After work, we drive to Maryville,
turn west across the roller coaster of State Route 46.
Farmland spreads out for miles,
remarkably green in the heavy heat of August.
A neatly painted sign on Yoder’s mailbox
warns us, “The wages of sin is death,”
and omits that the free gift of God
is eternal life.
North and east on a mile-and-a-half of gravel,
we find Ervin’s place.
A six-year-old boy, suspendered in two shades of blue,
kneels in the shade, playing.
“You can go on in the house,” he smiles.
I hesitate, knock on the door.
After waiting, I go ahead and open the door,
find a second door and knock on it.
A girl of around ten,
wearing a white scarf and holding a baby,
appears and I ask for Ervin.
A woman comes and says he will be out soon.
He comes out,
shakes hands with me but not Randa.
He helps me load the Craigslisted hay,
mostly brome but with a few bales of alfalfa.
After the stacking and the strapping,
he invites me to use his hydrant
and I rinse off the dust and pieces
stuck to the sweat of my arms.
Some of the dirt of this day
washes away, spills into the gravel.
We travel the returning sixty miles at a slower pace,
pack and stack the hay in the dark of the barn.
On our way then back over to Saint Joe,
lightning cleanses the clouds
of a thunderhead forty miles away.
A baptism of fire instead of water
reminding me of Ervin Mast’s mailbox sign:
“The Lord shall give thee light.”
Even in the storm.