Tiny gnats stick to the beads of sweat between my nose and lips. My jeans have streaks of black soot on them where I have been pushing through dead yaupon stalks from an old prescribed burn. That soot is on my hands and under my fingernails, too. My lips are too chapped to whistle up Maggie. Besides, she has taken up a position in the shade under the pick-up truck. These hiking boots have gotten heavy. My arms are sunburned! I’m thirsty!
Is it time for lunch yet?
Buck is the one doing the toughest work, pushing the metal dibble into mostly hard ground, pushing it down with his foot and wiggling to make a space for the seedlings. My job is to carry around a sack full of trees, bend down and slip one into the hole he has made. Sometimes, his first thrust hits iron rock, or a hidden stump. “Umph.” The recoil hits the heel of Buck’s hand first, then travels up his wrist and forearm, all the way to his shoulder.
Going back to the truck to refill my sack with little trees, I begin to fantasize about life in a fancy city apartment where I would dwell in pampered comfort, flitting between day spas and chic boutiques; or perhaps the desert, where there are neither pine trees nor allergens; or a treeless plain of some sort, either on Earth or some other planet.
I read somewhere that only an optimist plants a tree that they may not live to see achieve full growth.
My sack replenished, I turn back to that other optimist, standing at the ready, orange metal dibble glinting in the sun.
Kathleen (Hill Country Mysteries) — when this “lost post” was first published in 2004, you left the most wonderful comment. You said: “The ones you planted will probably grow fuller and faster for the love that slips off of your hands as you put them in.” Those seedlings today are much taller than I am (5’4″), so I think you were right!