The only time I ever shot a pheasant,
my four-year-old daughter wanted
to watch me pluck and gut it out back
in the garage. I worried about nightmares,
but she said she wanted to see how
it was put together - this the tyke who
manhandled our yellow lab, sticking
her hand in his mouth and grabbing
his toothy jaw. He followed her everywhere.
Years later she wanted to tag along with me
on deer hunts, curious about dressing out
something larger, poking entrails and such,
surprised at the size of the animal's heart.
In high school, dissection lab thrilled her,
and by the time she graduated college, she
could look at spots on your nails and ask
pointed questions about your blood pressure.
She knew what was beneath the skin, what
bumps were. When she applied to med school,
the doctors crowed here's the pheasant girl.
One Thanksgiving, she called from her surgical
residency excited about her first amputation,
matter of fact about what diabetes can lead to.
I could have used her help carving the turkey.
At the tractor pull
Blue diesel smoke and funnel cakes grease
the air as if basted with August corn tassles.
Red-faced men capped in camouflage,
in sleeveless shirts, tan lines across their
shoulders, show off scars and calluses.
Six days a week they pull the weight
of the world across acres of soy beans,
corn, sorghum, wheat, and alfalfa. But
today they face a hundred-yard patch
of fallow earth, disced, flattened and slicked
with water and a roller to test the strength
of Farmalls, Massey Fergusons, John Deeres,
an Allis-Chalmers, a yellow Minnesota Moline
whose massive pistons outmuscle Percherons
and Clydesdales except on Amish spreads.
Denim and Old Glory fatten the stands
as a souped-up Massey backs up to the sled.
Once it's chained, the judge waves his red flag,
and the Massey chugs, puffs a blue cloud,
huge wheels turn slowly, treads dig in,
inching the sled forward, picking up speed
- though that's relative for this, the original
drag race once run by draft horses
pulling skids loaded with stones, so farmers
could brag and sell stud rights for winners
to sire future behemoths who could till fields
to feed a hungry nation. Chomping corn
dogs, the crowd grunts when Massey's back
wheels spin near the end of the track. The red flag
signals a winner, as two black iron steam relics
mark time at the top of the hill, ghosts of seasons,
plantings, and harvests past finally set to pasture.
About the Author: Eric Chiles is an award-winning former career journalist who teaches journalism and writing courses at a number of colleges in the Lehigh Valley area of eastern Pennsylvania. He holds a Master's degree in Creative Writing from Indiana University. His poetry has appeared in Chiron Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Plainsongs, Rattle, Tar River Poetry, and Third Wednesday among other journals.