Ranger

December 1, 2009
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One lone tractor grumbled to a stop, the road stretching long behind and in front. The wind whistled around the tin contraption as a man dropped from his seat, a bucket in hand. A loud moan echoed through the surrounding fields as the man approached the suffering, chocolate cow. Red dust gathered around the man’s feet as the familiar, dull glint of the bucket had the old girl gathering herself to her feet, hope filling her simple mind. A small, almost unnoticeable relief filled the man’s equally simple mind. This small favor he could do for this one abandoned cow could help relieve the pain, long forgotten. He approached the side of the quivering cow and began to cautiously ease the milk from her. Beneath the man’s cold hands, he felt the cow stop trembling. This was how he could help. This was the only way he could help someone, something; anything. “Why, you’re Joe Davis’s boy!”

The bucket flew, milk hydrating the dry road. Davis refocused, falling back as the cow sent back another kick and howled. Must have tugged too much, he figured. The cow trotted into the neighboring field, too disheartened to be angry for long. Davis gathered himself up, yells and curses settling at the back of his throat. The violence and resentment, all settled in the back of the throat, was nothing new. Wiping the ruddy dust from his overalls, he hopped back into the tractor. He set the mutilated bucket to his side. The tractor started up again, and Davis was back on his way. The orange sun was setting to his left, and he knew his side trip would have him late for dinner, which was nothing new.

He started counting the seconds. Sometimes he’d have to pause in order to remember what came next, but then sped up his count so that he could keep it as accurate as possible. He had to keep counting or else… Day 3 of work. The shiny new tractor beneath him, and in a better seat than many of his neighbors. And yet… Mud soared through the sky and landed roughly on his shoulder. Davis wiped the mud from his sleeve and kept his head low. The last thing he needed was anyone recognizing him. “Hey! Hey you! You like destroyin’ all our crops! Running us off our land, huh?” More mud flew by, but missed him this time. Davis continued plowing through the dried crops. Suddenly more people entered the scene. Yells and shouts and curses stabbed at Davis from every angle. He wanted to say it wasn’t him. He wanted to say he had nothing to do with it, that he too had a family to keep. The crowd settled, the sun too high and mighty to allow it. Davis stopped the tractor and pulled a sandwich from under his seat, a luxury that many present didn’t have. “Ma, why do we have tah leave Jesse? She ain’ dun nothin’, and she kin walk too.” Davis looked over to the fourteen-year-old, lanky arms latched around a dopey-eyed cow’s neck. “I’m sorry Dahlin’, but there ain’ nothing we can do ‘bout it. Pa said no.” The child’s head bobbed. “Well, wait. Who’s, uh, gonna milk her? She gonna hurt somethin’ fierce in a few days” The mother did a light, apologetic shrug and went into the house.

“Wait one second.” A man to Davis’s right said with an arrogant twang to his voice. “Don’t he look familiar.” He gave the man to his side a nudge. Davis gave a fleeting glance to the men at his right and began putting his sandwich aside. “Why you’re Joe Davis’s boy! I never!”

Davis parked the tractor and hopped out. A small, make-shift building made for the bank men that Davis daringly called the office. But he was no colleague of these fine men. He entered, laughter heard from the room to his left. He went into the small room, the laughter died The poker players snickered a bit as they resumed their game. The bank’s men. Ties were loosened and buttons were opened already, bodies not used to the country’s heat. Davis stood in front of the teal table, as he took in the rough speech as the other men watched him judgingly. The large man finished and shoved the check into Davis’ hands, grease prints smudged some of the ink. Davis turned to leave, but instead he soon found himself falling face first into the hard wood floor. The large man laughed along with some of the bank men. The perpetrator simply muttered, “Stupid country boy.” Davis got up and left.
The poker players snickered a bit as they resumed their game. The bank’s men. Ties were loosened and buttons were opened already, bodies not used to the country’s heat. Davis stood in front of the teal table, as he took in the rough speech as the other men watched him judgingly. The large man finished and shoved the check into Davis’ hands, grease prints smudged some of the ink. Davis turned to leave, but instead he soon found himself falling face first into the hard wood floor. The large man laughed along with some of the bank men. The perpetrator, sneaking his foot back under the table, simply muttered, “Stupid country boy.” Davis got up and left.
With the tractor left behind, Davis started toward home. He dragged his feet. His shoes and the bottom of his overalls were already red from the dust being kicked up. Davis’ life story was written in this dirt road. To the left of him were similar footprints going the same way Davis was. To the right was a pair of prints going back. However this was not his road alone. Tires and bare toes etched their story into the road as well. So many had left and Davis wondered when his story would take that same route.
Laughter was heard ahead and Davis looked up desperately. But the past had deceived him. As he looked up, he saw no smiles. His son, a teenager far too mature for his age, looked up a bit from the front porch of Davis’s home. He nodded at his father, stood slowly and headed inside where a tired wife sat at the kitchen table. Davis came in, purposely ignoring the deep frown set into his wife’s face. “Billy! Sam! Dinah’!” she grated. Davis sat down as Ms. Davis pulled the aged pot from the oven. She started to pour thin soup into bowls as Sam and Billy ran in. “Hey Daddy! Billy been puttin’ bugs in mah hair!” Sam called as she sat down.
“What did yo’ motha’ say?” Davis knew the safest route.
“She seh ta’ tell you.” Davis looked up at his wife, and she looked down at him firmly. He sighed tiredly and leaned back in his chair. This late in the day, he didn’t have the energy to think. His wife must had the same idea.
“Jus’ give ‘im a smack in the head.” Sam grinned and raised her hand to take advantage of this new leverage.
“Oh no you don’t!” Ma snapped, and slapped at Sam’s raised hand.
“I was jus’ kiddin’,” Sam mumbled, and rubbed her hand sullenly. Ms. Davis picked up the bowls.
“Hun I-“ The bowl slammed in front of him, and soup splashed onto the table. Davis was quieted as the wife continued passing the bowls around, and the rest of the family simmered in the silence. Ma sat next to Davis as the family said a quick prayer and began to eat. Davis looked down into the grey-ish soup, looking for something to sink his teeth into. He found a soft carrot and scooped it into his mouth. He set the spoon down gently and rested his hand on his wife’s. “Hun.” Her hand moved from under his and into her lap. The silence continued. Davis sighed and rose from his chair. He pushed the door open and went out into the front yard and into the fields. They were calling his name. “Why, you’re Joe Davis’s boy!”





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