Monday, January 5, 2009

Getting Hay

I went down to Sonora to buy hay today. It is a chill winter day, 20 degrees this morning, only 30 degrees at noon. I bundled up in an old jogging suit that is lined and will keep the wind out better than jeans. When it is particularly cold, I'll wear long johns under this suit. The damp cold of Kentucky is not the burning cold of the Siberian Clipper winds I was raised with, but it's still darn cold.

I have to drive through the bustling city of Elizabethtown. The heavy post-holiday traffic is still clogging the roads. Still, as I get off the Bluegrass parkway and turn south, it is like going back into time. 31W runs from Louisville south. Once passed the city limits of E-town, the area gradually becomes suburb, then country, then farm.

The Amish use these roads. The gray pavement has sinuous chalky scuff-marks from metal buggy wheels and barium shod hooves. The bay horses are shaggy, but they move out at a good clip. I am always careful while passing, not so fast as to scare the horse, and not too close.

The countryside is mostly muted tones of brown, here and there are the bright greens of winter wheat. But most fields are fallow, resting. Spring will bring the impossible purple of crown vetch, but not yet. Dark cattle graze the fields, I hear that there are more cattle in the county than humans still, but the people are catching up. More sub-divisions are built every year. "It's hard to farm land worth eight thousand an acre," someone said to me. I agree, but someone must hold off the developers.

We stack the truck full of hay, then look outward from the barn, where the Earth sleeps in muted tones of taupe and gray. Even the serrated clouds are muted blue and gray-white. There is the sharp scent of snow on the breeze. The rolling countryside stretches for miles around us.

My farmer friend tells me that he's found a lake close by where he can learn to wind surf. His father, nearly ninety, gave me a couple of sticks of corn bread, cooked in a pan almost 150 years old. The old farmer told me that the pan had traveled from Kentucky to Kansas and back with his family, when they were homesteaders. The family has spent four generations on the farm, in that house.

The air is damp as I drive home, a light haze that blurs the edges of the trees and bleaches the road to a gray ribbon, under a blue-gray sky. When I arrive home, the horses come to greet me. They see the hay and nicker for it. We'll throw it in the loft, where it will last a month or more.

Then I will drive back to Sonora again.

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