Close encounter of a farm kind

It was a dark and stormy night. The air hung oppressively hot and humid over the prairie. Each breath brought with it a vague sense of unease, almost a primitive urge to flee before the oncoming storm. Stars glimmered feebly overhead, disappearing into the flashes of lightning from the fast-building clouds on the horizon.

As our truck swept down the black ribbon of highway, my daughter and I spoke to each other in short, terse sentences.

“Wow, big one.” (After a lightning flash.)

“No green yet.” (The lightning-illuminated clouds didn’t look like they had hail in them.)

“We gonna make it?” (Will we make it home before the storm gets there?)

“Hmm.” (I don’t know, sweetie. Those clouds are building and moving awfully fast.)

“Wind’s picking up.” (That last gust came out of nowhere and seems intent on blowing us off the road.)

Mind you, neither one of us is afraid of storms. In fact, we rather enjoy them. Still, driving into one presents its own set of road hazards, not the least of which is other drivers.

Driving into the stormy darkness, I kept my eyes peeled for anything abnormal. Then I saw it. Far ahead, a white light appeared in what looked like the center of a field. It seemed to bob up and down, then winked out.

“Hmm,” I said again, this time meaning just that.

As we came around a curve, nearing the field where the light had been, suddenly the light came on again, accompanied by three other lights, bobbing in formation and approaching the road. Yellow lights floated along with the white lights, suspended in the darkness in the middle of the field.

I managed to grab my cell phone and snap a blurry picture before my daughter said, “Whoa, Mom! What’s that?”

Being the avid amateur paranormal investigator that I am, I knew at once what we were looking at. The criteria were obvious. Unstable atmospheric conditions, check. Orb lights moving in formation, check. Terrible quality picture, check. What we were experiencing was definitely an encounter with a “gasp” UFO.

Yes indeed, those lights right there were certainly an Unidentified Farming Object.

To the farmer who was out working his field that night ahead of the storm, I hope you finished what you meant to get done. If memory serves, we got a real gullywhomper that night, long after my daughter and I got home.

That was a pretty nice UFO you have, by the way. Our old Allis doesn’t have any lights unless Darling Hubby has a light on his cap.

Speaking of Darling Hubby and machinery, we had a milestone this week. We bought our first piece of farm equipment! Sure, we had the aging tractor already, but I figure that doesn’t count since it came included with the house and we didn’t have to shop for it. This week, we became the proud owners of a baler.

We’ve been halfheartedly looking for one for quite a while now, but either the timing was wrong, the price was wrong, it wouldn’t work with our tractor, or we would have to import the item from several counties away via flatbed.

As it so happened, I mentioned it to a friend of mine the other day, and he just happened to have one for sale. Lo and behold, the timing was right, the price was right, it would work just fine with our tractor (if hubby could oil it up and figure out how to string it), and it was close enough to pull home down back roads. Off we went.

We trampled out to the pasture to have a look. The resident equines ambled up to have a look at us. As my husband and my friend poked around on the baler, the kids and the horses made friends with each other.

One extremely friendly donkey seemed to develop an attachment to my son, perhaps because the boy’s hair resembles a particularly thick stand of hay.

After hearing my friend’s glowing endorsement of donkeys as guardian animals and even coyote deterrents, I found myself seriously considering adding a donkey to our menagerie. After all, it’s not a goat.

Money changed hands. My friend generously cut the frozen-bolted ball off of our bent hitch (from a recent accident), and proceeded to then straighten the hitch as well. We hitched up the baler and headed home uneventfully. (I’d say we got home without a hitch, but that might be confusing. Ha.)

Hubby never fails to amaze me. I wouldn’t peg him as a mechanic, but he sure seems to be able to figure out how things work, and to persuade them to do so.

What’s more, he’s teaching the kids to work on things with him. No, neither kid has yet fully grasped the implications of us having our own square baler. They are still blissfully ignorant of the impact that this seemingly innocuous machine will have on their musculature and work ethic in a few years.

We didn’t just buy an implement, we bought a character builder. And I’m pretty sure we got a bargain.

Shana Thornhill lives on farm near Marion. She can be reached at

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