She Wanted To Ride On My Tractor

The teen-age girls, somewhere around twenty of them, were gathered together outside the office and chattering away even though it was just six in the morning.  A similar group of teen-age guys were gathered together about twenty feet away.  The guys kept looking at the girls, and once in a while, there’d be a loud burst of laughing.  I figured they were talking about the girls and probably bragging about what they’d do if they got assigned to walk the cornfield with one.  That’s what I’d done when I was their age and doing the same job.

I knew from that experience that wasn’t going to happen.  The guys were the clean-up crew and were doomed to walk through fields of tall corn in the morning, and then continue walking through the same fields in the afternoon.  The seed corn company knew very well what would happen if they mixed boys and girls in the cornfield, so they made sure that never happened.

There was another reason girls didn’t walk through the fields.  It that day and age, girls were considered to be somewhat delicate and fragile, and wouldn’t have stood up to the conditions of walking the corn.

The difference between morning and afternoon was night and day, but both were still miserable. In the morning, the corn would have captured the dew from the night before in the little pockets between each leaf and the stalk.  Brushing against a corn stalk would dump some of that water on the guy, and within half an hour, he’d look like he’d taken a shower with his clothes on.

By late morning, the bright Illinois sun would have dried the corn out, so there weren’t any showers anymore.  What there was, was no flow of air because of the corn, heat that would suck all the sweat out of you, and super-high humidity caused by the evaporation of the water from the plants and ground beneath.  The guys would still be wet, but it would be with sweat, not dew.

The girls had it a lot easier because they were girls.  The girls made the first pass through each field, but they rode on platforms attached to a sort of tractor with a boom that spanned four rows of corn.  There were two platforms on each side of the tractor, and those platforms were spaced so each girl was between two rows of corn.  One girl pulled the tassels on the inside row, the other pulled those on the outside row.

That’s how we did it, back then, how we created hybrid seed corn that would stand the heat and dry part of the Illinois summers, had a time to maturity that matched the growing season, and most importantly, increased the yield from each acre.  

The process was pretty simple compared to the gene-splicing you read about being used to make the so-called “GMO” vegetables and crops today.  The grower planted four rows of corn that would become the “female” corn, and beside that and spaced a little further apart, two rows of the corn variety that would become the “male” corn.

Corn can and does fertilize itself because each plant has both male and female flowers.  The female flowers grow from the intersection of a leaf with the stalk, but they don’t look like flowers.  Each one is a tightly wrapped set of corn husks that has “silks”, fine hair-like structures that form at the tip of each flower.  The male part is a “tassel”, a stalk that grows from the very top of the plant.  The tassel has grains of pollen attached to a small spray of thin branches that grow from the main tassel stock.

If everything goes as Nature planned, that pollen falls or is blown to nearby corn plants by the wind, is caught by the leaves, and flows down the leaf to the silks of the female flower.  A grain of pollen meets a silk, and each time that happens, a single kernel of corn will grow on the cob that develops as the bud matures.  

In this way, a corn plant clones itself in the kernels that form on the cob.  If those kernels are planted the next year, the corn they produce will be identical to the corn that produced them.  My grandpa knew this and each year, selected the longest, fattest ears from his crop and used them for seed the next year.

What I was helping the grower do was interfere with that cycle.  We did that by pulling the tassels from the female corn plants before the pollen ripened so they’d be fertilized by the rows of male plants instead.  Since those male plants weren’t the same variety, the kernels that grew on the cobs of the female plants would be a hybrid of the two, just like a mule is a hybrid between a horse and a donkey.

The process worked really well.  One could plant male plants that grew really tall and produced several partially filled ears on each stalk, and use that pollen to fertilize female plants that were short with only a couple ears per stalk, but with ears that were long, of excellent quality and were always completely filled with kernels.  The result would be a hybrid with more ears per stalk than the female plant to give a higher yield per acre of ears with higher quality than the male plant.

I was the driver of the detasseling machine.  I also farmed three hundred and twenty acres, but by the time the corn tasseled, I didn’t have much to do except wait until my soybeans were ready to cut.  Driving a detasseling machine was a way to earn some cash, and cash is something farmers back then didn’t get until they sold their crops in the fall.  It was also fun because of the girls.

I was twenty-four at the time and working my dad’s farm because he was sixty-six and had retired.  The tax laws wouldn’t let him just give me the farm.  I had to buy it and all the equipment.  I was going to do that just a soon as I’d socked some money away in the bank.  Weather can make farming risky, and I didn’t want to lose everything because of a year that was too wet or too dry.

That morning, I checked the oil in the detasseling machine, then climbed the ladder to the seat and fired it up.  After a short trip to the gas tank and a fill-up, I drove it down the white rock lane to where the girls were gathered.  Behind me were four other machines driven by farmers like me.

The girls all walked over to the machine they’d been on the day before and climbed up onto the platforms.  Mine did as well, except I was missing Trudy, a little blonde who was pretty plain and always stood on the platform closest to my right side.  She had a great smile but not much figure.  I asked Marsha, a brunette who had a lot of figure in all the right places, what had happened to Trudy.  Marsha grinned.  

“Her boyfriend got her in a family way so they got married on Sunday.  She won’t be back.  They’re living with her mom until Ricky finds a job.”

I was thinking about Trudy and wondering how she’d managed to find a boyfriend, much less find one who wanted to screw her, when another girl climbed onto the platform Trudy had used.

I say girl, but she was no teenager.  She was young for sure, but her face was more pretty than cute, and instead of the smaller, perky boobs most of the girls had, her breasts were full and pushed out her T-shirt a lot further.  That T-shirt was going to be a problem – not for me, but for her.  Her shorts were going to be a problem too.  She had nice legs, but after a day on the detasseling machine, she was going to have little cuts all over them.  

There was a dress code of sorts on detasseling machines, and it wasn’t to cover what the driver would love to see.  It was to protect the girls.  Most girls came out the first time expecting to get a great tan while they earned some money.  Since the platforms put them higher than the corn, they would get all the sun they wanted…for about the first three hours.  After that, any bare skin started to turn pink and by quitting time, it’d be red.  The next day, they’d be hurting a lot from the sunburn they got.

That wasn’t the worst though.  Corn leaves have sharp edges, and if they brush against you just right, they’ll leave a little cut.  It’s not a bad cut and most don’t even bleed much, but they do hurt and you’d get sliced to ribbons if you rode between corn rows like the girls did on the machine.  The platforms had rails to keep the girls from falling off, but weren’t solid, so the corn leaves stuck through and brushed against their legs.  

The seed corn company always told the girls to wear long pants and a worn-out white, long sleeved shirt.  The pants would keep their legs from getting cut and the white shirt would let through enough sun to eventually give them a tan, but not enough to burn them.  I figured my new girl had been hired just that morning so she wouldn’t have known.  That had happened before, so I’d started keeping one of my old white shirts and a pair of worn out jeans in my truck so a girl didn’t have to go home burnt to a crisp and cut up after the first day.

As it turned out, I was right.  She smiled when I asked her name.

“Gwendolyn Macey, but I go by Gwen.”

“Well, Gwen, you’re not dressed for this kind of work, but I can fix that.”

I climbed down from the driver’s platform.  When I came back from my truck, I handed her the shirt and pants.

“This shirt’ll keep you from getting sunburnt, and the pants will keep your legs from getting cut by the corn.”

Gwen looked at me.

“These are a man’s clothes.”

“Yep, they’re mine, and you really do need them.  See how the other girls are dressed?”

She was kind of cute in my old white shirt and faded jeans, sort of like a little girl when she dresses up in Mommy’s clothes.  My jeans were too long by about six inches, so Gwen had them rolled up.  My shirt hit her about mid thigh and it looked like she was wearing a white tent.  I figured that was a good thing.  Gwen’s hips looked wider than mine, so my jeans probably fit pretty tight.  I’d be spared the distraction of looking at a nice female ass all day long.

Gwen looked up at me once she was up on her platform.

“OK, now what do I do?”

I handed Gwen a pair of the brown cotton gloves the company provided.

“Put these on.  They’ll keep your hands from getting cut and keep them reasonably clean.  I’ll show you what to do as soon as I pull into the field.”

About a foot into the first set of corn rows, I stopped the machine.

“OK, Gwen, see that thing sticking up out of the top of the corn plant?  That’s a tassel, and you have to pull it out and toss it on the ground.”

Gwen reached over the top rail, grabbed the tassel and pulled.  It made a little pop when it came out.  Gwen looked at it, and then dropped in on the ground.  She looked up and grinned.

“That’s it?”

“Yep, that’s it.  There’ll be one about every eight inches or so all the way through the field.  Try to get all of them, but if you miss a couple, don’t worry too much.  We’ll make a second pass through the field in a couple of days.  If there are any left after that, the guys doing cleanup will get them.”

I watched Gwen for a while, and she seemed to be doing OK.  Some tassels pull harder than others, and when she got a tough one, she frown and pull hard until it came out.  I did see her miss a tassel or two, but most girls did even after they’d done the job for a week.  The detasseler only had a thirty horse engine and was geared way down to pull the weight so it wouldn’t run very fast, but in pulling a tough tassel, it was easy to let the next one slip by.

It took about an hour to make it the half-mile through the field and back, and after each complete round, I’d stop for about ten minutes.  I carried a water jug of ice water on the machine and most girls brought a snack or two for those times.  They also had to “drain the tank” once in a while, and the pause gave them time to do that.  

Most were embarrassed the first couple of times.  Porta-potties didn’t exist back then.  Each girl would just walk into the corn rows a few feet, pull down her jeans and panties, and squat.  After a couple of times, they didn’t think anything about it.  It was just part of the job.  Gwen didn’t take that long.  When I stopped that first time, she looked up at me and asked why we were stopping.

I just said I had ice water if she wanted a drink and that usually at least some of the girls had some business to take care of.

Gwen grinned.

“I suppose the ladies room is out there in the corn field?”

“Yep, that’s about the size of it.”

She grinned again.

“I’ve done that before when I was a kid.  I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

It was noon when I drove the detasseling machine back to the main building.  We all had to get our lunches from our cars and I needed fuel and more ice water too.  I topped off both and drove the machine over to the trees in front of the office, then got my lunch from my truck.  I’d just sat down under a big oak a little way from the rest when Gwen walked up.

“Mind if I eat here.  Those girls are a little too giggly for me.”

I said I didn’t, so Gwen sat down and opened the paper sack she carried.  I was taking a bite out of my bologna sandwich when she pulled out something wrapped in aluminum foil.  As she peeled back the foil, the aroma of fried chicken made my mouth water.  It was worse when she bit into the piece of chicken breast.  I heard the crunch as she bit through the crispy coating.

While we ate, Gwen didn’t say much.  She just sat there, ate her chicken, and smiled if she saw me looking at her.  

I liked knowing my girls, but not because I was looking to ask one out.  Most were seventeen, but a couple had just turned sixteen.  All of them were way too young for me.  Gwen was right that they were too giggly.  They also talked all the time.  No, I just wanted to know who was riding my rig.  I wanted to know about Gwen for the same reason, so I asked why she was detasseling corn instead of working a full time job.  Back then, at least in corn country, women either stayed home or worked a full time job.

“I’m divorcing my husband, and I don’t know where I’m going to end up once all this is over.  I’m living with my aunt and uncle right now, but I’ll probably move back to Rockford once the divorce is settled.  I’ll find a job there.”

“You’re from Rockford?”

“No, I grew up on a farm about three miles from Hammond.”

“I know where Hammond is.  So you’re a farm girl.  How’d you get to Rockford?”

Gwen frowned.

“Yes, I was a farm girl and I hated every second of it.  The girls who lived in town got to see each other every day and they could meet boys at the diner.  The only way I could get to town was to have Mama or Daddy drive me.”

Gwen laughed then.

“Hammond isn’t much of a town, but it was better than the farm when I was growing up.  

“Anyway, when I turned eighteen, I got a job as a waitress at that same diner.  This guy came to the diner one day for lunch.  He said he was in town to sell stuff to the hardware store and that he’d be in town every couple of weeks for a while.

“After he finished his lunch, Jerry asked me if I’d like to go to Decatur for dinner that night.  Well, I was just a country girl and Decatur was like New York City to me.  I said I would.

“After that, every time he came to Hammond, we’d go to Decatur for dinner.  Six months later he asked me to marry him and I said yes.  His company was in Rockford, so that’s where we lived.”

I smiled.

“That must have been a big change from you.  I’ve never been to Rockford, but even Decatur is pretty big for me.  Too many people and they’re all in a hurry.”

Gwen smiled.

“Yes, it was a big change for me, but not for Jerry.  I found out he was…Well, you probably don’t want to hear about that.  Besides, the other people are getting ready to go back to work and I need to take care of something before I get back on your machine.”

I’d just pulled back into the field and started down the next four rows of female corn when I looked down to see if Gwen was still OK.  She wasn’t a big woman and I’d seen even some big girls have trouble in the afternoon.  Those tassels seem to hold on tighter after you’ve already pulled a few thousand.

I could tell it was an effort for her, but she was doing fine.  I smiled to myself.  Whoever Jerry was, he was losing what I thought would be a great wife for some guy.  She seemed like a really nice woman, and she was pretty nice to look at too, at least in the face.  I couldn’t see much of her now because of my shirt and pants she had on.

I suppose it’s that feeling you get when you know somebody is watching you.  Gwen turned around and looked up at me, and when she did, my shirt gaped open at the neck.  

Evidently that thing Gwen said she had to take care of was taking off her T-shirt, and she’d left the top three buttons of my shirt undone.  I was looking down at some really soft-looking, really nice cleavage, and I could just see the edge of one bra cup peeking at me.

Gwen frowned.

“Am I doing something wrong?”

“No, you’re doing fine.  I was just checking to make sure.”

Gwen smiled then and went back to pulling tassels.  I went back to driving and wondering about the rest of her story.

I didn’t find that out that first day.  At about five, I drove the detasseling machine back to the main building and all the girls got off and went home.  Gwen did too, after she went into the main building restroom and put her T-shirt back on.  She came out holding my jeans and my shirt.  She smiled when she handed them to me.

“Thanks for letting me use these today.  I won’t make that mistake again.  See you tomorrow.”

I watched her drive off, then put my shirt and jeans in my truck and drove home.

The next morning, Gwen walked over to where I was getting my detasseling machine ready.

“Morning, Mr. Hayes.  Like how I’m dressed today?”

I looked at Gwen and grinned.

“I’m not old enough for that “mister”.  I’m twenty-four and I don’t think I’m much older than you are, so call me Jeff.”

“I just thought since you’re my boss, I should call you mister.  You are older than I am though.  I’m twenty.”

Her shirt was light blue and fit a whole lot better than mine had.  The top three buttons were undone, just like yesterday, but since it fit her tighter, the neck didn’t gape open quite as much.  All I saw was the start of her cleavage.

Her jeans fit tight enough there was no doubt the ass they covered was round and feminine.  I could just make out the curve of her thighs, but not her lower legs.

“You’re dressed just fine, Gwen.”

She grinned.

“I didn’t have a white shirt, but I figured this one would do.  I’m not really looking to get a tan like those young girls.”

“The color doesn’t really matter.  Keeping your skin from getting cut and sun-burned does though.  You ready for another day?”

Gwen laughed.

“I’m pretty stiff after yesterday, but I think I’ll make it.”

Gwen did better that day.  I glanced down at her from time to time, and she wasn’t missing many tassels.  She had her back to me most of the time, so I couldn’t see her face, but the way she pulled each tassel told me she was determined not to miss any.  

When I stopped for a break after each round or so, Gwen would hop off her platform and head out into the corn.  A couple minutes later, she’d come back for a drink of water.

We ate lunch together that second day, but Gwen didn’t tell me anymore about why she was getting a divorce.  I was really curious about that.  Today, it seems as if women divorce their husbands about as often as men divorce their wives.  Back then, that wasn’t the case.  There wasn’t a cause like “incompatibility” or “no fault divorce” like today.  It had to be that he’d beat her up or had been unfaithful, and she’d have to prove either in order to divorce him.

It wasn’t until the second week she told me.  We’d finished lunch and were sitting there resting when she looked at me.

“Do you have a girlfriend, Jeff?”

I shook my head and grinned.

“No, I run a farm besides doing this.  I’m too busy.  Why?  Are you asking for the job?”

Gwen laughed.

“No, nothing like that.  I just wondered, that’s all.  You seem to be a man most girls would like.”

I chuckled.

“I don’t know about that.  They weren’t all that interested in me when I was in high school.”

“Well, girls don’t know what they’re looking for when they’re that young.  I sure didn’t, and I made a mistake.”

“Oh, how so?”

“The mistake was that I married Jerry.  He was a good-looking guy, like you, and he was always nice to me.  I thought we were happy for the first six months.  He’d go off on his sales trips and leave me alone, but when he came back, we’d go out to dinner and then…well, you know.  That lasted until I was doing the laundry one day and found what looked like face powder on one of his white shirts.  I asked him about it and that led to our first and last fight.

“He first tried to tell me it was something he’d picked up at a hardware store.  When I said it looked like face powder and asked him how he’d get that in a hardware store, he just grinned and said I should know it was lonely out there in the country because I’d told him that.  One thing led to another until I said I was lonely too when he was gone, so maybe I’d find somebody to keep me company too.  

“Jerry got mad then.  He slapped me and said I was his wife and if he even thought I’d sleep with another man, he’d kill me.  I waited until he’d gone off on another sales trip and then packed up everything I’d brought with me and drove to my uncle’s farm in Milmine.  

“I’d never told Jerry anything about my uncle, so I didn’t think he could find me there.  He did though.  He used his old charm and talked my mother into telling him.  He said he’d made a big mistake and just wanted us to put that behind us and get on with life.

“I’d told Uncle Robert about what happened.  He said if Jerry had done it once, he’d probably do it again.  When Mom called me and said Jerry was on his way there, Uncle Robert got a pitchfork and went out and sat on the front porch.  When Jerry drove up at their house and asked if I was there, Uncle Robert told him to get off his property.  That’s when the real Jerry came out.

“Jerry yelled at Uncle Robert and said he was going to go through their house and find me, and then take me back to Rockford.  Uncle Robert wouldn’t let him through the door.  He just told Jerry if he tried anything, he’d wish he hadn’t.  I guess Jerry believed him, because he got back in his car and left.

“After Jerry drove off, Uncle Robert said he was worried that Jerry would really hurt me if he ever got hold of me again, and that I should find a lawyer and divorce Jerry.  He got me hooked up with a lawyer he knew, and I filed for divorce the next day.

“It surprised me a little that Jerry didn’t contest it.  I guess he didn’t really love me like he said.”

“He didn’t try to stop the divorce?”

“Nope.  His lawyer said Jerry told him to agree to the divorce but that he wanted to keep everything he had before we were married.  I don’t really care about that.  Other than some clothes, Jerry never bought me anything, so all I’m out is about  a year of my life.  It still hurts though.”

“I can’t imagine how that would feel, but it sounds like it’s for the best.”

“Yes, I know it is.  I just wish I hadn’t let Jerry get to me like he did.  He was so smooth and so convincing.  I really thought I loved him.”

Gwen laughed.

“I guess that’s why he’s such a good salesman.  I won’t make that mistake again, not if I can help it anyway.”

I saw Frank’s crew loading up and stood up.

“Time to get back to work, Gwen.”

“Well, thanks for listening to me.  I can’t really talk to Uncle Robert or Aunt Liz like this.  They think I was crazy for marrying Jerry in the first place.  Mom and Dad still like him, so they’re no support either.”

I found myself saying it before I thought.

“You can tell me whatever you want, Gwen.  I don’t know if I’ll understand, but I’ll listen.”

Over the next two weeks, we finished all the fields of seed corn and then went back through them a second time.  All corn plants don’t tassel at exactly the same time, so there are always some that pop up a few days after the first.  We had to get those too, because in order for the crop of seed corn to be considered a hybrid, 99.7% of the female tassels have to be pulled.  The guys walking the fields would pull any the girls missed to get the rest.

It was Wednesday of the third week when Gwen told me her divorce was final.

“Jerry’s lawyer brought them to Uncle Robert’s house last night.  I signed them and he gave me a copy.  I’m single again, for all the good that does.”

I was a little confused by that statement.

“I thought you’d be happy to be single again.”  

“Oh, I’m happy I’m not married to Jerry any more.  I just had hopes of having a family of my own someday.  That probably won’t happen now.”

“Why not?  You’re still young.”

Gwen looked at me and frowned.

“Jeff, men will buy a used car or a used tractor.  They don’t want another man’s used wife.  They want to be the first.”

I had to think on that for a bit because I’d never had reason to think about it before.  I’d just assumed any woman I married would be a virgin.  Nobody had ever told me that’s what was right, but I realized I didn’t know anybody who’d married a woman who’d been married before.  Well, there was old Mr. Adkins.  He married Maude, but they were both in their sixties and both widowed.

I looked at Gwen.

“I suppose some men feel that way, but I doubt all of them do.  You’ll find somebody, I’m sure.  You’re pretty enough and you’re nice enough.”

I saw her frown then.

“Well, thank you for saying I’m pretty enough and nice enough some man would actually want to be with me.”

“No, that’s not what I meant.  I just meant that any man who would put the fact that you’re divorced above everything else would be missing out on something.”

“Yeah, maybe by the time I’m fifty.  You don’t know what it’s like, but I do because I’ve seen it before.  One of my cousins got divorced when she was twenty-six.  That was five years ago and she’s still single.  Men run the other way as soon as they find out she’s been married before.”

It was time to get back to work, and I was glad.  Gwen seemed to be really upset, and I didn’t know what to say to make her feel better.

She was back to her old self by the end of the day.  I thought she’d already gone, but on my way to my truck, she yelled at me.  

“Jeff, can you wait a minute?”

I stopped to let her catch up.  When she did, she put her hand on my arm.

“Jeff, I shouldn’t have done what I did at lunch, and I’m sorry.  It’s just that you’re pretty easy to talk to.  I won’t do it again, I promise.”

Before I could say anything, she patted my arm and said “See you tomorrow”, then turned and left me standing there.

Detasseling only takes about three weeks, so after another week, we were done. That last day, I’d backed the detasseling machine into the shed and was walking back to my car when Gwen caught up with me.  

“Well, Jeff, it’s been fun, sort of.  I wish it had lasted longer though.  I guess I’ll have to find a real job now.”

I smiled.

“It was good to have you on my machine.  If you need a reference, feel free to give my name.  You’re a good worker and I’ll tell that to anybody.”

Gwen got in her car then and waved as she drove away.

I went back to our farm and start getting ready for the fall harvest season.  Our combine sickle needed new sections and a few guards, and there were a couple belts I’d noticed looked a little ratty.  Our big farm truck needed an oil change and the brakes were squealing, so they needed to be replaced too.

The tractors and wagons needed looking to as well.  The tractors had sat idle since I finished cultivating, and they’d need oil changes and maybe a battery charge.  The corn picker would need to be looked at as well.  The wagons would need the axle bearings checked and greased, and there was always at least one tire that would need a new tube.  

All that stuff needed to be done so as soon as the beans and corn were dry enough to pick, I could hit the fields and get the crop in without having to stop.  Even a small rain could delay the harvest because the corn and soybeans would absorb moisture and I’d have to let them dry out again before picking any more.  

The corn wasn’t quite as much of a problem because I’d put it in the corncrib to let it finish drying.  I could hold it there and let it dry out until the price went up later in the year and make a little extra money.  I didn’t have any way to store soybeans back then, so they went from the field to the grain elevator.  

The elevator always checked for moisture content, and if it was too high, they’d dock me a few cents a bushel. If it was really high, they wouldn’t accept it at all because it would rot in the bin.  That caused heat and could cause enough heat to catch the bin on fire.  It the moisture content was too low, we’d get docked for shattered beans.  Two years before, Dad and I had bought a small moisture tester so we’d know when the grain was ready to pick.

The first week of September I hand shelled a quart of beans and used our moisture meter to check them.  They were a little high still, but the weather forecast was for a week of sunshine and temperatures in the nineties.  Two days later, I drove the combine to the bean field and Dad drove the big truck.  When I filled the bin on the combine, Dad would pull the truck along side the combine and I’d empty the beans into the truck.  When the truck was full, he’d drive it to the elevator.

Dad made the first trip to the elevator at about nine that morning.  It was a little after eleven when I had the truck full again.  Dad said I might as well go with him to dump the beans.  We’d eat lunch after that and then go back to cutting.  

Dad drove the truck up on the scales at the elevator.  Jimmy came out and got his sample and then took it back inside to test the moisture content.  Dad and I followed him inside.  As soon as I walked in the door, I heard a familiar voice from my right side say, “Hi, Jeff.  How’s it going?”

I turned to see Gwen smiling at me from behind a desk.

“Hi, Gwen.  I didn’t expect to see you again.”

“You probably wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for Uncle Robert.  He found out the elevator needed someone to keep track of grain coming in and going out.  I applied, and I got the job.”

“I’m happy for you.  How’s everything else?”

“Pretty good.  I rented a house two weeks ago, so I’m not living with Uncle Robert anymore.  It’s not a very big house and I don’t have much furniture yet, but it’s someplace I can call home.  You’ll have to come see it sometime.”

I figured Gwen was just making small talk.  In my experience, it was pretty common for someone to say you need to come see my new tractor or my new cow.  They weren’t really asking you to do that.  It was just a way of saying they’re proud of what they have.

Jimmy came back with the weigh slip from the scales and the moisture reading..

“Moisture’s twelve and a half percent.  Mark’ll dump you over at the elevator as soon as he’s done with that wagon.”

I told Gwen I’d probably be seeing her again, and then got in the truck with Dad.  As soon as the wagon pulled out of the dump platform, Dad drove the truck in until the front wheels dropped into the lift, put the transmission in neutral, and shut off the engine.  We got out, Dad opened the endgate of the truck, and soybeans began spilling out onto the grate in the floor.  

Mark, the guy who worked the elevator, started raising the lift slowly to keep the flow of soybeans going.  When they slowed to just a dribble, Mark lowered the lift until the truck was sitting level again.  I climbed into the truck bed, took the shovel that was stuck between the bed and the truss rod, and shoveled the rest out the end gate.  After Dad closed the end gate, I put the shovel back, got in the cab, and we drove back on the scales.  Dad asked me to go get the final slip that showed how many bushels we’d dumped.

Jimmy was standing in front of Gwen’s desk when I walked inside.  He looked up and then held out the paper.

“Two hundred and fifty three bushels, Jeff.  I expect you’ll be back this afternoon.”

“Yeah, probably at least twice.”

“Well, Mark has to take his wife to the doctor so I’ll be running the elevator.  Gwen knows how to run the scale and do the moisture tests.  She’ll take care of you.”

Gwen waved as I walked out the door and got in the truck.  I put the weigh slip in the glove compartment as dad started the trip home.  

We’d driven a couple miles when Dad chuckled.

“You know that sweet little girl back there?”

“Yeah.  She rode my detasseling machine this summer, but she’s not really a girl.  She’s twenty.”

Dad chuckled again.

“Looked to me like she likes you.  Maybe you oughta find out if she does or not.”

“I think she’s had her fill of men for a while.  She was married before she divorced her husband.  I don’t think she’s looking for anything except to get her life back on track.”

“Sounds like it bothers you that she was married before.  Does it?”

“I don’t know.  I never thought about it.”

“It woulda bothered me when I was your age.  Wouldn’t now though.”

“Oh, why?”

“Well, times have changed.  Used to be a man and a woman got married and stayed together no matter what happened.  There were a lot of married couples sleeping in separate beds back then.  I saw that in your mama’s sister.  They had a couple of kids, but after that the only thing that showed they were married was their wedding rings.

“Oh, she cooked and kept house, but it was always kind of cold in that house if you know what I mean. I never got the feeling either one of them was happy.  Your mama and I’d go over to visit once in a while.  I talked to William and your mama talked to Betty, but that was it.  I don’t think Betty said two words to William any time we were there.

“Shouldn’t be that way between a man and his wife.  They should be partners, not just two people living in the same house.  It wasn’t until William had a heart attack and died that Betty seemed to be happy again.  Now that she’s married Joe, she’s a different woman.”

Dad chuckled again.

“Besides, when you buy a horse, it doesn’t hurt if that horse is already broke to ride.”

“Dad, Gwen isn’t a horse.”

“Oh, I know that, but you know what I mean.  You wouldn’t be her first, but as I remember, that first time wasn’t all that great anyway.  Now the times after that…”

We ate the lunch Mom had ready for us, and after Dad took a short nap, we drove back to the field.  I started to get on the combine, but Dad stopped me.

“You been leaving some beans because you don’t keep the header low enough.  You let me finish out today and I’ll prove it to you.”

He didn’t wait for me to answer.  He just climbed up the steps of our Gleaner E combine, fired up the engine, and started cutting beans.

Dad had never looked behind me when I combined, at least as far as I knew.  I figured he just missed watching the combine reel pull the bean stalks to the cutter bar and then the feeder beater pulling them into the combine.  I could understand that.  It’s a pretty good feeling to see the crop you put so much work into ending up in the combine bin and then the truck.

We’d filled the truck by about three, so I drove to the elevator and parked on the scales.  I wasn’t out of the truck yet when Gwen pushed a little rolling step ladder over to the truck, climbed the steps, and used a probe to get a sample of my beans.  I followed her inside when she took them to the moisture tester.  

While we waited for the moisture tester to boil the moisture out of the beans, Gwen weighed my truck and wrote the full weight down on her form.  Then she looked up and smiled.

“I figured your dad would be driving in this afternoon like he did this morning.  I think he’s a really nice guy.”

“I didn’t know you knew my dad.”

“I didn’t but I saw the last name on the weigh sheet and asked him if he knew you.  He said he was your dad.  We had a nice talk about you while Jimmy was doing the moisture check.”

I probably should have wondered why Dad had talked to Gwen after she’d told him she knew me, but I didn’t have to.  Mom had been giving me little hints about grandchildren for the past six months.  I’d just ignored them because I didn’t have a way to support a wife, let alone a wife and kids.  It looked to me like Dad had decided to play matchmaker and make Mom’s dream come true.

“Oh…what did he tell you about me?”

Gwen walked over to the moisture tester to weigh the moisture that had condensed.

“Nothing much, just that you were going to have his farm one of these days and that you’d need a wife to help you.”

Gwen looked at her scale, then wrote the moisture reading down on the weigh sheet.

“It’s twelve percent so you’re good.  Go on up and have Jimmy dump you.  I’ll see you again when you’re empty.”

On my way back to the farm, I thought some about Gwen and about what Dad had said.  It irritated me a little.  It was like I was being rushed into getting married and I didn’t even get to pick the woman.  Well, I’d show him.  I wouldn’t do what he was hoping I’d do.

I drove the second load that afternoon to the elevator about five while Dad took the combine back to the shop to gas it up and grease everything in preparation for the next day.  Gwen was still there and took the sample.  I said she must be having a long day if she was still there.  She grinned.

“I’ve been here since six, and I’ve been busy all day.  Everybody’s cutting their beans.  You’ll be the last though.  Then I can go home and relax until tomorrow.  It’s a little lonely sometimes, being there by myself, but I’ve gotten used to it.”

“Yeah, that’s what I’ll do too.  I’ve been up since five.”

Gwen gave me an impish look.

“You going to do that relaxing by yourself or did you find that girlfriend yet?”

We were alone there in the office, but it felt like when we were under that big tree eating lunch during detasseling season.  I hadn’t intended to talk to Gwen much, but it was so easy.

“No, I’ll be by myself.  I’ve been busy getting ready to cut beans and pick corn and haven’t had time to look around for a girlfriend.  Besides, until I can buy the farm from Dad, I don’t really have enough money to do much dating.”  

Gwen took a look at the moisture meter, then smiled at me.

“You shouldn’t worry about having enough money to date a girl.  The right girl would understand.  Women aren’t all about eating out and going places, you know.  If you remember, I did that and it didn’t turn out very good.  I’d just as soon stay home and watch television.  Oh, it’s done.  I’ll just weight the moisture and you can be on your way.”

I didn’t relax all that much that night, and I had a hard time falling asleep even though I was beat.  I kept thinking about Dad trying to get me and Gwen together.  I didn’t like that idea, but I couldn’t really think of a reason why other than I didn’t like him interfering in my life.

Gwen was pretty enough and nice enough…I had to stop myself then.  It was like Gwen had said back then while we ate lunch.  It wasn’t that she was just pretty enough or nice enough.  Gwen was just plain good looking and so nice she put most other women to shame.  Other than when she’d told me about her ex, I’d never heard her say anything unkind about anybody.

No, I decided, Gwen was what any man with half a brain would want in a woman.  I liked her.  She was also pretty smart and pretty confident.  Like Dad had said, not many women would have had the courage to walk away from a marriage and file for divorce.  A married woman had financial security and a place to call home even if her husband wasn’t much of a husband.  Giving that up was something most women wouldn’t have been able to do.

I finally fell asleep sometime after I thought about all that and wondered if Gwen had just been being nice about me seeing her house or if she really meant it.

When I woke up the next morning, those thoughts came back to me.  I decided I was crazy to think Gwen was serious, and I was still a little ticked off about what Dad had done.  When we got ready to leave for the bean field, I started to climb up the ladder to the combine, but Dad stopped me again.

“You let me combine again.  You can run the beans back to the elevator.”

Well, that did it.  I decided we had to have it out right then and there.

“Dad, I know what you’re trying to do and I don’t like it.  I can make up my own mind about what’s right for me.  I don’t need you trying to get me and Gwen together.”

Dad just smiled.

“Well, you’re doing a pretty half-assed job of it, if you ask me.  That little girl really likes you.  She didn’t say as much, but the way her eyes lit up when she talked about you, I could tell.  I saw the same thing in your face when you saw her yesterday.  I thought we raised a boy who knew his own mind, but you need some help.  If you let her get away, you’ll regret at least not finding out if she’s the one.”

I tried to reason with him.

“Dad, I can’t buy the farm yet, and until I can, there’s no way I could support a wife.”

Dad just smiled.

“You have more right now than your mother and I had when we started out.  We made it.  So could you with the right woman.”

With that, Dad climbed up the combine ladder and left me standing there.  

I drove the first load of beans to the elevator about nine.  Jimmy was back and took the moisture sample.  Gwen smiled and said “Hi, Jeff”, when I walked in the door behind Jimmy.

I couldn’t very well ignore Gwen, so I walked over to her desk.  She looked up at me and grinned.

“Back again, I see.”

“Yeah, Dad’s running the combine today.  I think he misses it since he retired.”

She chuckled.

“I don’t miss detasseling.  That first week, my arms ached.”

“Yeah, it’ll do that to you until you get used to it.”

Her smile then was kind of funny looking.

“I do miss eating lunch with you though.  You were somebody I could talk to about the mess I’d made of my life and you never were critical.  I never told you “Thank you”, but I won’t ever forget that.”

“Well, I was taught not to judge people.  Besides, I think you did the right thing, and you don’t need to thank me for listening.”

Gwen looked down at her desk for a second, then took a deep breath and looked back up at me.

“I’d still like to thank you somehow.  I baked a cake last night and if I eat all of it, I’ll just get fat.  Could I interest you in a piece and some coffee tonight, maybe about seven or so?”

Well, I’d never had a woman ask me out before, so I didn’t know how to say no.  I didn’t have any time to talk my way out of it gently either, because about then Jimmy walked up and handed Gwen the weigh slip.  I said I guessed that would be all right, then walked out the door and drove the truck to the elevator.  Gwen waved at me through the office window when Jimmy brought the weigh slip with the number of bushels I’d unloaded out to my truck.

I made three more trips to the elevator that day, and each time, Gwen reminded me about our “date”.  She didn’t actually say that word, but I knew that’s what it was.  Dad and I finished up the hundred acres of beans at about four and I made the last run to the elevator while he drove the combine back to the house.  Mom had dinner ready at five-thirty.

I took a shower a little after six, then dressed in a pair of good jeans and a check shirt.  When I walked through the living room, Dad asked where I was going.  When I told him, he grinned.

“Well, maybe you do have some sense after all.”

That first night with Gwen was better than I ever dreamed it would be.  When she rode my detasseling machine, Gwen was more of an employee than a woman.  I mean, I was in charge of my girls, so I couldn’t really be much more than friendly.  There in Gwen’s house and alone with her, it was really hard to think of her as just a friend.

It got harder to think of her that way over the next six months of more cake and coffee that led to her pot roast and chicken dinners on Saturday night with some television afterwards.  It took me that long to convince her we really should go somewhere to eat instead of her doing all the work.  By then, I’d given up on the friend thing.  Gwen was a lot more than just a friend.  I couldn’t bring myself to say I loved her, not yet, but deep down, I knew I did.

It took that dinner in Decatur before I told her.  We had dinner at The Blue Mill and then drove back to Gwen’s house to watch some television.   Gwen made some coffee while I got comfortable on her sofa.

A few minutes later, she brought two cups into the living room, sat them on the coffee table in front of her sofa and then sat down beside me.  She stroked my arm and sent tingles down my back.

“Jeff, tonight was really nice.  I guess I just didn’t want to remember eating out.  Thank you for talking me into it.”

I smiled.

“I just thought you might like not cooking for a change.  I really like your cooking, but it’s a lot of work for you.”

Gwen stroked my arm again.

“I like cooking for you, and it’s not work when you’re doing something you like.”

She was looking at me with that same smile I’d seen the first day, but her eyes were a lot different.  They seemed brighter or more open, I don’t know, but they were different.  They were also drawing me in.  Without thinking about if she’d like it or not, I leaned over and kissed Gwen.

It was more just a quick kiss than an actual kiss, but when I realized what I’d done, I backed away.

“Gwen, I’m sorry I did that.”

Gwen scooted over close enough her hip was touching mine.

“Why would you be sorry?  Didn’t you like kissing me?  I liked kissing you.”

“Well, I didn’t know if you felt that way or not.”

Gwen smiled.

“You might try kissing me again so you could find out how I feel.”

I was going to just give Gwen a short kiss, but she sort of took over.  As soon as our lips touched, she put on hand on the back of my head and held me there while she made love to my lips with hers.  

I don’t remember putting my arms around Gwen, but that’s where they were when she pulled gently away.

“Does that tell you how I feel, Jeff?”

I didn’t know what to say.  If Gwen felt even a little like I was feeling, I figured there could be only one reason.  I knew then there was only one reason I felt like I did.  I hugged Gwen gently and said, “I think I love you, Gwen”.

I don’t know what I expected her to say.  I know I wasn’t expecting what she said.

“Jeff, I’ve liked you since that first day on your detasseling machine.  I thought there was more when you came to dump your beans at the elevator.  After that first time you came here for cake and coffee, I knew I loved you. It doesn’t sound very romantic, but that’s what happened.”

I chuckled.

“So what do we do now?”

Gwen stroked my chest with her fingertip.

“Well, I can think of one thing I’d like to do with you…something I haven’t done in a long time.”

I knew what Gwen was thinking.

“Gwen, I can’t do that.  We’re not married.”

She pulled away and frowned.

“You think I want to have sex with you?  What kind of woman do you think I am?  I was talking about driving your tractor.”

I was starting to apologize when Gwen grinned and snuggled back up against me.

“I’m just kidding.  I would like to have sex with you but I understand.  I’ll still want that when you’re ready.  Until then, I really would like to drive your tractor.  I used to sit on Daddy’s lap and steer.  It was fun then and I want to see if it still is.”

I chuckled.

“I thought you said you hated living on a farm.”

“That was just after I got interested in boys.  Before that, well Mama wouldn’t let me do a lot of things she thought girls shouldn’t do, but she let me ride with Daddy on his tractor sometimes.”

It was Mom who noticed the change in me first.  She asked if I was feeling all right.  When I said I was, she laughed.

“Then I know what’s the matter.  When are you going to make an honest woman out of Gwen?”

“What do you mean.  She’s already an honest women.”

“If you don’t marry her, I think she won’t be that way for long.  The way you’re acting, it’s only a matter of time before you sleep with her.  I know, because your daddy was the same way.  I had to keep telling him good girls didn’t do that.”

“I can’t get married.  I don’t have enough money to get married and buy the farm too.”

Mom sat down and smiled at me.

“When your daddy and I got married, he was just home from the war.  All we had was about a thousand dollars of his back pay and each other.  We both worked hard and were able to get a loan to buy this place a few years later.  I’ve never regretted not waiting, and you won’t either.  Now, go propose to that sweet girl before you do something you’ll both regret.”

Gwen and I were married on the first of March.  Some people said we should have waited until June because that’s the wedding month or something like that.  Gwen wouldn’t wait.  She said I’d have too much work to do by then and she was right.  

By today’s standards, our wedding was pretty simple.  We got married in the Methodist Church in Hammond, and the reception was in the church basement, not in a fancy restaurant.  Gwen didn’t have the money for a caterer and didn’t want to spend that much anyway, so her family made everything.  

Gwen wore a nice off-white dress because back then, a woman who’d been married before wasn’t supposed to wear a white wedding gown.  Her one bride’s maid was her cousin, and she wore a pink dress.  I and my best man, one of my buddies from high school, both wore our Sunday suits.  It wouldn’t have been right for us to wear the traditional tux when Gwen wasn’t wearing a wedding gown.

Gwen’s dad walked her up the aisle, and then we stood together in front of family and friends and pledged all the things people promise when they get married.  After that, one of my cousins took a bunch of pictures before we went to the reception.  

We stayed for a while, drank punch and ate cake together, and then opened a few of our gifts.  Then we climbed into my truck and drove off.  Painted in white on my back window was “JUST MARRIED”, and a string of empty cans was tied to the back bumper.

Gwen was still shaking the rice out of her hair when we drove into the farm.  Dad had let me take his car for the honeymoon and we wanted to change clothes and pick up the suitcases we’d put there the day before.

We spend our first night together in a hotel in Decatur.  I was fine when we checked into the hotel.  I was fine when I carried our bags into the room.  I was fine while we ate dinner at The Blue Mill again.  I was nervous as hell when we got back to our room.  As soon as I closed and locked the door, Gwen put her arms around my neck, pulled herself up tight against me and grinned.

“Well, husband, you said we had to be married before you’d do anything with me.  We’re married now.  Are you going to keep me waiting much longer?”

“No…but you might be disappointed.  I’ve never…you know…and you have.”

Gwen stroked my cheek.

“Jeff, it doesn’t work that way with women.  I love you and you love me, so whatever we do will be us making love.  It doesn’t have to be more than that.  Now, I’m going into the bathroom to make myself special for you.  You get into your pajamas.”

I was changed in a couple of minutes.  Gwen took half an hour.  When she came out of the bathroom, I forgot all about time.

I knew Gwen had a nice body, at least it felt nice when I hugged her.  I’d feel her breasts pressing into my chest, and when we really got serious about each other, I’d cup her ass cheeks.  What I didn’t know is that she would look a whole lot more sensuous than she felt.  Her white lace nightgown formed itself around her hips and was low enough in the front it bared the swell of her breasts.

She smiled.

“Well, what do you think?”

“I think you’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen”, was all I could think of to say.

Gwen grinned.

“Are you going to just look, or are you going to make me happy?”

Well, I did my best to make her happy, though Gwen sort of took over part way through.  I did lift the nightgown over her head and then had to stand there and marvel at her some more.  Her breasts weren’t as small as I’d imagined they were, and her nipples were a lot bigger.  Her waist was small though, and flowed into hips that were wide enough to be very feminine.  The thatch of dark brown hair on her mound was erotic as all get out, and her slender thighs just begged for me to stroke them.  

Gwen giggled.

“Maybe you should have left my nightgown on.  You’re staring at me again instead of doing anything.”

“I just can’t stop looking, that’s all.”

Gwen started to unbutton my pajama top.

“Maybe I should help you get started.”

By the time Gwen had opened my pajama top and then put her arms around my neck and pressed her bare breasts against my bare chest, I was more than started.  My cock was rock hard, but I think it got stiffer when Gwen felt between us and stroked it through my pajama bottoms.  She giggled again.

“I think part of you wants to be undressed next.”

She didn’t wait for me to say anything.  She just hooked her thumbs in the waistband and pulled the pants down to my ankles, then gently stroked my rigid cock.

I wasn’t the great lover I’d hoped to be that night.  Gwen was though.  For a while after we got under the sheet we just lay there, kissing and fondling each other.  I was fascinated by her breasts.  They were firm but soft and yielding, if you can imagine something being like that.  I loved the way they soft of flowed out of my gentle squeeze.  Gwen liked that too, and when my fingertips stroked her nipples, she purred out a little moan.

“Mmm…I like that.  Do it some more.”

A while later, Gwen stroked my stiff cock gently, then whispered, “touch me down there too.”

The hair on her mound was sort of crinkled up, so I was careful to stroke her lips gently until I got it separated.  Once I did that, I did what I thought I was supposed to do.  I parted Gwen’s lips and slipped my finger between them.

Gwen lurched into my hand and groaned, so I though I’d hurt her.

“Gwen, I’m sorrry.  I’m just new at this.”

She ran a fingertip around the head of my cock.

“You didn’t do anything wrong.  It’s just been a long time since I felt that.  Don’t stop doing it.”

I didn’t, and after a while I felt slippery wetness on my fingers.  A little while later, Gwen was starting to breathe faster.  She moved one hand down to mine and whispered, “move your finger in and out.  I’m almost ready for you.”

Her satin lips were soft.  Inside Gwen was even softer, and it didn’t seem to take very long before she was rocking her hips up when my finger slipped inside her.  The more I moved the finger in and out, the more she rocked her hips and she started making little moans.

I knew what was supposed to come next, but I didn’t get the chance.  Gwen put her soft thigh over me, then rolled on top of me.  She pushed herself up with her arms, and then reached between us for my cock.  I felt that same wet slipperiness when she stroked the head between her lips, and then the overwhelming feeling of Gwen impaling herself on my cock.

I really lost track of everything then.  My world was just Gwen on top of me, slowly raising her body up until my cock caught on a snug place and then slowly lowering herself until she was sitting on my thighs with my cock deep inside her.  She pulled my hands to her breasts after a few strokes, and when I stroked them and touched her nipples, I felt her body give a little lurch and something inside her tightened around my cock.

The feeling was incredible, and it got more so when Gwen leaned down and pushed her right nipple into my face.  I didn’t need her to tell me what she wanted.  I just opened my mouth and wrapped my lips around her stiff nipple.  Gwen moaned at the first gentle suck, and I felt that tightening around my cock again.

All that – the tightening around my cock and the feeling of Gwen’s rippled passage stroking my cock head and shaft – were getting to me.  I started to lift my hips up into Gwen’s strokes and I was starting to breathe pretty hard.  When Gwen leaned down, pressed her lips to mine and then slipped her tongue into my mouth, I lost it.  I groaned and lifted Gwen up off the bed as I pushed my cock as deep as it would go.  After two more strokes, I groaned and felt the spurts race through my cock and splatter inside Gwen.  

Gwen didn’t stop riding my cock even after I’d shot my last.  She didn’t stop until it slipped out and was too soft to go back inside her.  Then, she stretched out on top of me and kissed me until I had to pull away to breathe.

Gwen giggled then.

“I don’t know why you were worried.  That was pretty great.”

“Well, you didn’t make it though.”

Gwen stroked my cheek.

“Jeff, you made me feel like a woman again.  That’s enough for the first time.  We have a week to practice and I want to practice a lot.”

We did a lot of things on that honeymoon.  Wisconsin Dells was a tourist trap if there ever was one, so we spent some money, but it was fun just walking through the town to see the sights.  Every morning and every night was more fun.  We did practice then, and sometimes we practiced after lunch too.  

By the end of the week, I’d discovered how fantastic it could be when I held out long enough to experience Gwen having an orgasm.  The last three days were like that.  We’d stopped wearing anything to bed after that first night, so as soon as we were under the sheet and blanket, we’d experiment.  I learned what got Gwen excited enough she’d rake her nails down my back or rock her hips into my strokes and push my cock a little deeper inside her body.  

I learned how to control myself better so I didn’t lose it before Gwen was ready.  The first time she murmured, “Now, Jeff”, and then started to shake as the waves swept through her was an experience I’ll never forget.  It was the first of many times we truly became one.  All too soon, we had to drive back to Dad’s farm because there was a lot of work to be done before the next planting season.

For three weeks, I worked all day getting the plow, disk, and planter in shape for the coming season.  As soon as the ground dried out enough, I started plowing.  Gwen kept her job at the elevator, but since I worked in the field as long as I could see, she’d drive out and ride a few rounds with me when she got off work.

That first year was a joy.  We lived in Gwen’s house so we were alone every night.  Almost every night, we’d eat and watch a little television, then go to bed.  Sometimes it was late before we finally went to sleep, and Dad started ribbing me about being half-asleep.

“I know what you’re doing, because your mother and I were the same way.  I ‘spect you’re doing some plowing every night.  You gonna plant that field one of these days?”

I told him there was no way I had enough money to even think of having kids, but Dad just laughed.

“Don’t be surprised if that happens.”

Well, Dad was right.  I was getting ready to cut beans when Gwen told me she was pregnant.  Gwen was tickled to death and couldn’t wait to tell everybody.  When Mom and Dad heard the news, they were overjoyed.  I was happy too, but also worried.  With a baby on the way, it was going to be hard to save enough money to think about buying Dad out.

Christmas that year was one I’ll never forget.  Mom and Gwen cooked enough food to feed twenty people, and after we’d stuffed ourselves, we sat down in the living room to exchange gifts.  We’d bought Mom a sweater and Dad a new pocket knife since he’d broken his.  Once they’d opened their gifts, Dad stood up and brought a big box to Gwen and me.

“This is from your mother and me.  I hope you like it.”

Gwen opened the box, pulled out a big manila envelope, and looked at me questioningly.  I took the envelope, opened it, and saw a stack of papers inside.  When I took the papers out, the one on top said “Contract For Deed”.

I looked at Dad and he grinned.

“While you were working the crops, I did some checking with a lawyer about what to do with the farm.  What he suggested is what you have there.  It’s a contract to buy me out.  I had the farm appraised and the land was valued at a little over three hundred thousand and the equipment about another hundred.  

“What the contract says is that you’ll pay me forty-five thousand every year for the next ten years.  I figure that’s about three fourths what you can clear on the crops, but since I’m financing it, you won’t have to pay interest to a bank.  If Gwen keeps working at the elevator, you’ll do as good as your mother and I did when we started out.  Your mother wants to take care of the baby when Gwen’s ready to go back to work, so you won’t have to worry about that.  All you have to do is sign the contract and the farm will essentially be yours.  After ten years it will be, free and clear.”

Gwen had tears in her eyes when she jumped up and hugged Dad.  I didn’t hug him, but I had a few tears too.  I hugged Mom instead.

Dad and Mom used some of their savings to buy a house in town that spring and Gwen and I moved to the farm.  When Bobby was born, Mom helped Gwen for a month, and then drove out to the farm every day to take care of him while Gwen was at work.

Life was great, but things don’t always go according to plan.  I had a bad year and couldn’t make the entire payment, so it took Gwen and I eleven years and two more kids before I got the deed to the farm.  Dad was happy to be retired, though he didn’t really retire.  He came out with Mom every day, sometimes to help if there was fieldwork or equipment repairs to be done, but usually just to play with Bobby.  They did the same thing with Blake and Judy.
After we made the last payment, Gwen kept working.  For another fifteen years, we basically lived on her salary and used the profits on the farm to buy the rest of the section where the farm was located.  My boys and I are legal partners now and we farm six hundred and forty acres. They both have degrees in agriculture from the U of I, and what they learned has changed things on my farm a lot.

Judy’s a software engineer now, but she always had a thing for Danny Roane, a farm kid she went to school with.  He gave her a ring last week, and now she’s figuring out how she can engineer software from home since she’ll be moving back once they’re married.  Danny is in the process of buying his dad’s farm, so she’ll have to work for quite a while.  She told Gwen she didn’t mine since she knew that’s how we started out.
We don’t do things like I did back then, but that’s good in some ways.  My two old tractors have been replaced by two John Deere 7310R’s.  We don’t plow, we use a field cultivator that works as much land in a morning as I used to plow in a day.  Everything else has gotten bigger too.  My old ten foot disk is sitting in the shed.  We now use a twenty foot disk to cut down the crop trash before planting, and we plant twelve rows at a pass instead of my old four.  

That increases the yield and saves time and money.  That increased yield and doing some custom cutting and picking allowed us to purchase a new Gleaner S88 combine with a twenty foot grain head and a six row corn head.  Everything is computer controlled and monitored and we keep track of the yield of each acre via a GPS unit that logs field position and grain yield.  When we fertilize the next year, we use those numbers to figure out how much to apply to each acre.

Our yields have gone up by about forty percent over the years, and that’s good.  I do still miss the old days sometimes though.  Driving one of the 7310’s or the Gleaner is more like sitting in a luxury car than a tractor.  They have air-ride seats, stereo radio, and air conditioning.  I think it was nicer when the tractor seat was in the open air and you could hear the engine pulling hard and smell the freshly turned soil or the smell of ripe soybeans and corn.  It was nice having Gwen sitting there on the fender beside me too.

I still have one of those first tractors, an old Allis WD-45.  Maybe this afternoon, I’ll fire it up and hook up to that old disk.  There’s a patch next to the house that we use as a garden plot and Gwen wants to get it ready.  She’ll come out with me and sit on the fender while I make a couple passes to bury the trash and level it out.  After that, well Bobby and Blake won’t be back until dark, so we’ll have the rest of the afternoon to ourselves.  This morning at breakfast, Gwen kissed me until I had to breathe and then said she hoped I wouldn’t be working all day.  I know what she wants and I’m more than happy to give it to her.  As the old song goes, I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.