Short Story – from REDNECK

Hank 

by Bob Lane from the book REDNECK

Bob watched his stepfather’s face as the hail pounded down on the fields west of them. The face of a dry land farmer: leathery, lined, stoic. That face usually revealed no emotion, but for a moment Bob thought his Dad would cry. Then anger clouded his face like one of the lightening flashes announcing that the hail was coming east toward their half-section. He had only seen that look once before in the six years they had been on the farm. They were all coming back from town on Halloween and had spotted a strange pickup in their farmyard. Three young men were about to load their outhouse onto their pickup to take to town for some Halloween mischief. His stepfather had confronted them, carrying his 12-gauge shotgun.

“Better put her back now, boys,” he had said quietly.

“Oh, shit! Yessir, yessir, we will. Sorry about that; don’t know what got into us. We were just funning around. We’ll get ‘er back right away.”

The outhouse was put back and the three partygoers left. But with the hailstorm there wasn’t anyone to threaten. Mother Nature didn’t give a damn if you had a 12-gauge shotgun or not. You could just watch and do nothing.

In ten minutes it was over. The damage to the neighbors to the west had been total. Their own wheat was bent over but not completely destroyed. After the clouds passed by they walked out into the field.

“Well, it looks like we can harvest some of it, but goddamn it, it will mean a lot more work.” His stepfather leaned over to hold up the plants to see how much of the grain had been knocked from the golden heads. “We’ll have to put pick-up teeth on the bar of the combine to lift all this straw up to the cutting sickle. We better go up to the house and call Hank.”

They had been hoping for a great crop this year. Last year they had lost about forty acres of wheat to a rain storm. When it rained hard, the land north of the house flooded because it was the lowest point in several miles. Much of the top soil from around their place had, over the years, washed into the area they called “the lagoon.” The soil was great, but if it rained too hard you could never harvest the crop. People at the Co-Op always said that Ott should plant half wheat and half rice in the lagoon.

One year they had cut wheat in the lagoon and it yielded eighty bushel to the acre. If only they could control the rain. You had to have rain, but not too much rain. Two summers ago they had tried to empty the lagoon. Ott and Hank had this idea that if they drilled a deep hole in the lowest part of the lagoon and stuffed some dynamite into the hole they could open up the land so it could drain.

Bob remembered the day of the big explosion. A well digging rig had been brought in and they punched a hole in the ground about one-hundred and twenty feet deep. Then they had wrapped several sticks of dynamite and crammed them down into the hole. People from all around had come to watch.

“We’re gonna pull the plug on this lagoon,” Hank said as he pushed the plunger to set off the explosion.

There was a deep rumbling sound and a two foot high splash of water just above the hole. Everyone waited for the water to drain out.

Nothing happened.

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