Haying Season 

The system to the north was taunting me, offering me the better part of a day to fret over its arrival.

Page 7 of 10

"You drive," said Ella.

"No, you’re doin’ good."

The fields smelled earthy, the rain was coming. We worked furiously; Ella drove and picked up one bale at each stop to my two. As we drove past the grass paddock up to the barn our horse and pony trotted alongside, raising their tails like streamers and then bumping and jostling each other when they were stopped short by the steel gate. Behind us, strewn across the track, was a trail of green and yellow, threads of hay and seed that had come unbound and were scattered in the dirt.

Ella and I humped two more truckloads into the barn. In the field the bales were now further apart, and it took longer to retrieve them. I felt a wet drop on my forehead. Ella looked at me; she’d felt one too. We were in collusion – it wasn’t raining if we refused to admit it. I threw the bales onto the back of the truck like it was the beginning of the day. There was a feeling of static in the air; my heart was rushing ahead. We’d forgotten about pacing ourselves and lasting the day. All we knew was bend, grab, lift, twist and shove. Tonne after tonne, until we were exhausted. My back and arms felt like they’d been stretched too far.

We covered the hay on the truck with a blue plastic tarp; it flew and snapped in the cold wedge of air sweeping in from the north, across the saltwater inlet and down the valley. We were on opposite sides of the truck, tying down the tarp with baling twine when a flash went off, followed by a crack of thunder that shattered the air. I dropped onto my hands and knees. On the other side of the truck Ella was down on all fours too.

"You okay?"

She nodded.

"I’ll drive now." We got to our feet and switched sides. She had goose bumps on her arms, and I realized the hair on my own forearms was standing on end. I climbed shakily into the cab. My legs felt useless, tingly. I pressed my foot to the gas pedal and the truck crept ahead. A fork of lightning stabbed the darkening clouds in my rearview mirror. Thunder rolled behind us, over the inlet and tall poplars and up the hay field. It rolled through the truck and the paddocks and up Horth Hill and back into the clouds again. The sky blew open. Sheets of rain ran down the windshield.

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