The rain clouds burned off yesterday afternoon and Leon almost finished the back acres. I was so excited I was almost capering in the mud but Leon merely smiled gently. “We’re gettin’ there. Field’s starting to look more the way it should look.” If you double-click to enlarge the photo you can see Leon on the bulldozer, smoothing the knoll behind the cabin.
Today will be Leon’s last day. I have enjoyed having him working for me. He’s talented and kind. We talk every day over cookies, Leon in the driver’s seat and me sitting on the muddy machine tracks, knees drawn up, listening. He tells stories of his childhood and his varied career; he also gives me great recipes. The other night I tried making Leon’s pot roast and gravy. It was delicious.
It has been deeply familiar and nostalgic to be working at one end of a large field while far away a machine roars and beeps. Most of the year I am alone on the farm. It warms my heart to have company, even at a distance. You’ve heard of children and parallel play; I enjoy parallel work, being able to look up and wave, having someone to share it all with. Moving the pigs yesterday was even funnier because Leon in the bulldozer cab was watching.
By the end of the day Leon was working on the stump burial ground behind the cabin knoll. Last spring this small depression was a ravine. Allen had filled it up to its neck with stumps, boulders, and broken logs.
I’d had to miss Allen’s last day of work, due to a medical test in Vermont. When I returned home the machine was already gone. I’d hiked out to look at this ravine, and the filled-in end of the old pond. They’d both been a jumble of logs and stumps rearing up in the air like giant haystack candies. Now both were completely flat and smooth. I’d walked around, smiling to myself. I knew how much time and effort this had required, using just the excavator bucket, with no blade. I had watched Allen work such miracles for six years. I couldn’t wait to tell him how great he was. I didn’t know then that he would never work for me again.
But I know it now, and yesterday as I watched Leon carve away the top of the knoll to bury that work underground I felt tears prickling in my nose. Very silly. It’s the perfect solution and one Allen would have done himself. Still, I was reminded of my son saying, at age ten at the end of a family reunion, “Grandma, I’d like to hit rewind and do it all again!”
I’d give a lot to see Allen’s big smile and hear that gravelly voice saying, “Hello, sunshine. What ya workin’ on today?”