The Farm Hand
A Rick Beck Story
Editor: Gardner Rust
For David Miller
Editor: Gardner Rust
For David Miller
For the most part Ralph stayed in his bedroom and kept to himself for months after he came home. Even after he gave up being a recluse, he rarely ate at the table with us. Whatever time he wanted something to eat, Mama cooked for him and never complained or told him to get to the table when the rest of us ate. I've got to believe that the period when we didn't know if he was dead or alive had something to do with it.
I remembered what Sven told me about one day wanting to talk to Ralph and no longer being able to. I'm sure he never envisioned Ralph being right there but unable or unwilling to talk to me. Now, he lives in a world of bitterness and regret, while I live a lonely existence with the farm being there to temper my emptiness with large amounts of work.
There were many times when I regretted not going with Sven, dying with him. It was infinitely more difficult living without him. For years any time a car came into our driveway, I stopped what I was doing to see who it was, thinking it might be him, even though Raymond had told us how he died. There was a piece of me that believed he was still alive somewhere and one way or another we might be together again.
Each time I saw Ralph it reminded me of how lucky I was and always had been. The biggest sacrifice in my life was never leaving home. I'd lost the desire to see the world by the end of the war. I rarely left the farm, except to go into town for supplies.
We got word about Jacob long after the war ended. He'd died on an island in the Pacific late in July. The war came to an end in early August. Jake nearly died once we got the word. My desire to write deserted me with thoughts of the past being far too painful to remember.
Shortly after the news came about Jacob, Ralph left on foot without saying goodbye. We heard stories about him being drunk over here or over there, but by the time I got there he'd be gone. He would later settle in Omaha and marry the daughter of a preacher. He was partner in a farm implement store.
The next time he came home was when Jake died. He would return frequently thereafter. The happy-go-lucky not a care in the world brother of my youth never came home from the war.
Junior and Kaleb came home on the same bus. They met back up in Pearl Harbor on their way home. Besides getting a boat shot out from under them, neither sustained any lasting wounds.
We divided the farm and Junior took the land west of the meadows. He started a dairy farm with Kaleb staying on to do the cooking. Junior married a girl we all knew a year later and he had two daughters by the time Pa died.
Kaleb stayed on and is still doing the cooking.
Pa took to his bed the winter after Jake died. The doctor said it was pneumonia and he belonged in a hospital. Pa said he wasn't ever going to another hospital again. He grew weaker and Mama didn't leave his side his last few days.
I thought it was Ralph killed Pa. Once he left home the second time, Pa lost most interest in life. Jake dying was the final blow, but Ralph coming home during Pa's final months allowed him to die easy. It did nothing to heal a heart that had been broken more than once by his two eldest sons.
I suppose Ralph and Pa were more sensitive than the rest of us and were easiest to break. They felt everything down deep but hid it well. What I perceived as Pa's disdain and harsh judgment of me for failing him was the way Pa protected himself for what he perceived as my disrespect.
I never understood how Pa accepted being crippled without getting angry enough to spit. The first time I said no to Pa, he didn't protest, because I had taken charge of the farm. I had accepted my birthright. It was more important to him than just about anything.
It's funny how smart you become in time.
The farm I so wanted to get away from became a blessing. I walked the fields where Sven and I walked. I could feel him with me. I often found myself at the tree with the names of the farmers who'd run the farm carved into it. Under a thick limb on the opposite side from those names, known only to me, was a perfect heart with the initials SG + RS carved inside.
When I ran my fingers over those letters, I felt him in my heart. I remembered him as clearly as if it were yesterday when he put those initials there. Sometimes I cried but later on, years afterward, I realized how lucky I was to have had those incredible years of happiness with Sven.
I can't imagine what my life would have become if I hadn't loved Sven. It was a love that became the most important thing I ever did. Late at night when the house grows dark, I can put my hand over my heart and he's there, just as he said he would be.
Sven was always right.
I married the year Pa died and our son was born two and a half years later. I did not want him to follow in my footsteps.
I wasn't about to tell him what was expected of the first born sons in the Sorenson family. My son would be allowed to decide what he wanted his life to be about.
Married: Jennifer Lee Bostic 4/26/48
Born: 11/20/50, SON, Robert Sven Sorenson
We'll move far into the future in Robert Sorenson's life to tell the story of Silent Fields.
Fathers and sons can have difficulty finding a common language. Robert Sorenson and his son are heading in different directions, but destiny brings them back together.
The question becomes, can they learn to talk to each other? Will they find common ground before their time runs out?
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