Shopping

It’s easy to miss the wooden placard and blow right past the driveway. A red, white & blue “We’re Open!” flag is permanently wind-whipped around the farm sign. Now, I know to look for the white clapboard church with the green shutters. It’s my landmark, perched just across the road. I make the turn and open the windows, setting the air conditioning free. Humidity wafts in and takes over.

The drive meanders though open fields before the woods swallow it up. You get a few breaks here and there — a quick snapshot of corn and still-green soy — before the trees blot out the view.

Someone’s tried to patch the drive’s deepest ruts — dumping loads of gravel that spit from the wheels, and chunky rocks that ping against the car’s belly. It’s the hairpin turns in the road and fear of car damage that keep my foot hovered over the brake. One day those rocks will cost me a flat tire. I’m sure of it.

Still, it looks like I’m flying along. We haven’t had rain in days and the car lifts a ghostly plume of dust in its wake.

At a sharp bend I come nose to nose with a sunburned farmer piloting a tractor. We both drift to the grass. If I’d been driving Chitty, I’m sure he would have waved, maybe smiled. But I’m in the soccer-mom-mobile, so he just acknowledges me with a nobby finger.

Finally the trees drop away and unveil a vista of hay and cattle behind barbed wire. It’s a searing August morning and the cows converge in a pond, their white ear tags flashing in the sun.

The driveway dissolves into grassy ruts but this is the end of the line. There’s a weathered farm house hidden behind a hodge-podge of outbuildings — barns, silos, machine sheds and livestock pens. A dog announces my arrival. He barks ferociously but wags his tail at the same time. No one appears.

I park beside a gray building that looks like an airplane hangar and smells like cows and rubber. It’s a graveyard for ancient farm machinery and tractor tires. The tires are discarded, abandoned wherever they might have fallen. They lean against fences, bowing the wood, and tip up against tractors and molding round bales.

In the airplane hangar I find the rusted fridge tucked in the shadows. The door sticks but with a tug, it cracks open and I take three $1 bills from the wire basket and deposit a fiver. There’s just one carton left and it’s bursting at the seams — there must be a double yolker in there. I lift the top and spot the offender: one abnormally large orb among 11 perfect brown eggs, nestled in their cardboard craters.

Back behind the wheel I turn the car around, but not before wedging the carton between the mail and an old towel in the front seat. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.