The Summer of '62; Episode 11

The Rescue of Skip

Red stomped back to the wagon and hopped up. This time there was not a hand offer. The man scared Rich. Skip slowly started the tractor in motion with only a slight jerk. Red and Rich took turns grabbing the bales from the baler with their hay hooks and stacking them neat and tight.
Uncle Bob pulled an empty wagon and the full wagon was unhitched and replaced with the empty one.
Uncle Bob climbed on the wagon and Red went back to driving the tractor. The hay baling continued.
“Red was slapping his boy around while you were gone,” Rich said to Uncle Bob as they waited for a bale to come out of the baler.
“That ain’t none of your business,” Uncle Bob said as he sunk the hook into the bale and drug it to the back of the wagon. "If ya don't have dog in the fight, ya best keep your mouth shut."
“That's what the antelopes do,” Rich thought. “Uncle Bob was clearly afraid of Red also. He's afraid of my dad. He's afraid of everybody.”
He was a small quiet man and unimpressive. His speech was slow and muffled nearly to the point of being unintelligible. At times Rich felt sorry for him, but Uncle Bob had destroyed that feeling time and time again with no more than and unintelligible word. Uncle Bob's father, Rich's grandfather, treated him like a slave and not a son. He was beat down until nothing was left except a shell that thought only of himself. That is what Red was doing to Skip and that is what Uncle Bob was trying to do with Rich.
In short time the wagon was nearly full. Red stopped the tractor jumped down.
“Go get us another wagon,” he ordered Uncle Bob.
Without hesitation Uncle Bob did as he was told.
Red hoisted himself up to the wagon again and did the whirl motion with his arm and barked, “Get ’er goin’!”
Once again the tractor lurched. Red and Rich lost balance, but this time he did not embarrassingly fall from the wagon. The tractor stalled and Skip was unable to start it after several attempts. Red stood impatiently with his fists dug into his sides on the front edge of the wagon.
“It’s flooded for crying-out-loud. You flooded it ya little idiot,” Red bellowed and cursed.
Red jumped off the wagon and ran toward the tractor. “Get off ya stupid little idiot.”
Skip, fearful, stumbled trying to get down from the tractor. Red grabbed him and pulled him to the ground from the tractor and pulled him up by the shirt. Rich jumped from the wagon and ran toward them. No longer was he going to watch from a distance.
“Leave him alone,” Rich said firmly, but with little authority. “He’s trying the best he can.”
Red released his grip from Skip’s shirt and slowly turned toward Rich. His face was full of incredulous surprise. His eyes slowly squinted. His mouth was agape. He quickly moved toward Rich. Rich stopped and took a step back. Red grabbed Rich's arm. Rich tried to jerk away. He pulled Rich close and held the back of the hay hook against his cheek. Fear was in every fiber of Rich's brain and he trembled.
Red clinched his teeth, “You little creep, keep your snotty nose out of my family business.” He shoved Rich away and tromped back to the tractor and started it. He told Skip to go back to the truck. “You work the wagon by yourself,” he yelled over the sound of the tractor's engine.
Although Rich was still shaking he was relieved Skip was now out of the way.
Rich didn’t say a word to Uncle Bob when he returned.
They baled for another hour then Red said he had to do some other baling and he’d be back in two days to finish.
They had three full wagons to stack in the barn’s hay mows.
Uncle Bob loaded the bales onto a conveyor that steadily transported them to the mow where Rich stacked them.
In those days the phrase “air quality” had absolutely no meaning. It was just two words that someday somebody would arrange them beside each other and search for a meaning. The air quality in the mow was horrendous. The word “horrendous” was first said after some etymologists had to stack hay in a barn’s mow. There is absolutely no circulation of air. After a couple of bales are drug across the floor of the mow the dust and chaff are stirred up. It becomes so thick it’s felt on the skin and swiped at like it’s a swarm of gnats. It collects in the nostrils mouth, eyes, and lungs. Sweat turns the dust on the skin to an almost mud-like substance. It takes days for the soot to exit the lungs. Mucus from the nostrils are laden with dust and various other particles like filthy dish water. The eyes itch and the mouth becomes dry and pasty. The grit of the dust is ground by the teeth. Chunks of collected dust and bits are coughed with a deep hacking sound. Even though tired and exhausted one dares not take a deep breath. A deep breath sends the dust immediately to the lungs whereas the slow deliberate breathing allows the naturally secreted body fluid to capture the invading particles.

Rich was always in the mow.