Monday, April 25, 2016

equal to what would be required.........

      Though tractors draw them now, not horses and mules, there is something to the sound of the wagons going out that is the same as always.  Now there is the alien commotion of iron and fire, but within it or under it there is the old rattling and pounding of the empty wagon beds against the bolsters, hurrying out over the rough farm roads in the cool of the morning.  As he listened there passed and passed again across the gaze of his memory a team of good mare mules that he bought as three-year-olds from Graham Foresee in the September of 1888.
      They were a team of black, mealy-nosed mare mules with plenty of size and depth of body, with a lot of lift in their motion, matched well in every way.  Beck and Kate.  As though  the reins are still in his hands, and he stands again on the rattling wagon, they are carrying him to the field.  The sun is just coming up.  It is the fall of the year.  The mules are in good flesh, the hair glossy on them, and they are fresh from the night.  They step together in the harness with an eager lightness that for a moment shortens his breath.
      They were the first team of their quality that he ever owned.  They were, maybe, an extravagance.  He bought them because he needed a team, no question about that.  But he bought as carefully as he did, and paid the price he paid, in a kind of celebration of himself.  He had owned his place then - or owned the debt his father had left on it - for three years.  And thought he had not yet cleared the farm of debt, he was clearing it.  There was no longer any doubt in him about his ability to do that.  It had become plain to him that he was equal to what would be required of him, and to what he would require of himself.
      And so he bought the mules.  He hunted until he found a pair that he could look at and use with the satisfaction of a fulfilled judgment, and he paid what was necessary.   He went on horseback to get them one Saturday evening after work, and led them home in the dark of the night.  He missed a dance to go get them, and when something reminded him of it two or three days later, he added that to the price.

-Wendell Berry,   The Memory of Old Jack

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