Salute

The high rolling hills were covered with clusters of dark green trees and bright green grass and sparkling rocks. The small valley floor was dark brown, the dark brown of rich moist earth that had been recently plowed. There were a few scraggly-looking acres still awaiting the plow, the tractor and the man. When I held out my hand in front of me my thumb covered him, tractor and all.

I watched him as he moved slowly and steadily under the early spring sun. He was wearing a red plaid shirt and a pale yellow straw hat. I could hear the high-pitched creakings of the plow and noticed how they mingled with the short piercing songs of a few unseen birds. In the whole great cup of well-groomed space before me his was the only motion, the one straight line of continual effort and aim.

I turned around and looked at the glass doors of the casino. Behind those doors hundreds of people sat and pushed their money into machines, just sat there, slouching, pushing buttons, watching colored wheels spin, pushing more money, more buttons, their eyes glazed, their minds blank, telling themselves they were having fun. Or perhaps not even that.

I turned around again and there he was, still going on, and I suddenly wished that I could vaporize that casino and in its place erect a giant statue of a man sitting in a tractor, so that when the man down below made his turn at the end of a row he could look up and see and smile and feel a lightness in his shoulders and in his spirit. But he sat straight; he did not look worn.

Then he reached the end of a row and turned back straight towards me. I thought he was too far away, but I slowly raised my hand and waved. Surprisingly, he held up his right hand, then slowly stretched it about him, from right to left, and then he made a fist and pressed it against his chest.

I stood straight and gave him a strict, slow, military salute. He lifted the straw hat off his head, gently put it back, then gripped the steering wheel once again. Steadily he plowed on and I continued my walk along the country road. The casino didn’t matter; it didn’t matter at all.

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