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Staying on the Farm With Mom

The prairies suck. At least, that's what I thought when I was coming of age at the end of the depression. My elder half-brother Hank left me behind on the farm when he ran off to fight the fascists in Spain. That caused considerable worry for our parents and hardship since his share of the work, more than a quarter, had to be shouldered by Pa and me. Hank's departure took Pa near the breaking point, the extra work and strain of making ends meet adding to the stress of worrying whether or not he'd ever see his oldest son alive again.

At first, if you listened to Pa, it served Hank right if he got himself killed but that was just talk. Many times out in the field, when he thought he was alone, I saw Pa pull out his handkerchief to wipe his eyes. At supper on those days his words for Hank were especially harsh and he would turn to me to lay down the law.

"Don't you go gittin any dumb idees like yor dumass brother. Now you gots twice the work to do 'cause he done left us for politics, and me with my sore back and all."

Ma would be particularly comforting the next day, putting a little something extra in Pa's lunch and stuff like that, and she'd tell me Pa didn't mean what he said and how much she and Pa really missed Hank.

I missed Hank too but I wasn't worried about him. Pa was way off the mark. Hank didn't give spit about politics, he was off having all the fun he'd always dreamed of. Hank wasn't a plodder like me. He was way too impatient for farming. If it hadn't been for Franco, Hank would have drifted off somewhere else anyway.

Ma was worried about Hank too, maybe even more than Pa, but she didn't talk about it. Ma rarely talked at all 'lessen she had something to say. She wasn't even as old as me when Pa married her after his Hank's real ma died of TB when Hank was only four. The thrill of getting away from home and not having to look after her little brothers and sisters quickly wore off for Ma 'cause she got pregnant right away. She would have had a few more to look after too if something hadn't happened so she couldn't have another baby after me. Yep, Ma didn't have much of a childhood but that wasn't rare in those days.

Pa and I had settled in to the extra work by the time we heard the news. Ma had made a pie, in the middle of the week, so I knew something was up. After we washed up and sat down, I saw the letter sitting on Pa's plate. It hadn't been opened yet and we all sat there staring at it. It was covered in post marks because it had been sent from Spain but had been re-addressed from England to here.

Pa finally picked opened the letter, with some difficulty because his knarled fingers shook so much, while Ma wept quietly. Pa's hands became rock steady for a moment, then his fingers started trembling again and the letter dropped from his hands He got up and walked away from the table to stand in front of the sink, staring out the window somewhere beyond the barn. Ma sobbed.

I picked up the letter and read it out loud so Ma could hear. It was from a friend of Hank's, a fellow adventurer. He was sorry he hadn't written sooner but he had been wounded and only recently got out of the hospital. He went on to say how bravely Hank had died at the hands of the fascists, the detail in which he described their exploits showing what close comrades they had been. He talked about how often Hank spoke about us and how much he had wanted to go back home. I knew that last part was written for my parents benefit. Hank would never have come back to the farm except maybe to visit, and then he wouldn't have stayed long, but it was nice for his friend to say he wanted to. He must have been a decent fellow.

Pa came back to the table after I finished reading the letter and started dishing out his supper. Ma and I followed suit. It was a quiet dinner. Pa didn't even compliment Ma or thank her for the pie. We all went to bed early.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

After that, Pa steadily lost steam. I had to work harder to make up for him slowing down but the worst part was that Pa didn't seem to care about farming anymore. He gave up on things easily and his thinking suffered. I began making decisions about the farm when he put things off too long. That's when I found out that I really was a farmer, not an adventurer like Hank. I enjoyed it when I got to say how things should get done.

Ma was quite worried when Pa couldn't brush off the depression that had fallen over him. Pies and special cookies couldn't break him out of it, nor could I work hard enough to dispel his conviction that the farm was done for. He was convinced I was going to follow in Hank's footsteps no matter how much I told him I wouldn't.

Then we got the news about the new war in Europe. Hitler had invaded Poland and Britain and France had declared war on Germany. So had Canada, and we didn't live far from the border. Pa was sure Hank had gone to Canada on his way to join the fight against the fascists. Now there were more fascists to fight and this time there was a lot more excitement because Germany was involved. Pa was more animated that day, mumbling 'I knew it' to himself all day long which interfered with how much we got done. Nevertheless, Pa just refused to leave the field until it was too dark to see.

It was late when we got back to the house for supper which was kind of dried out. I was shit tired. After washing up, I ate and went outside to the check on the animals. On the way back to the house, I heard Pa ranting about Hank leaving.

"I told you, din't I?"

I couldn't hear Ma's response, if there was one. Pa railed on, "He would have stayed if'n you tried."

Ma said something but I couldn't make out what it was.

"We got no choice. If Donny goes, where we gonna be? I ain't no spring chicken no more and my back's gittin worse. We gots to keep him here, no matter what."

Almost to the door, I slowed my pace and started to whistle. When I opened the screen door, Ma and Pa weren't talking anymore. It was another quiet dinner.

"I think I'm going to hit the sack right away. I'm dog tired," I said.

"Don't you want some puddin?" Ma asked.

"No thanks, Ma. I'm real tired."

"That was a good day's work today, son," Pa said. "Tomorrow, we shouldn't have to work so hard."

"That's ok, Pa. I don't mind," hoping to reassure him that I wasn't going to leave. I walked up the stairs but paused at the top to listen to see if he believed me this time.

"He wants to go," Pa said. "I can see it in his eyes."

"He's young, Harv, but he's not a dreamer like Hank. He'll stay and help."

"We don't know for sure. Maybe Hank woulda stayed if'n..."

"We don't know that and I don't want to hear about it no more," Ma angrily cut him off.

"Well, the way he was..."

"Lord a'mighty, watch your tongue, Harvey Thompson."

"I'm jest sayin, if'n you had..."

"That's enough."

"Well, I guess it ain't like he was your own flesh and blood. Where I growed up..."

"I said, that's enough! We're done talking about that."

I was stunned. I had never heard Ma so agitated, especially when talking to Pa. He was always the boss in the house and sometimes got grumpy but he usually treated Ma pretty good and she knew how to get him out of his grumpy moods pretty quick anyway. This was a switch in roles and, clearly, Pa wasn't as good at lightening things up.

What was going on? It sounded like Pa was blaming Ma for Hank leaving but she had nothing to do with it, it was all Hank's doing. Couldn't he see that? Sure, Hank wasn't her flesh and blood but she always treated him like he was even though she wasn't near old enough to be Hank's real ma. Hell, I was barely old enough, Ma being so young and all when she married Pa. Hank was just a dreamer, a born adventurer. I went up to bed, still troubled about what I'd heard.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I didn't sleep well that night and morning came early. Ma was moody at breakfast which was odd for her. She was usually at her brightest at the start of the day. On the other hand, Pa was quite chipper. Even in the good old days, he was typically downbeat in the morning and didn't cheer up until we got more work done that he had thought we would. Things were changing and I wasn't sure I liked it.

We got all the way out to the back quarter before we found out we didn't have enough barbed wire to fix the fences. I had been sure there was an extra roll in the pickup, our trusty Cornbinder, but seeing was believing. Pa insisted on staying to work on the fence alone with the half roll we had while I went back to get another one despite the fact that I could fix half again as much fence as he could in the same time.

"I can handle this," he said, "and I like doin it. You go back, and have an early lunch at the house."

So I drove back to the house but parked on the far side of the barn to load the wire and a couple of other tools I noticed we were missing. It was too early for lunch and I hadn't worked up an appetite but I headed for the house anyway. As I neared the house, I could hear Ma singing. Figuring on surprising her, I snuck up to side of the house and peered through the side window instead of the one by the sink. What I saw shocked me.

Ma was standing in the tub we used for bathing, soaping her hair. My God. Her arms were lifted up to massage her scalp, causing her bare breasts to jiggle about on her chest. Big nipples stuck out from her tits which, though not big like I'd seen in some dirty pictures, were way bigger than I would have thought. Ma always wore long, drab dresses over top of thick white underdresses and socks. The only skin that ever showed was on her head, neck, and hands and here she was buck naked.

I remembered to breathe.

Her wet skin glistened and seemed littered shiny spots yet flickered with shadows. She stooped down to fill a small pitcher with water, tipped her head back, and doused her hair. The water spilled over her head and shoulders and dripped back into the tub but lots spilled over her face and ran down her chest and breasts, cascading off her nipples. Oh my God. My hand found my cock, which I had learned to enjoy over the last few years, and massaged it into hardness as I watched Ma spill several more containers onto her beautiful hair and gorgeous body. I had never seen anything so magnificent.

Ma squeezed the water out of her hair, working her way from the scalp down to the tips. I prepared to duck, not knowing which direction she might step out of the tub but was pleased to see her stoop down, tits dangling, while her hand searched for something in the tub. She came up with a bar of soap, started sliding it up and down her left arm, and began singing again.

After her left arm was done, Ma lifted it high to do her armpit. That was the best part ...
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