Greenfield Village, A Walk Into The Past
This time now, the hay no longer
lifts the roof of the standing barn.
No longer piled loose and
pitched with forks as high as the man can stand.
It still creases the nose with aromatic exhilaration.
Standing now are the bales neatly tucked
one upon the other, so economical of space,
so utilitarian, so terribly modern.
The machines had cut and scooped the fields
with utmost efficiency and confined the hay delivered
to trucks where men stacked the rectangles neatly.
The barn does not change, not much.
With heart laboring, I walk the one story incline
to lean against the knotted frame of the sliding doors,
wobbly in the old tracks. They work still.
The smell of the baled hay is not as pungent
as I remembered, but still familiar.
The single door at the opposite end
with the window vents at the peaked places,
could not be improved.
They allowed fresh air to enter
as well as the sparrows and starlings.
The open doors to the right of the main floor
leading to the bins where grain is stored,
is like the first barn.
Empty spaces with floorboards missing
leave gaping holes ready to turn an ankle.
The dry, spicy aroma is like
some great libation for the gods.
The scoops, hand made and smooth,
cut from large cans having fed large families,
measured neatly the amount of grain
for each of the animals.
There was no old man coaching horses
in front of the wagon with hay overflowing,
at the top of the hill.
It was tricky business at best, not to
tip the wagon or break the shaft.
An unmatched set of horses demanded
the best old man to maneuver them.
The horses shied, as well as the household
gathered to watch. I’ve never known the onlookers
to be silent nor the old man to be confident.
Now I see the John Deere, skillfully backing
the flatbed straight as an arrow, onto the barn floor.
Just like backing up a semi. Labor is required and
the longer hours are still after dark.
The acreage planted are still more acres, the costs ever dear
and somehow in the hypothetical justice
of supply and demand, higher ever for the farmer.
But we progress, I hear.
I lean against the timber and it feels moist and hard
and smells of oak and barn. I close my eyes.
It is good. The memories are cold and sharp
and as I open my eyes, I see orchards and fields
carried from another time.
I make my way down the hill.
I turn and walk across the field and lose myself
in the village. A horse drawn carriage
finds its way across my path.
I need not pivot for cross traffic
but I do need to look out for the ducks.
All centuries have their share.