face – did she read real books, or just romance trash? He had seen the corner of a paperback book poking out of the top of her backpack. “Backpack! Humph! What kind of woman has a fight and walks out in the middle of the night armed with a backpack, sleeping bag and tent? She must be pretty resourceful,” he thought. He liked that idea. He had never found needy, clinging-vine types interesting. There had been plenty of them around when he was in college. They were always mooning over someone – “usually brainless jocks” he thought to himself, though he had his share of followers, too.
He remembered one girl in particular. She had always been so quiet and reserved until that night they had decided to go swimming after the party. She had shed her decorum with her clothes and turned out to be a wanton hussy. But for the next week, she had clung to him like a limpet. He finally had to hurt her feelings just to get her to give him a little breathing room. The final straw was the night she threw a crying fit because he was not paying attention to her while he was up on the bandstand. “Musicians shouldn’t get romantically involved,” he thought to himself.
Just then, a limerick popped into his head. A musician while playing a dance Saw a woman he thought he’d romance. She turned out to be So ultra-clingy That he wished he’d kept it in his pants.
Terry chuckled to himself, and might have laughed out loud, if the front wheels hadn’t suddenly hit the edge of a ground hog hole. He snapped back to reality and managed to hit the kill switch as he jumped off the tractor and it toppled onto its side. He got up and brushed himself off and stood there, hands shaking, looking at the tractor. It had fallen onto its left side, and the big right wheel spun slowly in the air. “Well,” he thought, “that was close. I guess I’ll have to walk home and see if I can find someone to help me right this thing.”
He walked over to the fallen tractor and reaching under the hood, felt around for the fuel shut-off valve. “I don’t know why I’m doing this,” he thought. “Diesel fuel isn’t going to go up like gasoline, and the hot exhaust pipes are all uphill from it anyway.” Then he remembered what a pilot friend of his had once said; “Flying is 90 percent boredom and ten percent terror.” He grinned ruefully and thought, “That almost goes for farming, too, except it’s only 80 percent boredom, because there’s 10 percent frustration if you survive terror.” He looked across the field toward his house. “And there’s a lot of walking involved, too,” he thought.
As he trudged across the field, careful to step over the freshly raked rows, he heard a car horn from out on the road. “What happened? Did your tractor decide to lay down for a nap?” yelled Bob.
“Hit a ground hog hole,” he yelled back. “Mind giving me a lift into Fort Smallwood? There’s a gas station owner there with an old-style chain hook tow rig. He can right this thing for me.”
On the way to Fort Smallwood – which is really no more than a crossroads, not a town – Bob told Terry about his conversation with George and Isolde.
“What did they think?” asked Terry.
“Well, neither of them exactly said so in words, but he had a gleam in his eye like he was interested. And she sure seemed interested, especially after I told them you were part of the deal.” Bob glanced sideways at Terry and grinned.
“Whoa,” Terry said. “I’m not about to go breaking up a marriage. And if you think I’m gonna get wrapped up in some sort of ménage a trois, you’re crazier than…”
“Hold on, hold on,” Bob said. “First off, they’re not married. Or if they are, she’s a bigamist, ‘cause she’s still legally married to that slime ball shacking up with my granddaughter. Second, I don’t think she’s gonna dump one starving musician for another. And third, on some level at least, they really do love each other. Although I don’t think either of them realizes it. Or if they do, they’re afraid to admit it.”
Terry was silent for a moment. Then he said, “She said he’s a mechanic. Do you think he can help me with assembling and maintaining the rides?”
“Well, he keeps that raggedy-assed car of his running. And I’ve heard his boss and customers think pretty highly of his work. It’s all just machinery. He can probably handle it. Is your license still current?”
“Yup. And I’ve been working on getting an FAA Airframe/Power plant license, too. I have about another fifty hours to go before I can take the test,” Terry replied.
“So there are two hurdles pretty much out of the way,” said Bob. “Do you know the bass player and drummer he works with?”
“I played a wedding gig with Dan last Friday in O.C. Who the hell gets married on a Friday afternoon, anyway?” he asked rhetorically.
“Maybe they got a three-day weekend special,” Bob quipped.
“Yeah. Dan said they got an extra night to do it legally,” replied Terry.
“Well, here we are. Do you want me to stick around ‘til you see if this guy’s in?” Bob offered.
“Nah. I’ll just hang here. If he’s out on the road, they can get him on the radio. Thanks for the lift,” Terry said.
“Oh. I almost forgot. You’re supposed to stop by George and Isolde’s place when you get done. Take some swim trunks. That cabin over at Mago Vista doesn’t have any tenants this week and you guys might as well use it. Key’s in the regular place – under the gunwale on the canoe.”
Just as Bob was driving off, a battered up ’48 Ford tow truck rattled into the service area.
It took Terry and the tow driver less than thirty minutes to right the tractor. He finished raking without further incident. It was about 5:30 when Terry pulled his Jeep into the driveway next to George’s VW.
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