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The Tractor: Billybuc Photo Challenge/Prompt#3

John is a poet and short fiction writer who enjoys collaborating on stories with other writers, and partaking in challenges.

Bill's Rules or Not

"Oh hell, there are no rules, folks. I’m just tossing out some photos and hoping they resonate with you. If you want to write a story or poem based on one photo, great! If you want to build a story around all five photos, great! If you want to write 200 words, great! And if you want to appease the HP editors and go for 1250, I say, once more, great!"

So, with these strict instructions in hand I wrote the following piece of short fiction.

The Tractor

As daybreak approached and the sun rose over the horizon, the first rays pushed through the gaps in the weathered roof between the rafters.

He wasn’t asleep but he just lay there on the bed of moldy hay, transfixed by the horizontal stripes of light. This old barn and outhouses had been his home for so long now -- ever since --well, he pushed that from his mind.

All he had now were memories, and so he wallowed in his reminiscing of days gone by. This was once his uncle’s farm and as a child he spend many a summer month here enjoying the freedom of rural life, helping with the cattle, and other farm chores his uncle thought a young boy could handle.

This barn and the machinery shed full of tools and farm equipment were wondrous places for a kid to act out the fantastic adventures racing through his mind. Being an only child, with no close cousins, he had to make his own fun, and a vibrant imagination certainly helped.

Barn, shed and outbuildings

Barn, shed and outbuildings

There was an old dinghy in the shed. His uncle had crafted it from the hood of an old Vanguard car. It was pockmarked with rust holes so the chances of floating were next to none, but it had oars and was the perfect prop for some pirating adventures. He’d pretend the barn was a pirate ship and would hoist an old t-shirt on a garden stake as the ‘Jolly Roger.”

The pirate ship would attack others in the vicinity, and after looting and pillaging the pirates would anchor it off shore then he would board the dinghy and row to an island where there was sure to be a buried treasure. Studying a map obtained in the raid, he’d soon dig up a chest of coins and precious jewels.

He stood up and gazed out the window. No one had visited here in what seemed like forever. He longed for company and hoped to see a vehicle or even a horse and rider venture up the overgrown driveway.

The home next door was inhabited and they ran some cattle as well, but no one ever ventured past the boundary fence, let alone visited.

The old John Deere tractor was still there, sitting idle, but still in reasonable condition for its age. Maybe the engine was seized up from just sitting, maybe not. He felt morose as he stared at it, remember how it had change “things” forever.

He was 12 years old at the time and staying here at the farm on his summer vacation. His uncle lived alone and was always happy for the company and an extra set of hands. Most farm chores were fun for a city boy, like feeding the cattle and chickens, collecting eggs, and milking the house cow. He even learned how to assemble the equipment to separate the milk from cream, and then how to churn the cream into butter.

The only thing he wasn’t allowed to do was drive the tractor. Oh, his uncle showed him how to start it and let him sit on it and pretend, but he always said it was too dangerous to drive until he was older.

Well, young boys are curious and reckless, and he couldn’t wait until he was older. One day when his uncle was away in the far paddock repairing fences, the boy climbed onto the John Deere and turned the key. It started with a chug and suddenly lurched forward. It took awhile but eventually he started to get the feel of it and started to build up speed and confidence, moving across the field at a steady clip.

What happened next was vague. He tried to search his foggy memory. He remembered feeling a sudden impact as the tractor struck something, a log maybe, in the same moment it was flipping and the ground rose up to meet him. Then there was blackness.

By the time his uncle returned and found the upturned tractor, it was too late.

Image by carolynabooth from Pixabay

Image by carolynabooth from Pixabay

His next memory was watching his own funeral, and the sadness and tears of his family and friends was heartbreaking, especially his uncle who took all the guilt on his shoulders.

They said his body had been found in the barn. His uncle had followed drag marks in the dirt from where the tractor lay. Somehow, despite the fatal injuries the boy had managed to crawl there, but died soon after.

Depression set in, and his uncle was unable to continue working the farm. The guilt was too much and he never forgave himself. He moved to town and stayed with the boy’s parents for some years, but they have all since passed away.

The farm was sold, well a number of times, and the lonely occupant was always excited especially if they had children. The tenancies, however, were always short, despite grand intentions, with the new owners always citing that the barn and outbuildings were haunted - inhabited by the ghost of a young boy.

Just then, he heard and engine rev, and through the window he saw a red pick-up truck rumble up the drive. He smiled ..


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