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Over Here: 63 - Loose Wheat

"It didn't take this farm kid long to dispel the quirky notion that sleeping on hay or straw afforded some sort of ethereal delight. It didn't. The facts were (and presumably still are) that it clawed and scratched in tortuous fashion at skin,'' writes Ron Pataky.

Sleeping, whether nighttime or daytime, was monumentally important to me as a young boy. Gordie didn't seem to be quite as addicted as I was; but then, he didn't share my rare powers of concentration when awake, either. Nor, for that matter, did he come even close to being as inventive in his approaches to life as I was. (Inventiveness, of course, as established by Grindle and Foogenlocker, is almost invariably seen in conjunction with one of the fourteen varieties of somnolence - ibid). Whichever of these two might have been the real reason, it was a simple fact that it was Gordie's custom to go along for the nap, so to speak.

It didn't take this farm kid long to dispel the quirky notion that sleeping on hay or straw afforded some sort of ethereal delight. It didn't. The facts were (and presumably still are) that it clawed and scratched in tortuous fashion at skin, and combined with things like garments to set up a truly incredible program of itch-inducement directed squarely at the human body - at upper backs, armpits, and crotches in particular. Hay and/or straw are absolutely packed with a dazzling array of molecular creatures designed to make genuine comfort less likely than edible road kill. Trust me ... those tiny, mite-like pistolas were pure hell on a young body.
I quickly discovered, however, that loose wheat, providing it wasn't more than, say, two feet deep, came close to being the perfect solution for a young kid in the descending grip of afternoon somnolence. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: wheat, bless its sweet germ, adjusts to the human frame. No matter the sprawl, it simply fits:'You can turn, snuggle, unbend, double-over, or whatever, and wheat grains turn, bend, snuggle, and double over right with you. Even passed wind is conveniently diffused. It is instantaneous. And it is supreme comfort! The fact that it doesn't get any deeper than about two feet within the average floor bin is an added attraction, in that its limited depth virtually guarantees that you will not have to go through the peskiness of sinking into a swirl hole, and, after disappearing, slowly die a horrible, gasping, choking, absolutely tortuous death. I ask you now: what could possibly be more appealing than wheat at an appropriate depth, of course?

The single drawback was that we had but one such bin. It was, alas, directly off the main room of the barn's main floor, and completely accessible to Grandpa, who always knew where we'd be sleeping. A warm, dry, completely unknown shack deep in the woods might've been better; but ours was a make-do world ... and making do with wheat was a dreamy delight!
Needless to say, when called to duty of some sort in the field or barnyard, escape to the wheat bin was out of the question. Those escapes required something considerably more inventive inventiveness, of course, already having been my life-long specialty at age eight. I frequently sensed that even Grandpa viewed my undeniable acumen in this area with a chuckling sense of awe and amazement. The hay loft, too, was out. Shoot, every kid (and Grandpa) in the world knew about haylofts! Ditto for the corn crib, which not only was much too "nearby" for comfort, but which also had plain old screens for walls! Hell, you could see right through the thing! (Not to mention providing food and shade for darting field mice ... and rats the size of Burmese yaks!) For me, at least, that left the "summer house," a cavernous, open-air grotto (although roofed) where old farm implements of various stages of disrepair were stored. Even though it was completely un-walled on two sides, it did have its share of nooks and stuff!

My particular favorite was a huge, empty tool chest in one of the back corners - the single corner created by the two actual walls. Grandpa kept the lid up and open (I guess on the off-chance that the day might come for its use at some point), and its very obviousness (plus deep side-walls) offered a natural hiding place. You couldn't just walk over and take a look, mind you. The large surrounding farm implements
presented a formidable iron and steel gauntlet of sharpies and prongs that threatened life and limb in a kind of serious, no-nonsense manner.

A reasonably-coordinated kid could negotiate its deadly eccentricities with little or no problems ... but the Grandpa had not yet been invented for whom it would have represented anything less than an obstacle course featuring live ammo! It was perfect. Well, almost.

The skunk in the closet here consisted of literally dozens of those caked-mud wasp's nests that tended to line ceilings of seldom-used farm buildings (and this baby was almost never used!). If a kid moved slowly and with a semblance of stealth, things were usually okay. What you didn't want to do, of course, was to gravitate with anything resembling jerkiness or speed. And why not "politely," after all? Wasps and spiders had to live, too (although I never quite came to grips with why this was so!).

Suffice it to say that Gordie and I sometimes forgot, entering the area with a boyish enthusiasm the wasps apparently found beyond their limited tolerance. During those times, two things happened. First, entering was replaced by exiting in a manner of milliseconds; and also, we got stung. (I probably should point out here that wasps are not the sort of sporting bugs that sting once and then say something like, "That oughtta hold him." Not at all. A wasp will sting you as many times as fate and the passing of seconds allow, and then will sting one more time for the sheer bloody hell of it! Add to this the fact that a wasp will chase you for incredible distances, and you pretty much have the picture!).

So there you had it - a trade-off of sorts. You wanted to loaf? You chanced the wasps! It was nature's own bargain, and any self-respecting farm kid damned well knew it! (Sheer petulance prevents me from other than merely mentioning the spiders encountered! Occasionally larger than Galapagos turtles, the bites of some were actually poisonous, while the bites of others were merely excruciating. There actually were times when I'd have several dozen notches on my weapon of choice, most generally a rough, graying board that seemed designed for instant arachnid compression and-or disassemblage!).


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