Peace Breaks Out

by : Janette Blackwell

In that spring of 1946, when he heard the Bauser boys were back from the navy, Daddy hired one of them to help with spring plowing. He didn't give Barry Bauser any instructions. Everyone knows how to plow. He just hitched the plow to the John Deere tractor and waved his hand in the direction of the field to be plowed, which was the field right next to our house.

“Yes, sir!" said the Bauser boy cheerfully, giving Daddy a favorable impression of what he’d learned in the navy.

The Bauser boy felt good that day. It was spring. He had expected in the spring of 1945 to die fighting the Japanese before the spring of 1946. Instead he was not only alive but whole. And not only whole but healthy. And not only healthy but free: free of the navy, free as a bird. Life rose within him and overflowed. He climbed onto the John Deere tractor, started its wonderfully noisy engine, gunned the motor, and took off around the field, the plow following behind him.

Now, he started out all right. You could see by looking at the field that he had. The first time he went around the field, young Barry plowed a slightly erratic but passable furrow. But, as his spirits rose, so did the speed of the John Deere. Which you might think was a good thing, he certainly thought was a good thing, but it was not in fact a good thing.

Most likely, when Barry was a boy, he plowed with a team of horses, and horses have better sense than to speed along while plowing. Plowing with a team is a dull, slow, plodding job. But when you urge a tractor to get up speed, the tractor takes real interest in your request. And, for whatever reason but probably for that reason, driving the John Deere went not only to Barry’s head but to his foot. And as young Barry’s foot hit the accelerator, the engine roared louder and louder.

Which sounded good to Barry Bauser, you bet.

The tractor roared along at about thirty miles an hour -- twenty-five miles an hour faster than it was meant to go with a plow behind it.

And the plow? The plow tried to follow. It flew through the air for a few feet, landed with a thud, plowed a few feet of earth, and then took off in another flying leap. The effect was rather like that of a jackrabbit chasing a dog.

Daddy came in the house and got Mamma and Davie and me to come out and see what was going on. As we stood in our back yard gazing, the Bauser boy assumed we were admiring his technique. He waved cheerfully as he and the bounding plow sped past. Davie and I waved back. It looked like he was having a lot of fun, we thought. (Well, he was having a lot of fun.) Mamma and Daddy looked grim.

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry," said Mamma.

“Me either," said Daddy.

But as they watched they looked more and more like people who’d gotten a kink in their innards.

“You ought to stop him," said Mamma. “He’ll ruin that plow. Probably ruin the tractor too."

But Daddy pretended he hadn’t heard. He hated criticizing people and making scenes.

At noon Daddy told the Bauser boy he wouldn't be needing him any more. He gave him a big silver dollar, standard pay for a full day’s work. He should by rights have paid him fifty cents, or even nothing at all, considering what had happened to the tractor, the plow, and the field, but Daddy was not about to get a reputation as a penny pincher. He handed over the dollar.

That afternoon Daddy put on clean overalls and his second-best hat and went around the neighborhood to inquire sadly for a replacement for Barry Bauser. He thought he’d better try someone who had been in the army or the marines, he said. Young Barry had shaken his trust in the U.S. Navy.