The Levee

by Rick Beck

Editor: Bob

If you've ever left home it isn't easy. Being eighteen at the time, I was grown. I gave no thought to leaving home until then, My father and mother thought it's what I should do but Pop never left the farm and Mama left home once when she married Pop.

I sure didn't figure on getting married. Pop lived on the Wilson family farm all his life. It's what I saw myself doing. No one told me I'd live there all my life. I figured I would.

When you're born on a farm and you grow up working on the farm for as far back as your memory goes, it's the only life you know. You don't spend a lot of time thinking about anything else. At least I never thought about leaving. It was the only life I knew.

I'd been there for so long I knew Mama's chicken by name. That was a neat trick because those darn chicken were always stepping in the way of Pop's ax. Especially the ones who stopped laying. Mama would point. Dad got his ax. There were new chickens getting born and replacing chickens that left our farm.

Mama told me more than once, "Ian, you can never have too many good laying hens on a farm."

It isn't quite as cruel as it sounds. The hen that got the ax ended up as the main course at dinner that night. Mama cooked it to a beautiful golden brown and there was nothing better than one of Mama's chicken dinners. I admit, knowing your dinner's name can be a little tricky at first.

You see, everything on a farm has a reason for being there. I'd lived long enough to see more than one generation of critters get themselves born and live out their lives. It's the nature of things. Farm boys see it all. We know the phases life goes through. We learn by watching the animals come and go. Like the corn, everything has a season.

A farm is a universe all its own. It's not easy to explain if you don't know about farms. Every thing needs tending to. When you're a farmer's son, you grow up tending to things. No one told me what to do. I'd been doing it all my life.

When you're raised on a farm you picture yourself always being on that farm. I knew there was a larger world. Kids at school talked about going over to Davenport, maybe to Peoria, and some got as far as Chicago.

I got as far as town some days. It was five miles from our driveway to Parson's Feed & Grain.

Pop would say, "Get in the truck. We're going to town."

Once he backed the pickup truck up to the loading dock behind Parson's, I knew I'd be loading hundred pound bags of this and that. When I was done, we went home.

I never gave much thought to Davenport or Peoria. As for Chicago, I knew plenty about Chicago. It's where the Cubs and the Bears played. Comes the summer and I listened to all the Cub's games. In the winter I listened to the Bears broadcasts. Another team played baseball in Chicago. I didn't listen to those games.

My parents started talking about going to college in the last few months of high school. At first it was just talk. As the summer went on, and it looked like we'd have the best corn crop ever, the talk became serious.

As I said, I figured on being on our farm all my life. The farm was my life. It's the only life I knew.

One night at supper Pop said, "Mother, this chicken is special. Ian, I want you to have a shot at a better life. Your tuition to college will be paid. You'll need to work to make ends meet. You're a hard worker and you'll figure it out. When you do, some fellow is going to be mighty lucky to have you. I got you in the door. The rest will be up to you."

Conversation at the dinner table was usually, "Ian, did you clear the brush off the lower field, like I asked you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Ian, did you let the milk cows graze on the eastern section, like I asked you?"

"Yes, sir."

"By the way, you're going to college," gave me indigestion. On the farm one man gives the orders. Pop

gave me mine.

The only thing I could say was, "Yes, sir."

By the next day I felt a little like one of Mama's laying hens that stopped laying. I'd turned eighteen. I'd graduated high school. I thought the only change was me not going to school after morning chores each day.

It was a few weeks before I needed to pack the family suitcase and the next morning before the rooster crowed, I was leaving for college.

Mama hugged the stuffing out of me.

She said, "You take care, Ian. Eat your vegetables and don't be picking up with no loose women."

I assured Mama I'd eat my vegetables. As for picking up woman, she didn't need to worry. I was a country boy. I figured out which way my hair was parted a long time ago. I might pick up with a man or two, but she didn't tell me not to and my conscience was clear.

It was a four hour drive to the university and Pop hugged and kissed Mama saying, "I'll be back by supper."

I wasn't clear on where I'd get supper but I was off to college.

Pop dropped me off at the dorm where he was instructed to take me. I stood out front watching that red pickup truck get smaller and smaller. The dorm was eight stories tall. It was a skyscraper to me. I didn't tell anyone that. There was a view of the campus from my 6 th floor dorm window. All I saw from my bedroom window at the house was corn and more corn.

I managed to find my way around the first year. College did take a little getting use to. Campus life was chaotic. There was a lot more rushing around than was necessary.

I started off in the agriculture school. Learning more about the farm I grew up on suited me. I still figured I'd be going back to the farm one day. Once a farm boy, always a farm boy at heart.

I may not have known about the world around me but how much did any of the university people know about a farm? I figured that made us even in an odd sort of way.

School was OK. Back home, It filled the time between morning chores and evening chores. What was I going to do with all that time when I wasn't in class?

I listen to other students talking about becoming world-shakers. They planned to get rich and retire young. Most of them couldn't identify the south end of a northbound hog. How were they going to do what they said they'd do?

All the hurrying in the world won't teach you common sense. You need to start off slow and pace yourself. If they began in a mad dash, how would they learn the way to where they were going. If you didn't know the way to where you were going how would you know the way home?

I would branch off into economics and business when I got a chance. I wanted to learn about managing and keeping the books on our 500 acre farm.

It seemed like what I needed to do to make the most of my time at the university. I still figured I'd go home one day. I had a lot of extra time to figure on that sort of thing.

One day as I pondered what to do with all the time I had when I wasn't in class, I wandered by the sports complex. I stopped next to a practice field to watch the boys. They all wore these tight little shorts and form fitting shirts to go with them. They were playing soccer.

Soccer came as a surprise to me. I never played in high school. I watched soccer. It couldn't hold my attention for an entire game, because I was trying to understand why they kept running up and down. When I ran at home, and I ran like a deer, I was running from here to get over there.

Long before college I knew which way my hair was parted. After noticing the boys doing the running up and down the pitch, soccer was a lot more interesting. Being straight off the farm, i could run. No matter where I was on our five hundred acres, when Mama rang the dinner bell, I wasted no time getting to the supper table.

Up until then I was too busy learning about being a college student to look for a nice boy to go out with. At home I knew which farm boys liked a roll in the hay. It looked like there were plenty of nice boys on the soccer team. They did a lot of running. I could run. I didn't intend to chase the soccer players. I intended to join them.

I decided I needed to talk to the soccer coach.

"How do I get on your soccer team?" I asked.

Coach Cranberry said, "Son, the way I see it, you got two problems right off."

"Which are?" I asked.

"Son, you're a freshman. Freshman don't play on my soccer team. Even if freshman did play, I've got my team all picked out. My boys know me. They know what I expect of them. What is it you know, Son."

"Will you at least watch me run?" I asked.

"Sure, Kid. You run down to that goalpost and back to this one. You think you can run that far?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," I said. "Piece of cake."

I intended to sound pretty sure of myself. I wanted to get his attention.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out his stop watch. I sounded a little too sure of myself and he figured it wouldn't hurt for him to time me.

Before I was ready, he said, "Go!"

I poured it on. I wanted on his soccer team and I was back in a flash.

Coach Cranberry looked at his watch. He looked at me. He looked at the watch.

"Is this a joke, Son?" Coach Cranberry asked.

"Joke?" I asked.

"You come out here in your jeans and tennis shoes and you say you want to play soccer. You run two hundred yards in a little more than twenty seconds. You don't want to be on the soccer team, you need to go out for track," Coach Cranberry said, looking at the watch again. "You aren't even out of breath."

"Track? What kind of uniforms do they have?" I asked.

"Check that," Coach Cranberry said and I could see his mind working. "Welcome to the soccer team. Come on with me and I'll fix you up with a uniform."

The uniform not only looked good. It felt great. Now all I needed to do was to learn how to play soccer. I now had someplace to spend my free time. The coach gave me a card that allowed me to eat with the athletes. They had their own dining hall with really good food.

I was a freshman and it didn't take long for Coach Cranberry to send me out on the pitch during a game.

"Son, get out there and run those boys ragged," he instructed me to do.

That's what I did. I'd run those boys up and down the pitch. Whenever they passed me the ball, I passed it right back. The boys on the other team took off after me. Once I'd plum wore them out, coach sent in the first team."

My teammates called me, 'The rabbit.' My job was to run and run and run. When I got the ball I didn't keep it. I ran some more. Learning to play soccer wasn't as hard as I figured. I'd been running all my life.

By my sophomore year I was living in the athletes dorm. That's when Daniel became my roommate. He was the only other sophomore on the first team. Coach Cranberry told him he'd take the room with his rabbit.

Daniel told me, "I like you in your uniform, Ian. I love you out of it."

I'd never felt that loved before. Daniel didn't call me his rabbit. He called me his bull and I was straight off the farm. Daniel was from Davenport. He told me he knew where the best farm boys lived. He furnished me with the one thing I'd been missing since I came to college.

We ate together, sat next to each other in team meetings, and we stayed close at practice. Late at night Daniel climbed into my bed with me.

I was certainly getting a good education in college.

There was no doubt I was closest to Daniel by the time I needed to leave for home. I was listening to the daily farm reports as part of the agriculture program. The rains came early. They stopped for a spell and farmers went to planting. The first of April the rains returned. It started raining and it hadn't stopped in two weeks.

I didn't want to leave home when I left home. I didn't want to leave college.

I lived in the world. I'd gotten to like it after a spell. Leaving my teammates wouldn't be easy. We grew to depend on each other. Teammates get comfort being together. Leaving them would be seen as a betrayal. I'd get no second shot at being on the soccer team. Being the rabbit suited me. That was over.

The thought of leaving Daniel made me sick at my stomach. It tok a while to find a boyfriend. Admittedly Daniel was a bit maladjusted to his homosexuality but he was every bit as queer as I was and if I didn't love him I liked him a lot.

That didn't matter. I had to go home.

I called home the day before. My father had come in for dry clothes and a hot meal. I didn't need to call. Maybe I did need to call.

"Ian, you don't need to come home. We have plenty of hands. We're going to beat that old river this time. You stay at school. Finish what you started. We'll be fine," he said.

My father had plenty of hands but my hands needed to be working beside his hands. I needed to be at home to help my father during a crisis. It's where I belonged.

"I'll be home tomorrow, Pop," I said. "I'll get Mr. Parsons to bring me to the house."

My father didn't argue with me. That said a lot. I was torn between the world I left and the one I was in.

As I waited for the bus, I walked in the college town. I envisioned going home and never coming back.

I'd been exposed to the other world. It moved so fast you had to run to keep up. Now I needed to go home.

I called Mr. Parsons at the Feed & Grain the night before. I asked him to pick me up at the bus station and run me home. He asked what time the bus would get in.

Mr. Parsons dropped me by the front door before he drove back to town. I walked around to the kitchen door and walked into an assembly line of woman preparing food and coffee to go out to the men working to reinforce the levee.

"Ian. Ian," Mama said when she saw me.

After a hug she stepped back to look at me.

"You've grown. You're a man," Mama said, hugging me for a second time.

I felt like a man. I was about to turn twenty.

"Yeah, Mama, I am," I said. "Where's Pop?"

"The bottoms. They're having a devil of time keeping that levee sandbagged. It keeps breaking through on them. It's going to get a lot worse, Ian. We've got coffee and the ladies are making sandwiches for the men. Your daddy said for you to bring it down there with the Farmall. It's the only tractor that'll make it by now. He took the John Deere earlier. He didn't expect to drive it back. Water's rising."

I got into my overalls and boots. I was ready to join the fight for our farm. I loaded the Farmall and headed for the bottoms. I hit water half way there and it was two feet deep by the time I saw men filling sandbags and other men passing them toward the levee.

I put the Farmall next to the line of men. I stood in line to pass sandbags toward the levee. I'd let Pop know I was home when I saw him. I could hear and feel the power of the rushing river a few dozen yards away.

I caught sight of my father coming toward me. He came right to me and grabbed me in his strong arms. I could feel his weariness. He walked like an old man. He held me in a way my father rarely did.

"Ian," he said with a gasp. "You came home."

I did my best to ignore his tears. My father didn't cry. The river was beating him and it took its toll. My being home would steady him the way nothing else would.

"You've grown," he said.

"Soccer. I eat like a horse, Pop."

"What's new," he said with a smile.

"Governors calling up the guard. Reinforcements are on the way, Pop. We're going to beat this old river this time," I said confidently.

"Yes we are," he said, with a little more enthusiasm.

It took four days for the national guard trucks to start bringing sandbag to us near the levee. There were to be twenty truck loads. The troops that came to our field would stay one week. The rain stopped two days before they came. The river would crest in three or four days.

I was in dry gear for the first time since I got home when four army trucks came our way. I watched a handful of troops jumping out of the back of the first truck. They began piling up the sandbags that flew out of the truck, thrown by soldiers standing in the shadows.

A tall dark haired soldier seemed to be in charge. He kidded with the four other guys like they were friends. They were fresh as daisies and the dark hair boy turned on me.

His eyes were on me and they opened wider. The look on his face was the same look Daniel gave me the day he came to be my roommate.

"You from around here?" he asked.

His men tossed the sandbags to the line that formed behind the truck right after it arrived.

"I suppose," I said.

"We don't want to unload all the bags in one place. There will be twenty truck loads according to the major. We can put them in the spots they're most needed."

"I'll show you where to put the bags," I said. We're two to three days from the crest. We have three spots where we are trying to hold the river back. I'm Ian Wilson. It's my father's farm," I said, putting my hand out for a shake.

"I hit the jackpot right off," he said. "Glad I didn't need to ask around. The way you carry yourself, you look like the owner's son.

"You don't look at all like an army guy," I said.

"I'm not. I joined the guard with buddies from school. We stick together. They're all nice guys. I do as little squad leading as I can get away with," he said. "I'm Steven Petrocelli. A corporal goes with it but you can call me Steven."

I could call him Steven and I couldn't get the smile off my face. He looked like a guy who could be a lot of fun.

When we went back to get the sandbags up to the levee, Steven stuck with me. His buddies stayed with us. Once it was too dark to work, we headed toward the house.

"Our bivouac is on the high ground on the field across from the house. Come over and talk if you like. We hardly ever sleep on bivouac. You'd fit right in, Ian," Steven said.

Steven stuck with me for the rest of the day. I didn't miss the bumps, rubs, and touches that accompanied our sandbag tossing. When we took a break, his leg leaned against my leg. My leg had no objections to that. Steven was hot. I visited his squad after supper. We talked until I was too tired to sit up any longer. If not for his buddies, I'd have asked him to the house to sleep with me.

The first time I looked into his eyes, there was a twinkle there that no straight guy had. I'd already decided that Steven parted his hair on the same side I parted mine. Getting together with his army camped next to my house full of farmers from all over would be tricky.

If I could find a way to get my soccer coach to give me a look, after he told me he wouldn't give me a look, I could figure out a way to spend quality time with Steven. Davenport wasn't that far away. I could use Pop's pickup if Steven would like to stay in touch.

Where ever I worked, the four guard guys Steven was with worked nearby. Steven stayed near me. I found his eyes were frequently on me as he tossed sandbags with the rest of us. It hadn't gotten any easier in the last week. Sandbags were heavy and after you've lifted your first hundred or two, it's backbreaking work.

Steven arranged to stay until the last truck was loaded at the barn where Pop had sent me. He told me there was no problem getting what he wanted but he didn't tell me all the arrangements he'd made with his lieutenant.

Before the army truck backed up to the barn with Steven and his men, I'd spent an hour cleaning the loft and piling hay near the window where the sun shined in during the afternoon. If there was any chance we'd get to take a roll in the hay, I wanted it to be perfect.

Steven was as happy and pleasant as every other day I'd seen him in the last week. They went right to work and we tossed the sandbags into the back of the truck. How did I go about getting him into the loft with me? I wanted to feel his body next to mine at least once. I liked Steven a lot.

"I suppose you'll be planting in a few days," he said. "Now that everyone has gone, it'll just be you and your Pop doing the planting?"

"Mr. Parsons, he owns the Feed & Grain Store, is going to front Pop the seed and if he has an extra man he'll send him but so many farms need to plant all over again, most men are already working for other farmers. Our farm, being so close to the river, is the last one to drain and dry out. It'll probably be Pop and me but we've done it before," I said.

"Sounds like you could use an extra pair of hands," he said without saying any more.

"Isn't that the truth," I said. "It's hard to believe how many people came to help. I never expect it because of how people are these days but in a pinch farmers show up for each other. The governor even sent you guys to help," I said.

"I heard that," Steven said and we had a good laugh but the bags were almost loaded and they'd be leaving soon.

As was true whenever the rains came too early and hung around too long, once they're gone, the temperature starts rising. The days turn hot even in late April.

It meant you'd do some sweating. It also meant the fields would dry more quickly. The trick was to get the fields plowed before the soil that turned to mud didn't have time to dry to the consistency of cement.

You had a couple of days while the fields dried, and then it was a race to get the work done and the seed in the soil. There was little chance of more rain once the sun comes out. Mother Nature had a few rules to help farmers, after zapping us good.

"I wish I could stay and help you with the planting," Steven said out of the blue.

"You and me both," I said. "I was hoping we'd get a little time to spend together before you left. I mean alone, but no way to get away from your men. I'd like to see you. I could borrow Pop's pickup and drive to Davenport."

"I was thinking the same thing," Steven said.

"I wish you could slow them down a little. We'll be done in no time the way they're moving," I said.

"Hey, guys, take a break," Steven ordered.

The four men raced each other around the side of the barn to take a leak. I'd never seen army guys that happy. Steven pushed me toward the barn and through the small door in the big door.

Wrapping his arms around me, he gave me one glorious kiss. My knees grew week as I held onto him. When we heard his men coming back, we stepped out to inspect the double doors. They weren't paying any attention to us.

It didn't take an hour and the driver started the truck.

The Vietnamese soldier strolled toward us.

"Can you find your way home, Tron?" Steven asked.

"I just go where the truck goes. Look out for this one," Tron said. "He'll steal your heart if you don't hold onto it."

"Listen to you," Steven said. "The heart breaker of C company. Have a good trip, Tron. I'll see you the next time they call us up."

"I get the feeling you aren't getting in the truck," I said.

"No," Steven said, waving at the men who climbed into the back of the truck.

Tron gave Steven a salute and did an about face. We stood watching the truck moving toward the highway. His buddies lounged on sandbags that came from Davenport.

"You aren't leaving with your men?" I asked.

"No. You asked me to help with the planting. I'm not going anywhere until the planting is done," Steven said with a very nice smile he aimed my way.

"What?" I asked. "You let me think I was going to say goodbye to you and you knew you were staying?"

"I talked to my lieutenant last night. They're going back to Davenport. They'll be dismissed to go back to their lives. Mission accomplished. My grandparents have a farm twenty miles west of here. I grew up on their farm. I told the lieutenant I wanted to stay to help with the planting. Then I'll go to where I was going if I went back to Davenport. My grandparents farm. If you don't object, but it's a little late to catch up with my men," Steven said. "I guess I'll need to do whatever you make me do."

I laughed.

"You're going to make me make you do what you obviously stayed here to do?" I asked. "Maybe I don't want to do any thing with you."

It was Steven's turn to laugh.

"I want your naked body next to mine. I want your lips on mine," Steven said, putting his lips on mine.

A little speechless after the kiss he gave me but I had a question.

"You want my naked body next to yours. Is your body going to be naked when we do that?" I asked.

He pulled off his clothes. He was gorgeous and there was no doubt in my mind, Steven really liked me. He moved closer.

It was a long lingering kiss he gave me. I'd never been kissed like that before. I stepped back and stripped naked.

"I fixed the hayloft for us. We can make love on the hay in the sunshine that comes in the window."

"You romantic devil. Lead the way, Romeo," he said. "I can't wait."

"You were raised twenty miles from here?" I asked.

"Yep," he said.

"I guess you know what a hayloft looks like then. Let me show you ours," I said, pushing Steven back inside the barn through the little door in the big door.

The sun shined on the hay and us as we enjoyed being together. They hay smelled as good as anything I think I've ever smelled and Steven didn't smell bad at all. I'd missed having sex in the hay. It's the first time I made love there.

"It'll be a few days before we plant," I said.

"Gives us a chance to look this hayloft over a time or two," Steven said, reaching out to hold my hand. "I'm not finished looking yet. You understand what I'm saying, Sweaty? I like your hayloft better than I like our hayloft. You're in this hayloft. You are something, you know, Ian?"

I understand.

I threw myself on top of him. My lips found his. It was early afternoon. I figured we had hours before we'd need to consider doing anything else.

I never had any trouble finding things to do with my time on the farm. This could have been the best thing I'd ever done on the farm.

Steven couldn't get enough of me and I'd just started to get to know him. I wanted to know everything about him.

"You're a farm boy," I said in a squeal of delight.

"I am," he said.

"You could have told me. I figured you for a sophisticated city boy I'd need to talk into my hayloft and all the time you knew plenty about what a hayloft is for.."

The kiss lingered and our bodies being together created the most delicious warmth. The first time I saw Steven I got that little hitch in my stomach when our eyes met.

I imagined we were from totally different worlds and he'd come and go from my life like most people did. There wouldn't be any connection between a farm boy and an army guy who was from Lord knows where.

He'd rolled in the hay before and I was no slouch. When you're young and full of excitement, you do your best to take advantage of that. Some times it turned out pretty good. At other times it was a one time deal.

I never knew which it would be, when I climbed in the hay with someone, but I knew it would be more than once when I climbed out of the hay with Steven the second time, or was it the third?

Who had time to count?

"I think you've finally worn me out," Steven said.

We rolled apart but he held onto my hand. He looked directly into my eyes before he looked out the loft window.

"This is so nice. I forgot how nice it could be. The guys at school are always in a rush to get it over with. Slam bam, got to run," Steven said. "This... this is nice."

"You go to school in Davenport?"

"Yes. I'm a junior. The four guys in my squad joined the guard when I did. We kind of stick together."

"You're not going back to school?" I asked.

"I knew what was coming. I told my professors I was going to be called up and I needed to take my finals. I'll go to my grandparents once you make me leave," he said, looking in my eyes again.

"You didn't have a steady boyfriend?" I asked.

"You met him. The last year Tron and I have been going out. We go to the same school. The Vietnamese are such sweet people and he's got brothers and sisters galore. He told me, 'All my father has to do is walk past my mother and there's another kid on the way.' He's a funny guy but he's bisexual. I began having trouble with that. I couldn't afford to fall in love with a bisexual man. It's a one-way ticket to heartbreak. There will always be a woman."

"Good looking guy," I said.

"His brothers and sisters are all lovely to look at and I do love Tron but he has this thing for women," Steven said. "I told him it just wasn't going to work. He didn't say much to that. He has a live and let live attitude. It is what it is."

"I hate to give up the hold you have on me, but my father just fired up the Farmall. He'll be here in ten minutes. It has to be near dinner time. The sun is disappearing to the west of us. I noticed it was getting chilly. Being here with you, I lost track of the time."

"Makes two of us. My pans are down there. You had someone at school?"

"Daniel. He was fun to be with but afraid someone might find out we slept together," I said.

"You were lovers?" Steven asked.

"I'm not sure. We slept together. He'd get up real early so no one walked in on us. He was paranoid. He was good in bed. He didn't want our teammates to know we slept together. I went along with him. There were two gay guys going together on the team. They were cool about it; Daniel wasn't. He liked having sex. What would you call that?"

"Confused," Steven said. "It's the same old story when it comes to love and glory and you must do or die. Sad not to want to be who you are. No, you weren't lovers. You were sex partners because it was convenient."

"That's how I saw it. If he'd be less uptight, I could have fallen in love with him. Having a problem with being queer, when you're queer, isn't healthy," I said.

"My clothes are down there," Steven said.

We climbed down to dress. While I was deciding whether or not to wear my shirt or carry it, Steven grabbed me and planted another long passionate kiss on me.

He didn't have any problem with being queer and I couldn't be more delighted he was.

One kissed followed the last kiss and I could hear the Farmall closing in on us. I wanted to climb into the loft and start all over again but our time had run out for the time being.

"My father," I said.

He rested his forehead against my forehead.

"I know. I can't get enough of you, Ian Wilson. I haven't felt this way about anyone in a long time," he said.

"You said what I'm feeling, Steven. I don't know that I've ever actually been in love but this will do until love comes along."

Our shirts hadn't dried but the pants were almost dry. My socks and underwear went into my pocket. I carried the shirt in my hand.

"We'll take you to the house for dinner. You can sleep in my room tonight if you want," I said.

"You really think I'm going to let you sleep?" he asked.

Steven was fun. I thought I'd like him when I first saw him and I was right. The best part of all, he liked me too.

We watched as the red Farmall lumbered across the still muddy lower field toward the barn.

"How'd you know your father was coming for you? I didn't hear the tractor until a couple of minutes ago. You heard it while we were still in the loft. I'm impressed."

"The Farmall makes a distinctive loud pop when it's first fired up. I know the sound as well as I know my own name. I've been hearing it all my life. The Farmall has been replaced by a dozen better tractors over the years but in a muddy field that sucker will get you where you're going. Not all of the newer tractors will."

At the dinner table that night Steven said he was a free agent. He'd stay to help with the planting if Pop wanted an extra pair of hands. His unit was going back to Davenport to go home and when he went home he'd go to his grandparent's farm a half an hour to the west.

"I can't promise you a lot of pay but we'll feed you well," Pop said.

"I was sent here to help you out. That includes planting. Feed me and we'll call it even," Steven said.

"I suspect you boys can sleep until Monday or Tuesday. If we don't get more rain we can start planting the upper fields by then. Once we're done there, the bottoms will be dry enough to plant. We'll get a crop planted. The yield is another story. No telling if it'll grow right away. It's plenty warm enough. We've got that in our favor," Pop said."

"What about your finals, Ian?" Mama asked.

"I didn't want to leave when I left. I'm home now. I'm not going back. I belong here and here I'm going to stay."

Mama didn't say a word. She'd have objected before I'd been gone for almost two years. My father didn't have anything to say either. Their son had come home to stay.

"I'll get the fold away out for your room, Ian," his mother said. "If Steven is going to help us, we'll make room for him in the house."

"No, he can sleep in my bed. There's plenty of room for the two of us," I said, smiling at Steven who smiled right back at me.

"Just make sure you get a little sleep," Pop said.

"Oh, Jeb," Mama said.

Steven and I both laughed.

We were holding hands under the table.

It was just the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

The End of The Levee

If you like farm stories put 'Rick Beck Stories' in your browser and the sites where I post usually come up. You'll find The Farm Hand and Silent Fields among the list of my stories.

Happy reading to all you queer people and friends of the queer people.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead