Happy Monday! For this week’s blog, I wanted to do a creative writing exercise, so I decided on a writing prompt. For those of you that don’t know, a writing prompt can be a statement, idea, picture or even a word that is picked and you just start writing about it. It is a great way to practice writing and to get the creative juices flowing in your head. I looked through a file of my own started story lines and picked one to work with. This one was titled Farming in Nebraska and was about a young girl wondering what happened to her Grandpa Harvey. This is where I took that idea for today’s blog.
Harvey Knowlton was born and raised as a farmer. His father was a farmer and his grandfather was a farmer. Even though farming was the family business, Harvey’s son, Jacob, went to college in Lincoln, Nebraska and he became a banker. Harvey had hoped that his only son would want to be in the family business so he could hand the farm down to him to run. Jacob has two children, Robert and Samantha, so Harvey at least had hope that he could keep the farm in his immediate family.
Lately, he felt his body starting to wear out. He ran the farm with a couple of men he hired from a 4H event he attended just after Jacob went off to college. Working with Jack and Kurt was just like it had been when he was growing up. Harvey and his six brothers worked the farm together under his father’s supervision and it ran like a well oiled machine, his Grandfather made sure of that when he bought it and set everything up.
Ever since his wife Olivia passed away, just after Samantha was born ten years ago, Harvey had breakfast almost every day at Dolly’s Diner. He drove his light colored truck down the gravel road leading away from the farm, with the familiar sound of the crunching rocks under the tires. The truck always had a thin layer of gravel dust on it, which was never washed off.
After turning onto Main Street, he drove a couple of blocks down and pulled into Dolly’s. The parking lot was pretty full every morning, since it was the community meeting place to catch up on the daily West Branch gossip. He got out of the truck and headed into the diner and saw his long time friend Virgil Potter sitting in his normal spot at the counter. Virgil owned the gas station couple of blocks down Main from Dolly’s. It was handed down through his family like Harvey’s farm was to him. Virgil waved and Harvey acknowledged him with a slight wave in return and walked over to take an empty stool next to him.
“How are things today Harvey?” “Good, Virgil. How are things with you?” “Peachy, just peachy.”
That was the same greeting that has been exchanged between them every morning for years. Peachy was something that Virgil’s Dad, Stuart, always used to say.
“Coffee for you today, Harvey?” Claire asked Harvey, from the other end of the counter. “Yes, please. Thanks Claire.”
Claire had worked at the Dolly’s since she was a teenager. She had grown up in West Branch, married her high school sweetheart, bought a house and raised kids here. Harvey liked the routine in West Branch, but was thinking it was getting a little bit boring. Or, maybe this was a part of why he was feeling tired lately. When Jacob announced that he had been accepted to the University of Nebraska, Harvey felt a little jealous. He had a great life here as a farmer, but hadn’t done much else or been many other places.
“Something the matter Harvey?” Virgil asked, “You haven’t heard a thing I’ve said to you.” “Sorry Virgil, what did you say?” “I was saying that the corn growers association meeting was really interesting last night, where were you?” “I went to sleep right after dinner. Sorry I didn’t let you know.” “No problem. I just wanted to make sure you knew that our farm rep was going to bring a couple of new seed samples before next year’s planting.” “Thanks.” “Is there something wrong with you?” “No, I feel fine. Just doing a lot of thinking lately.” “Well, you are coming to the Tractor Show on Friday, right?” “I’ll be there to help you out Virgil.” “I hope so, whenever we do the tractor parade there are a lot of people milling around. Another hand with the security detail sure does help out.” “Glad to be of help. What time do you want me to be there?” “Let’s meet at the Fairgrounds at 3:00.” “It’s a plan.”
They continued the conversation over their normal breakfast selections, Virgil had the special and Harvey had ham and eggs. Afterwards they walked out to their trucks together and they each headed home to start on their daily farming tasks.
Harvey drove out of town and onto the gravel road back to the farm. He couldn’t explain how he was feeling right now. He felt very calm and reflective in thought. He was typically an easy going man anyway, but lately he has felt an additional level calm.
When he pulled the truck in by the barn, Kurt was walking out. Then as he saw the truck pull in, he started walking towards it. Harvey got out and started walking towards him.
“Good Morning!” “Good morning Kurt. How are you?” “Good. Did you just get back from town?” “Yes. I just had breakfast at the Diner.” “Sounds great. We finished tuning up the big tractor. And should be able to run it through the fields today.” “Are you and Jack going to be able to get that done?” “Shouldn’t be a problem at all Harvey. Did you have any thing else planned for us to get done today?” “You know how it works around here, Kurt. But thank you for asking.” “Then we’ll get the fields tilled. And meet you at the house for dinner tonight.” “Sounds good. Are you guys planning on going to the Tractor show Friday night? Virgil needs help with crowd control and I’m sure he would love the extra help.” “Yeah, I was planning on it and I think Jack was too.” “I’ll let him know. See you at dinner tonight.”
Kurt went around the backside of the barn while Harvey walked back towards the farmhouse. He stopped in front and just stared at it. It made him smile as he remembered bringing Olivia to the farm the first time after they were married. His parents built a carriage house for them to live in until they both moved to the retirement home. Being the oldest, he was given first right to take over the family farm. His other brothers all moved out to their own farms or their wives family farms.
Harvey continued to stand there now remembering the day they brought Jacob home from the hospital, when he started to feel sharp pains in his chest. As he raised his hands to grab at his heart, he fell to the ground. When Kurt and Jack came in from the fields for lunch a couple hours later, they found Harvey laying on the ground looking up at the sky smiling.
Samantha couldn’t believe what had happened to Grandpa Harvey. He had been standing on the front porch the last time she was there and now he was gone. Her family had come back to the farm to bury him.
She wondered how was she going to find out where the keys for the truck were now? He would always ask her where they were and she would point to the pocket of the dark green overalls she remembered him wearing. While her Dad talked to Jack and Kurt, she walked into the farmhouse. As she walked through each room looking for the keys, it made her sad thinking that she had never met her Grandma. After walking back through the kitchen, she finally found the keys on a hook by the backdoor. Must be where he kept them when she wasn’t there. That is a memory of him that she will always hold dear in her heart.
Then she looked out the back door and down the gravel driveway and remembered how much fun it was running down it to the mailbox to pick up the mail. She would race with her brother Robert and he would win about 90% of the time. But the few times that she did beat him, felt great.
Her Grandpa Harvey lived and died in the place where he was born, West Branch, Iowa. He had never left the town except for a couple of trips to the Iowa State Fair for 4H, but she noticed that he always seemed happy here.
I don’t know whether this was the idea I had in mind originally, but this is the journey the writing prompt took me on today. Either I did learn a little about Harvey, or it was a story about him that was written today.