The furrows were so long and straight, that the distant ends seemed to disappear with the curvature of the earth. Wavy lines of reflected sunlight gave way to rampaging dust devils all of which gave the fields a hellish sense of isolation. A never changing scene, not much different from a painting hanging in a museum.
A crop duster cruised overhead, I came to envy the pilots, seemingly freed from the constraints of mortal men. Lucky bastards, they're getting away... A mile distant, the sight of a truck kicking up a plume of dust gave me pause. Who in the hell would think this was a good place for an eleven year old kid? This was my first summer job. While the spoiled youths of summer hung out in air conditioned gyms, practicing lay-up drills, I walked countless miles in the blazing heat. I would trudge my way down the rows, chopping and cutting. Out in the open the only shade you find is your shadow and it's always leaning away from you.
I wasn't always alone, every now and then, the farmer's kids would join me, usually as punishment for something they'd done at home. We would talk non-stop, we would tease each other without mercy, we engaged in dirt clod fights and chased lizards across the rows. They also brought a transistor radio with them, silence was vanquished. The voice of KGRT's Steve Crosno resonated across the fields as did the music of The Dave Clark Five, Doug Sahm and Sam The Sham.
Not owning a watch, I learned to tell time by the sun.. I had twelve noon down to a few minutes. For lunch, the boss would drive by and take me to a nearby irrigation tank that had a cluster of weeping willows growing around it. I would eat my modest lunch, refill my canvas water bag and then sling rocks at bullfrogs until he came back for me. "Don't kill the bullfrogs" he would tell me "They keep the mosquitos down." After lunch his boys would leave for basketball practice or Little League games and I would be alone again.
I kept my mind occupied by reconstructing the radio program from that morning. I also re-played baseball games and pro-wrestling matches from the night before, somehow finding a way to put myself in the action. After a while, I made-up my own radio stations, I became the dj, I came up with my own lyrics. Imaginary baseball teams and athletes came to life in my mind, it was the original fantasy league.
In the movie "Cabeza De Baca" which is about the travels of a Spanish explorer who finds himself shipwrecked along the Gulf Coast. There's a scene where he finds himself repeating a word in Spanish, over and over, as if the mechanics of speech were now foreign to him. I became prone to bouts of soliloquy, a subliminal response to the crushing silence. Funny thing is, once work was done I didn't feel like talking to anyone.
I had always imagined that I would grow up to be a farmer. That my father and I, would drive tractors side by side. Together we would plow the long straight furrows, the kind that you could look back at with pride. In tandem we would hoist the PVC pipes, dropping one at the head of each row and in one swift motion starting a flow of water down the line. It wasn't to be, just like thousands of other farm families, we moved into town and I became a townie. The experience forged me into a better person, although, in a strange way I found the solitude of the furrows to be better company than the town kids.