Wednesday, May 4, 2011
The streets were empty as I drove east along the power line road known simply as
Edison. Warmed by an ailing truck heater and a travel mug of coffee, I remembered how much I disliked the winter mornings spent in my aunt’s strawberry field. I am not a morning person. My aunt Marie, however, had been like an angel to me and helping her, whenever asked, was the very least I could do. With Mom and Dad gone now, she was all I had. If she needed me, I’d be there.
The low rumbling of the tires accompanied the music that filled the cab - Come they told me…ba rump a bump bump. The tall towers feeding power to the east stood high above the fields, arms spread wide, heads hidden in the clouds. I slowed, signaled for no one and turned left, into the small gravel parking lot that served my aunt’s customers. We wouldn’t have any customers today, it was strictly a work day, a cold and wet one.
The foreman, Juan Manalo, had arrived and was already inspecting the rows. Today, the workers would begin removing the runners that grew from the mother plants and repairing the black plastic sheeting, as needed. Juan worked year round for my aunt and was a tremendous asset to her, though he spoke no English. This fact always presented a challenge, with my attempts to bridge our language gap rewarded with limited success.
Stepping out of the truck I had my doubts today would be any different. Moisture crackled on the power lines high above and caught my attention. I craned my neck to look, noticing my woolen jacket collar felt good as it rode up my neck. With a slight shiver I pulled it high and zipped my jacket up, as the powerlines calmed to their steady hum.
Noticing my arrival, Juan was making his way back, through the rows, toward the small red and white sales shed that occupied a corner of the gravel parking lot, where I waited. He grinned wide as he shook my hand, finding some humor in the communication struggle we would both share today. I smiled too.
“What time are the workers coming?” I asked, louder and slower than I needed to, switching hands with my coffee mug so that I could point at my watch.
“No sé, espero que pronto” [I don’t know, soon I hope] he responded with a shrug of shoulders. My question was answered, however, when we spotted the bus that carried the workers. The squeal of its brakes announced its arrival and the workers disembarked, assembling before us. All eyes were trained upon Juan, as they awaited direction and made adjustments to acclimate to the cold. The crew of both men and women were dressed in layers of mostly dark cotton, easily adjusted as needed for temperature and comfort. Experience had taught them many simple tricks. One of the men, wearing an Angels baseball cap, was noticably assisting and comforting one of the women.
Juan led them toward the fields and spoke briefly in low tones and they quickly began their labor. The sight of stooped laborers in the fields always hurt my bad back to watch. I spotted the young couple I had noticed before as they settled into a row to work together. It was hoped the runners removed from the mother plants that day would encouraged the plants to reach deeper into the raised rows, enabling an early spring harvest.
Once they all settled down to work, it became quiet for some time and the gentle hum of the powerlines returned to my attention. Within the hour a low hanging fog rolled through, alternately obscuring and revealing the workers. The wires crackled to life again with the onslaught of the thick moist air and with it came another noise, a sharp painful cry of alarm, deep in the field, shrouded in fog. As I stepped toward the sound, through the rows, small groups of workers alternately appeared and vanished into the thick moisture.
Soon I saw a group of three huddled together. The figure of an older woman was caring for someone on the ground while the man with the Angels hat stood by nervously. The woman on the ground had been comforted by the same man earlier. My first thought was that she had run into something in the fog, she seemed to be in great pain. While I was wondering what she had run into, she cried out once more. This second time I could see her face. She was bearing down. She was giving birth!
“Juan!” I suddenly cried out in surprise, only to find him right there at my elbow. So were the rest of the workers. With cell phone in hand, I was about to dial 911 when Juan stopped me with a calm hand.
“No ai necesidad de eso jefe” [No need for that boss], Juan said motioning to the women who had gathered to assist the birthing mother while the men, satisfied with her care, retired a respectful distance away. Clearly this was not the first time a child had been delivered out in the fields.
Juan quickly ran the flame of a Bic lighter along the sharp blade of the buck knife he always carried and wipped it clean on a hanky before offering it to one of the women. A few nervous long minutes later the sounds of a newborn’s cry released the collective breath of many gathered and cheers broke out.
“José, tienes un niño” [Jose you have a baby boy] they said as they congratulated the young man in the Angels cap.
“Boy or girl?” I wanted to know
“Boy!... José and Gloria hasa big boy” one of the men said in broken English for my benefit.
Mother and child were soon escorted back towards the bus, while the remaining crew went back to work. Walking back to my truck, I once again heard the hum and crackle of the wires return and gazed up in time to see the colorful display of static that arched in the still misty morning.
Back at my truck, the keys in the ignition caused my radio to spring to life with… “Angels we have heard on high”. In that moment it was impossible not to think of another humble birth, centuries before to another young couple, far from their home. The birth of their son was also marked with mysterious sights and sounds in the sky. Their son was also received with joy by those who worked in the fields and wise men still seek Him.
The Aspiring Writers were there
To do more than just warm a chair
They honored their Lord
And never got bored
For they wrote of their God with great flair
By attending this Writers Forum
I do more than just quell my boredom
I write for the Lord
So I never get bored
And always observe fine decorum
Whether joining in year 1 or 2
There’s incredible writing we do
Our journals are filled
Our readers are thrilled
I want to read more, don’t you?
Coleene and Linda are swell
They lead our small group so well
With prayerful insight
They focus us rightAnd keep us from going to …