- After the Harvest
Ten years ago last month, my father left my mother. He pulled into the gravel driveway of our house and parked around back. Our house sat on one acre of land carved out of a pasture. It was mid-morning. He didn't bother to take off his work boots before he walked through the house to their bedroom. He took all his clothes out of the closet and carried them to the pickup. I still don't know exactly what happened to make him do this.
When I try to figure out why he left that day, I trace a line back two years earlier to Verdon's death. Maybe my parents would disagree. Maybe they would say it started long before they ever thought about me, though neither of them has said this. When I think about where this story begins, I reach back to a warm night in late May 1994 when I pulled into the driveway to find a police car.
Because we lived 25 miles from the nearest town, it was the only time I'd seen a police car this far off the highway. The insignia on the side of the car door said Yuma, Colorado. The car's headlights and engine were off. My father sat in the front seat with a police officer I didn't recognize. My sister and I had just finished playing a game of softball for Knode Livestock. Inside the house, my mother sat at the dining-room table with a pensive look. She wore gray sweatpants and a white T-shirt. Her short blond hair was tucked behind her ears.
"What's going on?" Shannon asked.
"Nothing," my mother said. She got up and walked around the counter that separated the living and dining room from the kitchen. Her green eyes searched for something to do.
"What do you mean, 'nothing'?" I asked. "Why's Dad in the police car?"
"I'm not going to talk about it," she said as she grabbed a towel from the refrigerator handle and wiped down the countertops. [End Page 23]
My sister and I both knew that my mother would not answer any more questions. I inherited a lot of things from my mother. Along with her passivity, I inherited her stubbornness. I knew by her tone she wouldn't budge.
For the next 20 minutes or so, Shannon and I milled around the house, grabbed snacks, watched TV, pretended not to care that our father was talking to the police just outside. When the door to the garage swung open, my father trudged in. He looked as if an anchor had been attached to him. He still had on his work clothes, boots, and a blue denim short-sleeved shirt tucked into Levi's. His green Pioneer seed cap hid his receding hairline. His face and arms were brown from the sun.
"What's going on?" Shannon asked.
"You didn't tell them?" he asked my mother.
"There's been an accident." He cleared his throat. "Verdon Franson shot himself and died yesterday."
"So why were the police here?" Shannon asked.
"They think I might've been the last person to see him. They was just asking some questions—make sure it was an accident." I could see the worry in his blue eyes.
"Was it . . ." I paused, not knowing if I should ask the question. "Was it really an accident?"
"Far as I can tell."
It wasn't until a few months later that I learned about the events of the early evening Verdon shot himself. My Gram Salvador said that my father had gone to Verdon's house, visiting. Verdon was in his late 30s and had lived and worked on his family's farm his whole life. He had never left to go to college. While Verdon and my dad weren't close friends, acquaintances take on a different meaning in the country. My dad probably remembered Verdon being born, remembered seeing his name in the paper for different school achievements. He certainly knew what kind of farmer Verdon was.
I imagine the fading sunlight cast traces of pink...