Horizon of hope

Published 8:43 am Wednesday, August 4, 2010

“It’s back there. Way back there between that tall sycamore tree and the silo. Above the line of trees. That’s where they usually come from.”

Every farm has one. A particular direction from which the thunderstorms come rolling in. Just to the left they usually slide south. A little to the right finds them easing north. But right there — right through there — they usually come right over top.

For some farms it’s back over the pasture about three fence posts from the corner. Others find it just beyond the duck field next to the old logging path. Some see it just right the pond meets the horizon. But it’s there.

During droughts a man finds himself glancing in that direction a thousand times a day. Walking to the shop. Getting the mail. Driving the pickup. It becomes an unconscious habit that fills in the empty spaces of work.

Like a stockbroker who can’t keep his eyes off the screen, or a mother watching the road for a child coming home for the holidays, so is the farmer looking to the western sky.

In doing so, he joins everyone who existed before him that worked the land. Whether walking or driving a mule or steering a tractor, whether brown-haired with brisk gait or gray-haired with a cane, they all, with squinting eyes and straining ears, looked in that same place, yearning to see some dark cloud trying to make himself larger, some faint sound of a low rumble.

For from that direction comes hope or despair, abundance or scarcity. It can bring laughter to a household or thicken the air with foreboding. That place tests ones patience and bank account.

It is the well, the vortex, the mystical, uncontrollable expanse that somehow spews forth her proclamations on powerless mortals, as if challenging any human to usurp her throne. We can watch it. We can stare at it.

Just like our forefathers, we can yearn to see something come forth from it. But — just like our forefathers — we can do nothing about it.

So we wait. And look. And sleep. And look. And work. And look. The head naturally turns in that direction at the start of a day and twist around for one more glimpse at the end. It is no less a part of the landscape than the house or yard or shop or fields or the farmer himself. So we wait. And look. And sleep. And look. And work. And ..……….hold it!…….. Stop reading!…….. Right now!

Did that sound like a rumble off to the west?