The spreader started as soon as I moved forward. I thought the tractor was loud. This thing clanged and clanked and thumped and jangled like an army of one-man-bands trying to outdo each other. The pile inside slowly moved to the back, and then, the shit hit the fan. Literally. Manure flew through the air and out to either side for twenty feet. It was fabulous. I laughed, then had to jerk the wheel before I drove into a ditch on the side of the field.
Off to the west, a heavy gray line of clouds edged over the tops of the trees. Maybe Hank was right. I hadn’t turned on a television since I arrived, had no idea what the weatherman was calling for.
I’d never been so out of touch, but rather than being nervous, I felt calm. The drone and vibration of the tractor were mesmerizing. And the slow but steady pace—was this the right speed to take life? I could easily view my surroundings at this rate, and still think…once I got earplugs.
I made a wide turn at the far end and headed toward Hank again. That’s when the spreader shuddered and screeched like a blender trying to puree wet wood. The whole mechanism stopped.
“Something’s stuck,” I shouted to Hank.
He jogged across the field. “Shut it off.”
I did and climbed down to inspect it hoping no one had ditched something stupid into the mix. Good, hot, compost can decompose almost anything. Which is great, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’d want it spread on a field used to grow food.
Hank joined me. He lifted his MFA cap, stroked his bald head, scratched his neck, then dropped the cap into place. “Probly a gotdamned chain broke.”
I flicked bits of straw and manure from the spreader’s edge with the back of my hand, wishing I’d put on gloves. Nothing obvious showed in the large hump of compost still inside the box. I continued around the back. Sunlight flashed on something shiny beneath the bottom row of blades. My eyes registered the image before me, but my brain refused to process it.
It was a toe guard.
The kind found on the point of a western boot.
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