Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 14, 2008

As Bill glanced at his laptop, his cell phone rang with that now familiar ring.

Originally it thrilled his soul that such a small device could alert him and he could pull it out of his pocket with no wires attached and talk to someone miles away as if they were feet away.

But now, having heard that ring a thousand times, it was but another distraction in a very busy day.

He glanced at the Caller ID.

“Hello, Charlie.”

He started typing an e-mail as Charlie elaborated on an order that was held up in St. Louis.

“Call Calahan ASAP and let him know,” he said, as he finished an e-mail about next week’s project and sent it out to thirty-eight recipients.

The fax machine started receiving a fourteen page document His land line rang. It was Calahan. Complaining.

As he tried to console his customer, a text message came in from his daughter reminding him to pick her up at eleven.

Bill glanced at his watch. He had to leave now.

Stepping into his vehicle, he slid in behind a self-adjusting steering wheel, a GPS system, a thermostatically controlled climate, a self-adjusting volume control satellite radio and heated leather seats.

Heading out to school to pick up his daughter, he hit his cruise and glanced out the tinted window. For some reason- perhaps it was the just the sun’s rays — his eyes rested on a silhouetted figure out in a peanut field wearing a wide-brimmed hat and carrying a hoe. It wasn’t what the man had that caught Bill’s attention. It was what he didn’t have.

No radio or CD or cellphone or Ipod. No fax machine or laptop or e-mail. No air conditioner or GPS system. Nothing. He was just using a hoe. That was it.

And for a moment — just a moment — Bill relaxed a little. He slowed down slightly.

His grip on the steering wheel softened. His heart rate lessened. And a distant longing awoke in his heart.

Just then the phone rang.

It was Callahan.

“I can explain everything,” stated Bill, about to launch into a long discourse.

As he passed the peanut field, he glanced over his shoulder.

The old man, bending over to pull a weed, was fading from view.

Rex alphin is a farmer, businessman and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His e-mail address is rexalphin@aol.com.