A Long Walk

A Long Walk

On a country road under the wide blue Saskatchewan sky you can see the horizon stretching in all directions. But for ten-year-old Danny walking down the dusty road, he could only see into the mature wheat and barley fields on either side.  Straight ahead the flat road disappeared into the next corner.

He felt like he had been walking for hours, but his anger was still driving him on.  “Now, they’ll be sorry” he thought, “Next time I’ll get my way, instead of Davie again.”

Danny and his little brother were always excited to spend time at Uncle Russ’s farm with its broad golden fields and a yard full of faded red buildings and fascinating farm implements.  But today was a special day. Danny was going to ride with Uncle Russ on the huge Massey-Ferguson tractor.  The rear wheels alone were large enough to make him stand and stare in awe.  His stomach churned with excitement as he looked up to where he would sit on Uncle Russ’s knee and maybe even steer.

Suddenly Uncle Russ came out of the house carrying little Davie and heading for the tractor.  “We’ll just take a short ride, then it’ll be your turn Danny,” he said as they walked past him.  Danny collapsed into a dejected heap on the wooden back steps of the house. He waited impatiently. 

It was a long wait. Finally the Massey-Ferguson came back around the barn and roared over to the house and stopped in the yard beside the steps. It creaked and hissed into silence as Uncle Russ shut it off and helped Davie climb down.  Little Davie ran into the house with a delighted squeal and an enthusiastic “Thank you, Uncle Russ!”  Uncle Russ followed without a word to Danny. Danny waited scowling.  A few minutes later Uncle Russ came back out carrying a bucket and some tools and said, “I’ve got a few chores before lunch Danny, maybe we can go out on the tractor later.”  He continued on to the barn.

“Maybe? Later?” Danny could hardly breathe and turned red as he watched him walk away.  “That’s not fair” he spluttered and kicked at the ground in frustration.  He paced for a minute in front of the steps, then thought “I’m not waiting here, I’m going to town”.

His mother was in town with Grandma and it was only six miles. They said it all the time, “It’s only six miles, about fifteen minutes by car.”  And he knew the way.

He found a stick and scratched into the dirt by the steps GONE TO TOWN.  It wasn’t running away if he told them where he was going.  He walked quickly around the house, past the garden and out the front gate to the road.

It was an easy walk, flat all the way, he remembered.  A dusty gravel road with right-angle corners at each quarter-mile intersection.  A car then a pick-up truck passed him without slowing down, leaving him in the dust.  They just assumed he was not looking for a ride.  He didn’t know about sticking out his thumb to hitch-hike and he didn’t want anybody to take him back to the farm.

But it seemed farther than he remembered in the car. He started to worry that he was lost.  Maybe he shouldn’t have turned right at the first intersection.  Maybe it was the second intersection.  Then he saw a familiar farmhouse and paused at the long farm entrance as he thought about going in to call his mother for a ride, but two large barking dogs started towards him, so he continued down the road.  His legs were getting tired and his stomach was reminding him that he had not had any lunch.  Another intersection and he looked left and right for landmarks.  Straight ahead he could not yet see the left turn into town by the cemetery.  He walked on.

He wondered if they were looking for him at the farm yet. What if they didn’t see his message in the dirt?  They might be very upset.  It served them right.  He walked on.

Finally he saw the cemetery at the corner and the tall trees along the creek running into town.  His steps quickened as he crossed the bridge and he hurried to Grandma’s big faded white and green two-story house down the first street on the right.  The cool shaded yard was a welcome relief from the long hot walk.  He hesitated, then went up onto the front porch, opened the front door and walked into the living room.

His mother looked up from the crib game with Grandma, “Danny, what are you doing here?

“They wouldn’t let me ride on the tractor, so I left.”

“How did you get here?”

“I walked.”

“You walked!  Did you tell anybody you were leaving?”

“No.  I wrote it in the dirt.”

“Oh my God!  They’ll be worried sick by now!” 

His mother jumped up and went to the kitchen to telephone the farm.  Danny slouched into a chair waiting to hear how much trouble he was in.  He heard his mother speaking to Aunt Bea.   After a minute she came back and said “Lucky for you. They hadn’t missed you yet.” 

Danny let out a tired sigh, “Can I have some lunch, please?”

Copyright November 2016

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