If there is a place on earth hotter than a Texas black land bottom cotton field in mid June, I don't want to know about it. Whoever conceived the image of hell as a place of eternal heat most likely spent time in a place like this. A sloping hill meets high walls of Johnson grass on three sides blocking any puff of a breeze. Shimmering heat waves turn the distant landscape into virtual liquid.
Foot high cotton plants poke out of the cracked earth. My brother and I are cleaning the morning glory vines from around the stalks. This sometimes requires crawling on our bellies on the hot ground. We search the sky for clouds. When we see one moving in our direction we stand still waiting for it to float overhead and block the sun for a few precious minutes. There aren't many clouds today.
Sometimes Jake will fly the crop duster over us so low that if I raised my hoe up in the air, I could whack the landing gear. I don't do it. I don't want to get anybody hurt, especially myself. His fly overs provide a distraction from the monotony of our task but he isn't flying over our way today. We can see him occasionally fly straight up and dive straight down on the other side of the hill. He must be working on the plane.
We continue going up one row and down the next, pulling vines, cursing morning glories, talking about whatever was on our minds at the time. Anything to not think about the heat and how many more rows of morning glories await us.
A small cloud drifts over head. We stand up to savor its fleeting shade. We haven't seen Jake's plane in a while. There is a spiral of black smoke drifting up from the other side of the hill. We wonder what is on fire.
11:30- lunch time. Some days we bring boiled eggs and pork'n'beans to eat in the shade provided by the '68 Impala we usually drive out here. Today we head to our grandparent's house for lunch and some time in the air conditioning before returning to the field.
Our grandmother meets us at the door. "Jake crashed the crop duster," she tells us. "I thought you might have seen it happen. He was over by Weldon's fiddlin' with the engine."
Soundtrack for this post: Stephen Stills' Tree Top Flyer.