What was it like? It was like summer in the place where I grew up, a valley of hayfield and pasture between the big green hills that nightly emptied their deer into the fields like a mother shaking out a blanket. It was like watching them in the hayfields at dusk—does alert, fawns-in-spots. I used to watch them from the side porch with the lightning bugs blinking and the peeper-frogs peeping. Me, in a cotton dress watching them as I waited for James Johnson to bike down the road so that he could stick his Copenhagen tongue in my mouth. 

It was like hearing daddy stir early and knowing that the weather must be good for making hay. It was like a spot of blood on the sheets, the whiney of the running tractor. It was like looking through my bedroom window to see the does flee for the green hills, leaving fawns tucked in grass nests. Then it was like new fawns cut and rolled and raked and baled. Not all at once, no, but one tractor pass at a time. Cutting. Rolling. Raking. Baling. Cutting ---------------- 

---------------Rolling, Raking, Baling 

Later, dusk, sitting on the porch waiting for James Johnson. Daddy sunburned, gone to the bar. Bats dipping near the porch light. But what was it most like? It was most like watching the does in the meadow at sundown licking the flattened nests where their fawns had been. It was most like hearing them snort, bleat, call. It was less like hearing James bike down the road, driving the deer back to the faraway hills. Then it was like lying skyfaced in the grass feeling his rough hands work at me. Smelling his flannel shirt and hair peppered with hayseed. 

Then it was like sleeping next to a window with the breeze coming in. A light, cool sleep. Then later it was like the fall (every summer color inverted, James Johnson trading flannel for fatigues) like Daddy tasking me with the morning feeding. Like responsibility. Then like watching the cow-shit-steam rise in the frosted morning. Then like feeding something that cannot feed itself. Then like seeing the dark smear of red-brown in a sheaf of hay and looking closer to see hoof and fur and bone all chopped to fodder. All of it chopped into disuse, deconstructed. That’s what it was like. Really, it was. 



"I wrote 'Before you buy the farm' as a gift for a friend who'd recently moved to the city from rural Ohio. He liked it, I think. The inspiration for the piece - animals caught in an agricultural combine - is a pretty common occurrence in parts of the world where hay is grown and cut."

Jake Maynard writes fiction and nonfiction, and studies in the MFA program at West Virginia University. Some of his work can be found in the Greenbrier Valley Quarterly and on his website.