Summer of 1961, A.L Grey’s farm
Maybe it was morning or maybe it was noon, it all looked the same and you really could not tell them apart under this harsh sun. Nevertheless it was in fact noon, something that Stevie, Lexie and Bruno, Mr. Grey’s farm dogs knew very well and therefore were lying low in the shade in and around his house; they knew their services would be required to round up the sheep and the cattle only in the evening and by then it would be much cooler too. Someone else who realized that it was noon time was Grey’s big farmer’s tummy, which had begun to rumble loudly and purr softly together like only it could, it sounded like Mr. Grey had earlier swallowed a 5 member school band and the background music that they were making now seemed to suggest something huge and substantial and full of mystery were going to happen in the next few seconds. But nothing of that sort happened, how could it? for he was just feeling hungry. In fact he had even dismissed these sounds earlier as an extension of the sounds from the tractor that he was riding on, but when he stopped the engine and the sounds from within continued, he figured it was time to stock up on the regular smoked sausages and traditional bread along with a slice of some rich pavlova and then wash it all down with a tall glass of local wine. It was a big meal but then again Mr. Grey was a big man after all. And he had also been told to have his meals on time ever since last week’s incident when he had passed out in the middle of the field due to hunger and exhaustion simply because he had gotten too engrossed with his work and forgot to take his regular big meal on time. He got off his tractor; it was a blue colour one and an old one too and wherever the paint had scrapped off you could see the rust underneath. He removed his dark brown colour cowboy hat and swiped the sweat off his forehead and the rest of his face with the back of his gloved hand. He was sweating profusely everywhere and his white tee shirt under those denim overhauls was also drenched in his sweat because of this harsh sun. Putting the hat back on his head, he turned around and admired his work, looking back with softened eyes at the field that he had been tilling until now. He had to get it ready on time, as he did not want to miss the deadline that was this Friday to plant the wheat crop. It was something he was banking on to reap some good for him and his family run farm over this summer after the sugar cane crop had failed him unexpectedly this time around. He had to get this right because a good harvest would also mean being able to buy those new tools and replace the old and rusty ones that were currently in use and this was something that was long overdue. And if the weather gods were really kind to him this summer by providing good rains throughout then that new tractor on which he had set his eyes on for a long time could also be his. However, not everything was as fine and promising as it looked, the fact that the soil’s fertility was in the wane the last couple of years was one of the many things worrying him apart from the constantly diminishing water sources. Running this farm was no easy chore and he knew that very well. Grey’s farm had been in his family’s hands for many generations now, many a father – son duo had worked hard and tilled long hours to turn this farm into what it is today. And that tradition carried on even today with his son Shane and him working just as hard like the previous generations to keep the farm running. Grey suddenly remembered working here as a youngster himself along with his father and the one image that had stuck in his mind from then was seeing the big whitish brown camels in large numbers on a similar hot day like today. The camels’ help were taken to move around large pieces of wood and their aid was especially needed to build the dam that was now being used to store water. Water was a luxury back then and it still continued to be so today even after the many changes and developments that had taken place over the years. Because all of today morning Grey and his son Shane were out in the open, digging up the earth and looking for water sources underground, it was the fifth pit they were working on together and they were desperate because the water level in the huge overhead tanks were coming down with every passing day. Grey’s tummy began to rumble again, either the musicians were trying to make the scene seem more dramatic or he really was hungry. He must have been because he now started heading back towards his house. He looked up as he walked back, the sky was vast and very blue today and there was not a single cloud cover to give some respite from the blazing sun light. But one thing you could not deny, the sun did seem to make the land around him seem even more vaster and browner than usual. This also reminded him of the pending work on these fields that needed to be done in the afternoon. But where was young Shane? That break he took have a drink of water has surely stretched out for long now and he was still nowhere to be seen.
‘Wait till I get my hands on that boy!’ Mr. Grey fumed under his hot breath.