The Hay Field

There’s a big hay field, not far from our farm, that we simply call “the ridge.” It’s a long sloping stretch of land, occupied by no one and traveled by wildlife and trail riders.

In the summer it grows rangy grass, stooped under the weight of seed heads. Three times a year farmers give the field a crew cut. Machinery crawls along the windrows, belching out giant round bales. A few always break free, careening down the hill to rest and rot in the brambled creek.

On the ridge there’s a rutted track, cut by hay wagons. It’s a riding trail and a gator thoroughfare on Maisie recovery missions. We either zig-zag along the folds, flushing deer from the woods or straddle the ridge, jouncing over ruts.

Sometimes we park on the ridge and set the kids free. They can wander as far and fast as they want. The first time I tried this, Cayden was 18 months old. As he ran away, he looked over his shoulder, astonished when I didn’t reel him in. Eventually he dashed down the slope out of sight.

And that’s the beauty of this field. It’s the safest place in the world. There are no cars, no roads, no horses. No electric fence, no strangers, no craggy rocks. Just a long stretch of wavy green capped by sky.

At the bottom of the ridge

One especially fine summer day, the five of us were gatoring home after the pool. We had already stripped the kids naked of their bathing suits and were talking dinner. But it was nice out and Martin turned the gator through the woods toward the ridge. At the top we propped our feet on the dash, pulled out some beers, and turned up the radio…which was set to classical.

I can’t imagine what the neighbors thought. I’m sure the sound of Mozart blaring from the field drew them to their windows. And there they saw the two of us — wrapped in bath towels, drinking beer –while buck-naked kids trickled down the slope, tracing deer-tramped trails.

Now it’s too cold and blustery to streak along the ridge. The neighbors are probably relieved. But as the furnace gobbles oil and I constantly holler, “be quiet and find something to do,” I crave a warm day. And the chance to let the kids run out of sight.