Splayed over the most verdant mound this side

of the Emerald Isle lies a graveyard of rusted cars,

pick-ups and half-ton trucks. It’s against all rules

in South Melville, but Logan Murphy, my farmer neighbor

will explain with a smiling toothless grin: “I needs them all

for gettin’ at spare parts.”

He’s now as old as his withered barn and crumbling house,

so far gone vandals took it for abandoned and stole his son’s

vintage Harley from the shed. Working on the farm he never

made it to the schoolhouse miles away, didn’t trudge through

the wintry blow like his flock of younger siblings.

Logan embraced the routine of what had to be done.

He still keeps livestock in a straw-floored barn steaming

with manure, milking a dozen cows by hand, turning his fields

in winter, letting frost kill off the pests. One of the “tater-raisin’”

folks, he mulishly hand–picks potatoes up and down endless rows,

brawny muscles resilient as Carrara marble, pile up

a mountain of potatoes in his cellar, sure to last the winter.

He clears out pens in his loafing shed, places mulch

along fence lines stretched to smother foxtail brome,
feeds his steers with cobs of corn, cows devour grassy

hay and heifers munch on alfalfa throughout the day.

Watching cluster flies finding cracks on the South side

of the henhouse reminds him there’s patching up to do.

In the crystal-clear light of autumn when temperatures drop

and leaves are yellow and red, Logan volunteers to help split

my logs for winter. His Allis Chalmers tractor has a PTO

screw splitter, but this year he fails to see the bar braced

against the log is rusted from inside, a weld that will not hold.

With no margin for error the 50 horsepower engine whips

the log around in a circle shearing off his right thumb.

We watch it fly off across the arc of the sky like a clay disc

sprung in the air for an avid skeet shooter.

The very next day he is back at the farm tending to chores.

Milton P. Ehrlich