Iowa Writes

JOHN L. KIES
The Curator


It was a graveyard of sorts, a place where worn-out machinery rusted quietly under the summer sun. My grandfather picked his way, stopping occasionally to point at an ancient haymaker or a broken harvester. I was not listening. I resented watching grandpa. There were many places a boy my age wanted to be on a summer day, that day I remember.

Star Wars was a smash hit and every radio I passed taunted me with the theme song. I chafed under daily farm chores and the injustice of being too young to possess a driver's license. My older brothers would not allow their younger brother along on their evening escapes from the farm. I sat in those evenings, after milking and chores, and I dreamed of attending a fantastic movie event.

It was a graveyard of sorts, a place where worn-out machinery rusted quietly under the summer sun. My grandfather picked his way, stopping occasionally to point at an ancient haymaker or a broken harvester. I was not listening. I resented watching grandpa. There were many places a boy my age wanted to be on a summer day, that day I remember.

Star Wars was a smash hit and every radio I passed taunted me with the theme song. I chafed under daily farm chores and the injustice of being too young to possess a driver's license. My older brothers would not allow their younger brother along on their evening escapes from the farm. I sat in those evenings, after milking and chores, and I dreamed of attending a fantastic movie event.

My salvation came on a stifling summer morning, while the sun beat on rows of corn. The animals lay sheltered in the shade of oaks and maples; and by midmorning I lay sheltered in the basement of the farmhouse. I left the coolness of the stone foundation to take a call from my brother's girlfriend. She invited me to the movie theater and I accepted immediately. It did not matter that she was only ingratiating herself with the family—I was going to see the movie!

The old man changed all of that, the old man who came home from the hospital. He needed "watching." The movie needed watching! Not this feeble stranger.

He prattled and moved stiffly through the machinery. Tall thistles did not impede him, nor did the honeybees that erupted from flowers. I hoped the old man would get stung. I was sure several thistles stuck him.

I approached him, picking my way past the weeds. He was standing next to an ancient machine once pulled by horse and harness. He was explaining how the complex contraption worked, how he had worked long hours in the field with it. What more he said was wasted breath.

I found an old wagon seat and climbed upon it, pretending I was piloting an interstellar craft. As my grandfather droned in my ear, I saved the galaxy, beating back tyrannical forces and rescuing captive women. He called for me and I motioned for him to wait—one second more and I would have the enemy!

I found him among the weeds and tall grass. He was tired and had lain down for a nap. I knelt to help bring him to his feet. Steely fingers dug into my shoulder and I cried out in pain.

"Did you hear me, boy? Did you hear what I told you about the old days?"

I told my mother he had died at once, but in fact he lived almost the entire time I carried him back to the house. He asked several times, as I carried him, whether I had heard him. I lied and his eyes told me he knew.

I went back a week later, to the spot where my grandfather stood among the thistles and honeybees. Here was an old plow, there an iron-wheeled manure spreader. There was nothing of any interest there, nothing exciting. I sat on the wagon seat nearly the entire day.

That machinery is still standing out in that field, still rusting, safe from the covetous eyes of scrap dealers—I have seen to it.

more

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


JOHN L. KIES

John Kies, his wife of fifteen years, Emerita, and their two children, Clarice and Luke, live in rural Jackson County.

This page was first displayed
on May 04, 2006

Find us on Facebook