War Visits an American Farm
A Darkening Sky Bodes Ill...
Grandpa shoveled oats into the sack that I was holding and, like any 11 year old, I was bored to tears. A gust of wind buffeted the granary and grandpa remarked that the storm would be here before we were nearly ready for it. “It looks like 1941 is goin‘ out with a bang” he said.
"I've got an idea," I piped up, "I'm young and spry so let me do the shoveling." Grandpa smiled that "grandpa-half-smile" of his but he continued to methodically scoop the endless supply of oats into the burlap sack. The next gust of wind shook the whole granary building like an angry hound shakes a jack rabbit.
Grandpa stopped shoveling and thought for a minute. "Wes is tidying up the smithy shop. Go tell him to take the Ford tractor up to the straw barn and bring back a load before the storm hits."
Big Shot Wes...
I obediently walked toward the shop but now I was in a very sour mood. Earlier, big-shot-18-year-old brother Wes had called me a “chowder head” and threw my hat into the weeds just because I had been teasing him about the town girl that he liked. Anyhow, when I went into the shop my mood instantly changed to pure elation!
There was Wes with a broom, but he wasn’t sweeping. No sir! He’d brought up the 7-tube radio from the house and he was dancing with the broom. DANCING!! I grabbed an imaginary microphone and began announcing ...“Yessiree folks, this here is Wesley Boggs and he’s the best broom dancer in the county. Why he…” (Wes was after me like a shot).
He chased me round and round the anvil, but I felt deliciously happy (for someone whose life was about to end any second). Suddenly I ran into grandpa. I looked up…he wore no "half-smile" now. Then he turned to Wes and spoke to him just like he was a real adult...about the straw and all.
Bad News and Brooms...
Wes left and I took over the sweeping and grandpa walked over to turn the radio off. I became mesmerized at the giant clouds of dust I could raise, but after a time I noticed that the radio was still on and Grandpa was listened intently. He looked up and said, “Go get Wes. He should be hearing this.” I dropped the "dancing broom" and ran outside to catch Wes before he left.
I was no longer mad at ol’ Wes because for sure, something big was going on. I stood and looked down toward the flats where we used to play baseball in the summer, but of course there was no reason why he’d be down there. I saw the tire swing that we used to play on being blown around in circles ... it repeatedly bumped against the old elm tree. For some reason I stared at the stand of Tamaracks just North of the house. Wes and I had built a hideout hut in the middle of the grove but he was too big to get into it now, even if he wanted to. Beyond there was our special fishin' hole where we used to spend every spare summertime minute.
Summer Always Ends
The Darkest Cloud of All...
I ran around the silo and looked up the lane but I saw nothing except storm clouds crowding out the last patch of blue sky. So I walked back to the shop and a sort of empty, melancholy feeling came over me. It was a feeling that I would get to know all too well in the coming years.
That sad feeling seemed to predict all of the fishing trips that Wes and I would never go on. The same sadness would also visit our family picnics, when the mention of Wes’s name would bring down an awkward silence...until someone changed the subject. That black cloud was the unwelcome guest on my wedding day, when Wes wasn’t there to help me pin on my boutonniere.
Small Town USA in the 1940's
The Storm Begins...
The wind was now howling and the snow pelted against me as I walked back and went into the shop. Grandpa was still listening to the radio and it talked of “...waves of planes…ships sinking or on fire...” and a lot other stuff. I quietly said “Grandpa, Wes must’ve left already...storm coming and all. Anyhow, I missed him and he's gone".
Any history book will tell you that farms contributed food to the war effort but I believe that we contributed a lot more than food. Ol' Wes was the best big brother you could ever have.
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