The soil always wins

Published 10:06 pm Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It’s sitting there now. Right outside my backyard. The same soil my grandfather walked his mules through and rode his buggy over. The same soil my father stepped on while spreading fertilizer out of a bucket and kneeled on while digging potatoes with his hands.

It has neither moved nor changed, as if mocking our finite existence. It just is. All we can do is push it to the side. But it comes back to its resting place, as if awaiting our next campaign.

We throw everything at it. Plow points, disc blades, chisel points, ripper shanks, row openers, cultivator bats. It doesn’t matter. They all wear out. Our soldiers, dutifully arranged in formation, precisely aligned for battle, are systematically weakened until — thin, poor replicas of their former selves — they are cast aside into a heap of other defeated armaments. All the while the soil stays, as if beckoning some new adversary.

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It scorns us. In the midst of drought, as corn fodder curls and cotton leaves droop, it throws itself into our faces, saying, “Ha! What will you do now!” as it howls a scornful pitch and laughs in derision while disappearing like a train in the distance. Our grimace simply fuels its disdain.

It derides us. After a two-inch rain, it wraps it fingers around tractor wheels and dares them to move. It turns slick and gives no traction. It turns soft and offers no foundation. After a two-month drought, it repels implements, crusting over into bedrock while suffocating its inhabitants.

And, eventually, it conquers us. It has my grandfather even now. That which he once fought, he is now part of. He has succumbed to its beckoning, surrendered to its call.

And now I hear it calling me. On windy nights, I think I hear my name. The soil, lying, waiting, as if preparing a new abode. For I know, though I throw all my being against it and repel its efforts, though I fight a great battle now and celebrate momentary victory, it will one day win the war.

On that day, I will be lowered down into its midst. It will wrap its cold fingers around me and revel in what it knew was inevitable. In its final act of victory, I will be turned into it.

The soil always wins.