Waiting in the starting gate

Published 10:23 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2013

By Rex Alphin

Tractors are fueled. Oil has been changed. Planters are set. Seed is waiting in the bags, piled high, clamoring to be opened. There await the fields, having sat dormant for three long months, pleading for some action. The soil is screaming to envelop kernels once again, to give of itself that new life might come.

Farmers are sitting around, tapping their fingers, looking at the sky, feeling the dirt, tinkering with row openers, cleaning tractor windshields, checking for worn bearings, kicking tires, pawing at the dirt like hot-tempered bulls.

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Like NASCAR drivers before the race, they’re putting on the gloves, lacing up the boots, zipping up the jacket, adjusting the sunglasses. They rub their hands along the hood and climb into the seat. They stretch out their arms and curl their fingers around the steering wheel. Push the clutch in once or twice. Adjust the rearview mirrors.

They look out through the glass and see the fields. There is the Milton Field, the Long Cut, the Boone Field, just sitting there in a low, flat cover crop, as if anxious to have tractor tires caress its back and planters stroke its sides. Each has a long, straight side where the first set of rows is planted. They are just waiting.

The air itself has a feel of expectancy. The birds seem jittery. Deer are on edge. Groundhogs scamper, as if creation is holding its breath.

The sun seems to be taking its time, lingering a tad longer each day, sending its rays down to warm the earth. The soil warms up just slightly. Then a tad more. Then slightly more.

And we wait. We listen to the weatherman. And we wait. We grab a handful of soil. And we wait. We look to the sky and stroke our chins and spit on the ground And we wait.

Then we hear it. Might be at night, might be at noontime. Might be while sitting in a chair reading the paper. It sweeps through with the wind and slams into our souls. It rolls down through the trees and curls around our bones. It grabs us with a giant fist that pushes all other endeavors, activities, interests and relationships to the side, echoing through the forest, down the rivers, across the fields and exploding in the sky.

“Gentlemen! It is time! It is time! It is time! Start…. Your…. Engines!”

Rex Alphin of Walters is a farmer, businessman, author, county supervisor and contributing columnist for the Suffolk News-Herald. His email address is rexalphin@aol.com.