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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 6, Number 1, March 2012

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Steven Carter
Tucson, Arizona, USA


Autumn Equinox

My rancher father-in-law's favorite pastime was tinkering in the shop—re-welding a hitch on the "piggy-back" tractor, for instance, or sharpening files on the whetstone. Never known as a sensitive soul, he once asked a salesman, whose voice box from cancer surgery was plain to see, "Something wrong with your throat?"

When my mother-in-law died (they were married 54 years), he was stoic and methodical as always, planning the funeral with my wife. On the Monday after the service, around two a.m., as a soft rain fell on the ranch and the last coyote down east had gone silent, my wife heard sobbing from her father's room. She had never seen him cry before, and didn't know what to do. In the end she did nothing, for there was something elemental and profound about the sobs—as if he were taking part in some sort of private dialogue that would brook no interruption. So she lay awake until dawn, staring at rain on the window, until he finally fell asleep.

When she returned home, she told me what her mother had related about my father-in-law: "He's always cared more about machines than people."

light on the stubble field
a combine
etched on the horizon

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