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Fields of Grain

My life seemed full of turmoil; counting sorrows with my beers, yet as I pondered my own plight, his words fell on my ears. At first, I thought him senile as he spoke with rambling tone to those who rarely listened as he sat there, all alone. His cigarette was just an ash in fingers bent and old, and often tired eyes would flash, while I heard his tale unfold. He didn’t try to lecture, his air seemed to imply that if I could conjecture some, I’d see the reasons why. The old man spoke of times gone by when men were not as free. He saw a land much different than the country that we see. His Pa was a sharecropper, and I tried to understand as the pictures his words painted helped me come to know the man. Not native to this country, but his Pa stood just as proud as if he were, for in his youth he spoke the oath out loud. Although the freedoms that he earned seem small to you and me, The freedom just to grow his grain was his great liberty. They worked the land from sun to moon, for soybeans, corn and grain, and each spring they must start anew to work the fields again. But then one night there came a knock upon their shanty door. The man said, “We are sorry, but you should grow no more.” “There is no profit in your corn. The money’s all in rice, but just to show we do not scorn, we’ll pay you a small price.” He said, “We’ve got too much to sell, and too little to gain, and so we must compel of you to plow up half your grain.” The boy’s old Pa saw anger then, as his pride began to burst, and in a voice of rage he said, “I’ll burn my fields first!” “My family works so hard each day, not one of them complain, so take your pittance, go away and leave my fields of grain.” So when the man had gone from there, old Pa cried on his porch, and though he knew it wasn’t fair, he went and lit a torch. And as the flames began to cast the evening sky aglow, he came into the house and said, “It’s time for us to go.” The old man got down off his stool, and drank down one last shot. His final words still fill my head, “Be glad for what you got.” He faltered just a little as his feet tested the floor, but then he held his head up high, and shuffled toward the door. My life has been a rocky road. Some sunny days, some rain, but when I bear a heavy load, I think of fields of grain.

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