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Bucolia
by Jim Hester



The fields lie quietly now in the aftermath of harvest. A trio of bent cornstalks stands amid the ruins like wounded soldiers propping up each other on a silenced battlefield. Locks of cotton, missed by the pickers, dangle forlorn among the empty burrs and leafless stems -- next will come the stalk-cutterís wrath. Along the creek-side fence, a phalanx of sorghum cane remains but, in a fortnight or so, it too will be gone, leaving only sweetly oozing stobs.

The sweet gum copses that interrupt the high meadow are reddening in the less hostile sunlight. The tawny lathes of sedges are stiffening against the changed wind. From the crown of a distant hill comes the sudden but muffled bay of an escaped hound freelancing in a plum thicket. In the low pasture, a cow bellows at her annoying calf grown too large to suckle yet still trying.

Near the bend in the creek, the hackberryís shade now reaches by noontime to the turtlesí sun log. The bowl of the eddy, last deepened by rains from far off oceans that swirled in on Septemberís gales, has now barely a ripple, and catfish lurk near the bottom in dread of autumnís low water. On the high bank above, if one squints in remembrance, are the ghosts of farm boys past. They yelp and tussle and dive with naked glee into the cool water from the heat of high summer.

A glint of yellow that flashes in the angled sunlight is a straggler from the horde of traveling butterflies -- the most of which are by now in Texas -- yet this one seems not in a hurry. Along the fence by the turn rows, the beggarís lice wait to cling and hitch a ride on whatever passes to a place to sprout next spring.

Up near the barn, in a tin roofed shed, are the implements and machines and tools of the small-patch trade. Rubber and steel, tines and shears, clevises and fenders, hoppers and sweeps, turners and busters, hillers and sprayers, nozzles and fittings, harrows and pulleys, and grease guns and hitches; they are spackled with another seasonís paste of lubricants and dust that gives off a smell that only a farmer would know.

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USADEEPSOUTH writer Claude Jones adds this about his friend, Jim Hester:

Growing up helping his Grandfather Dandy with the daily farm chores continues to propell Jim Hester from the bustle of life in the computer fastlane of Birmingham to the importance of being an observer of nature and the creatures of nature. The constant requirement to complete the tasks of farming (when the opportunity was presented to the small farmer who depended upon the land and his learned skill to munipulate the soil to produce cash crops to sustain his or her family) propelled the farmer of the South to see and contemplate beyond the norm of hapenstance. The now useless stalks of the cotton plants' removal had to be completed before the springtime turning of the soil. The color of the sunset was a useful sign in planning the next day tasks; hidden predictions were evident to the observant. The rapidness of leaves falling from sweetgum trees, the thickness of the cacoons spun by grubs and the quickness of the yellow fluttering butterfly's trip to the southeast were signs seen and understood. The story was easily understood and conveyed to the worker of the land, whose very ability to exist and provide for the family for which he was responsible, and whom he saw as a blessing and gift from his Maker, was a tool to be cared for, honed sharp and used in his or her unending quest to achieve and provide.

The questions that come to my mind after reading Jim's "Bucolia" are: Do we put forth that same effort to be connected with life as did Dandy? And what are we passing on to our children and grandchildren to remember?

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Click here to read more of Jim Hester's work: "There is a mouse in my jeans."
And here's another piece: "The Honer"




Jim Hester is a native of Pontotoc, Mississippi, and now resides in Birmingham, Alabama, where he is a computer programmer. The influence of growing up with an extended family supporting his insatiable appetite to learn is evident in his writings and philosophy of life. He combines knowledge gained from the stories heard during his youth with a quick wit and independent thinking. His stories are driven by a mastery of words and phrases that entice the reader to become engaged with his characters. [Editor's note: Our thanks to Claude Jones for this biographical information.]



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