Missing in Action

Prairie Wool

Helen Row Toews

Foxtail billowed around my feet as I closed the metal gate once Dad drove through. He was checking the livestock, and though I should have been home writing, I’d gladly joined him. We crossed the field and came to a shuddering halt in some badger brush where the cattle surged around us, hoping he would lead them to greener pastures.

In fact, Dad was turning them into a new pasture, and we bumped over the browning prairie wool grass to open another gate at the south end. Around a bluff, two deer suddenly bounced across our path and disappeared into a stand of shivering yellow poplars, waking a great horned owl from his repose. As I watched him flap away, to find solitude elsewhere, I thought how lucky I was. Outings like this are good for the soul.

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Too soon we pulled back into the yard at home, and I told Dad I’d see him later, for supper. I deliver a hot meal to him every night and my brother Bill does the same at lunchtime.

Last week I balanced a steaming chicken dinner on one hand as I stepped through Dad’s door, but he wasn’t there. That was strange. Concerned, I popped the meal into the fridge and went looking for him. He’d been out all day cleaning corrals, but it was almost 7 p.m., the tractor had been parked for the night, and he should’ve been in.

I hurried outside to search the barn, the corrals and the garage. Finally, hearing noises over at the machine shop, I headed that way, rounded the caragana hedge and saw Bill on top of a baler.

 “Where’s Dad?” I called. “I’ve looked everywhere.”

 “I dunno,” Bill yelled back. “Did you try looking under the truck?”

I stared suspiciously at the man, wondering if he was joking, but he looked innocent enough.

“Are you nuts?” I then responded. “Why on earth would our 90-year-old father be lying under a truck? You’re honestly saying that if he’s not in the house at suppertime, I should go scrabble around on the ground peering under vehicles for him?”

“No, you blockhead,” he rolled his eyes heavenward, seeking divine intervention to help him deal with the stupidity of his sister. “His manure truck broke down today and he’s been out fixing it. Go look.” He turned back to his work, clearly done with me.

In any case, that’s where Dad was all right. Rolling about in the dirt under his old truck with a pile of wrenches close at hand.

Unfortunately, even after swapping out the battery for a new one, it still wouldn’t start and Dave Hardy was called, our friend and local mechanic. It took only a short time for him to locate and fix the severed wire that had caused the problem.

Later that week, Dave recounted the incident to me privately and finished by saying something that pleased me greatly. “You know what, Helen – your dad’s an inspiration. There’s not many men that could do all the things he does.”

It’s true and I’m very proud of Dad. Not many folks could, or would want to put in a full day’s work at the age of 90. Much less be found lying under a truck.

Helen has lived on the family farm near Marshall much of her life. She works as a writer, EA and bus driver for her local school. This, along with her love of the Canadian prairies, travel and all things humorous, is what she draws from to write these tales. To find more of Helen’s stories or to order Prairie Wool books please go to myprairiewool.com or Amazon.ca 


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