The eastern sky is velvet grey, the water of the great tidal basin is a shimmering pearl glaze. My bicycle tires are pumped, my silver helmet and dark glasses positioned. Navigating the potholes on Longspell Road, I take a right on Medford Road, past the working farm where the gang of black cows and their calves are having grass and milk for breakfast.
I coast downhill past the Medford Cemetery, Est.1816, and pedal uphill to the shambling white farmhouse on the right. Weeds colonize the vegetable garden and the house stands empty of the woman who gardened and stocked the wooden farm stand next to the road. Bare for weeks, this morning the stand brims with broccoli, a bouquet of red beets, and boxes of green and yellow beans.
I drop five quarters into the Mason jar and tuck a wooden box piled with green beans into the bike basket. A man in farm clothes is standing next to his truck in the driveway.
Over the growl and grind of earth-moving machinery , I call out, “Where is the woman who used to live here?”
“Oh, Judy. She died last October. Bad cancer,” he says.
“I’m so sorry, She kept such a beautiful garden. Are you related?”
“I’m her brother.”
“What’s happening with the barn?”
“The county’s been pushing on us to take her down for years. The
barn’s more’n a hundred and twenty-five. His smile reveals a few stubby teeth.
For ten years I’ve watched the barn head sodward – a broken ribcage of rafters, slabs of rusty red walls with no one to pick the bones for barnwood, grey moldering hay disgorged around stacks of white plastic feed buckets that never deteriorate. Like a steeple without a church, a single wooden ladder, every rung intact, poked into the heavens where the hayloft once was. Today, the big machines are digging a barn-size hole in the rich red earth to receive the carcass. The next morning the barn is gone. No requiem or stone to mark it’s passing.