I was fourteen when Ty put me on the H. All winter, I had helped him with chores, cleaning out stalls, setting up the milking, feeding cows hay, silage. Summer, my brother was in the fields. I had never thought about joining him. But when they showed me the Farmall tractor and I sat up on it, it felt good under my legs, bigger than a riding lawn mower, squat, wide. A seat like the curve of the iron water bowls the cows drank from in the barn. Red paint that was so baked in sun, it looked faded, friendly. The tractor’s height, short like me.
The H’s controls were simple. “Because it’s old,” my brother said. I didn’t care. They taught me in the small field behind the cemetery – how to begin at the hedgerow, and drive in large rectangle swaths. I wore my pink bikini, learned how to hug the edge of the hay field, making windrows with the rake dragging behind. Little hills of fresh cut grass lying on the shorn ground, waves like the blue Appalachians in the distance. I was so high above the field, it seemed I could see all the way over Browntown Mountain, down to the river. When the H swooped down on the back ridge, my heart sank and rose again, just like the Ferris wheel at the Fireman’s Carnival at the end of summer.
The cut Timothy and alfalfa smelled like the haymow where I had wanted to live since I was little – but alive, green, moving. The smell permeated me, my skin a thin barrier. The cut grasses almost simmered as they settled. I belonged to the hay field, where I could most feel everything, the lone person with the grasshoppers, swallows, woodchucks, mice and cottontails. No human or house in sight. I rippled in the summer heat, humming through me. I sang above the butternut, oak, the locust, a drifting raptor easy between song sparrows.
The H carried me. No matter what, the field. The field, my family. My mother, in her stillness. My father, silent in his work. My siblings, strewn to the breezes, sunk in the ravines. The enormous heat of the hayfield stuck me to the seat of the H, and I commenced in the haze of my body. My body, the solid ground. My body, the wellspring. My body, the open sky.
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Ellen Stone teaches at Community High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her poetry collection, The Solid Living World, won the 2013 Michigan Writers Cooperative Press chapbook contest. Ellen’s poems have appeared recently in Blast Furnace, Dunes Review, Gravel, Melancholy Hyperbole, Neat, in the anthology, Uncommon Core, published by Red Beard Press, and are forthcoming in Passages North.