The Clackamas print. (Oregon City, Oregon) 1989-2019, May 31, 1989, Image 11

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Waiting for the Rain
It was hot, unusually so for
early fall. The rains were late this
year. David tried to rub the sweat
out of his eyes, but they only burned
worse. He dragged the biggest of
the juniper posts down to the truck
and let it drop, then sat down to
gather his strength before attempt­
ing to lift the big end of it into the
pickup. He was glad that his fa­
ther had brought the old Willy’s
instead of the newer truck, Since
the bed of the Willy’s was a good
foot lower.
David looked up the hill and
saw his father fell another juniper
tree, this one bigger than the last.
After a short rest, he stood up and
lifted the post into the pickup. He
laid the big end on the back of the
bed, then lifted the small end and
pushed it into the pickup.
David was hot and miserable.
His arms were red with scratches
from the knots that remained on
the posts, and his gloves were sticky
with pitch resin. In July, the heat
would have been bearable, but
summer had long ago worn out its
welcome. The sparse vegetation
on the rocky hillside where they
worked had dried up weeks ago.
There was a streambed about
a hundred yards below the road.
Normally the water ran cool and
fresh, but now a white line on the
rocks and an occasional damp patch
of sand were all that proved its
existence. The sound of grasshop­
pers rattling their wings (so famil­
iar in summer) now seemed out of
place and distracting. Every crea­
ture was on edge, waiting for the
replenishing rains to arrive. With
the temperature near ninety and
not a cloud in the sky, it seemed
they waited in vain.
David argued when his father
first mentioned coming to cut the
posts. There was only a week left
until fall term began at the Uni­
versity, and he hadn’t planned on
spending it cutting posts. The closer
his departure came, the more
confused he felt. David was the
first in his family to go to college,
and he feared he was leaving
something he could never com­
pletely return to.
At first he worked blinded by
his anger, oblivious to his surround­
ings. But in the heat he began to
sweat and tire, until sustaining
anger required too much effort. It
was then that the significance of
the juniper grove came back to
him. Walking back up the hill,
David saw the stumps of posts cut
long ago by his father and grand­
father. This was the only place
that they came to cut posts. It was
a shallow depression on the north
side of a small mountain. The
junipers here grew relatively tall
and free of limbs. All of the juni-
per posts for the corrals back at He said that would be enough to
patch the corral, and if there were
the farm came from this grove.
The road leading up to the any left over they could use them
grove was narrow and steep; that for fence-posts.
They walked down the hill to
was why they brought the Willy’s.
The road had been picked out the Willy’s and David tilted the
between the rocks and trees with seat forward and pulled out a brown
it thirty-five years ago and wouldn’t paper bag. Inside were two sand­
accommodate the wider wheelbase wiches of sourdough bread and
of the newer Chevrolet pickup. In thick slabs of Cheddar cheese and
some places the ravine dropped two bottles of beer wrapped tightly
almost vertical the hundred yards in newspaper. The beer was
down to the creek. David could wrapped with four sheets, one sheet
remember trips with his lather and at a time. It stayed remarkably
grandfather farther up the moun­ cold this way. The sandwiches were
tain towhere the pines grew. While just warm enough for the Cheddar
his father cut firewood, his grand­ to take on its full flavor. David’s
father would take him on walks, mother had baked the sourdough
pointing out and explaining bird bread with a thick brown crust,
and animal tracks. When they heard just the way his father liked it.
the chainsaw shut off, they would Laying in the shade, alternating
walk back to the pickup and help bites of the sandwich with sips of
the cold beer, David couldn’t
load the wood.
On the way down the moun­ remember enjoying a meal more.
After they finished eating,
tain the two men would tease David
by telling him that the load was David and his father rested before
too heavy and they were going to going up the hill to limb and drag
slide off into the ravine. It wasn’t down the rest of the posts. David’s
a malicious sort of teasing, David father asked him if he remem­
could tell by the grins on their bered the time they had found the
feces. He took great pride in stand­ Indian arrowhead on the deer trail
ing on the seat between them and above them. David said hedid. He
exclaiming “I ain’t afraid!” The also remembered trying to put it
men always chuckled at this and in his grandfather’s shirt pocket
David was sure they were proudof at the funeral, and his father stop­
ping him, but he didn’t say this.
his bravery.
David was lost in these memo­ Later when the grave was still soft,
ries until he heard the chainsaw he had taken the arrowhead and
shut off. Then he hurried up the laid it on the replanted sod, then
hill to where his father had been covered it with dirt.
After fifteen or twenty min­
working. Eight trees lay in a pile.
His father told him they would utes, David’s father stood up and
untangle and limb them after lunch. said they had better get back to
work. They went up the hill and
began to limb the tiees. By the
time all the limbs were cut off they
had sweated through the blue
chambray shirts they wore. It took
four trips to get all of the posts
down. David kept up with his fa­
ther, but it wasn’t easy. He hoped
to have his father’s strength and
endurance when he reached sixty.
They loaded the posts into the
pickup and were finished before
David realized how much easier it
was with two of them working at
it. They were both covered with
pitch and sweat, and it felt good
and natural to work together. David
was ashamed of his anger earlier,
and was glad he’d kept it to him­
self and worked it off. There had
been too many confrontations
lately. They loaded the axe and
chainsaw securely on top of the
posts, then climbed into the Willy’s
and started the hour-long trip
David looked out the back
window up toward the juniper
grove goingoutofsight. Hedidn’t
k now whether to hope or fear that
one day he’d bring a son there to
cut posts. He wished that he could
yell “I ain’t afraid!” now and it
would all be simple again. But as
he looked out the windshield and
saw the swollen, angry sun begin­
ning its descent, he was very much
afraid. And this time the source of
his fears ran much deeper than
the dry ravine.
-by Robert Stubblefield