August 9, 1965

A siren pierces the serenity of the summer afternoon sending the chickens scurrying back to their coop in a flurry of squawks and feathers. With a low moan the cow ambles back to the barn. My boxer bulldog, Champ, runs up onto the porch and stands in front of the screen door. He whimpers a plea to be let in but Momma won't allow dogs in the house. The siren must be painful to his ears. Momma tells me to get away from the door and hurries to the kitchen, but I don't want to leave Champ alone. I slip open the door, sit on the wooden porch and put my arm around my best friend. We turn our heads toward the east and wait for it.

The siren slowly winds down and an eerie quiet ensues. A few minutes ago cicadas buzzed in the trees and the birds sang but they are silent now. What little breeze the day possessed is gone and I wonder if Mother Nature is aware of what's about to happen. The only audible sound I hear is the ticking of the grandfather clock inside our home. My palms are moist and my mouth is dry. "It'll be soon boy," I whisper. Champ places a paw on my lap and lowers his head. I gingerly cover his ears with my hands.

two rapid heart beats –
a bullhorn cry of
"Fire in the hole!"

A powerful explosion shatters the afternoon and a quarter of a mile away dynamite rips a hole in the earth. The shock wave is instantaneous sending the chickens into a renewed frenzy of squawking. A dish crashes in the kitchen and Momma cries, "Oh, Lord! When will it end?" I sit transfixed—fascinated and frightened at the sheer power of the blast as a few large boulders are visibly flung above the tree line. Champ releases a nervous yelp and moves closer to me. In a few seconds the explosion becomes a fading roar as the force dissipates throughout the air and ground.

I soon become aware of the sound of an approaching tractor. Daddy had been plowing a field when the explosion occurred. It sounds like he is pushing the limits of the old John Deere. Three months ago our neighbors were a tightly knit group who adamantly refused to sell their land to the developers of a proposed rock quarry, but that has changed now. One-by-one the allure of quick money became irresistible. The consensus among the ones that sold their land is to move to the city and take a job in a new textile mill. Daddy is the last holdout.

dust gathers
in the furrows
of the farmer's brow

contemporary haibun online Summer 2005, vol 1 no 2

–Curtis Dunlap

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