It's June, 1967.
Nature, still lying through
Parsley green teeth,
Breathes the last of spring,
Hints early summer warmth,
Pre-July's cicada whine,
August's heat and wind.
Crops, still tender green
Quiver beneath a humid sky,
Under a glowing sun.
Bicycles amuse our early lust
To soar untraveled ground,
Entering lazy summer's ennui,
We scan a hawk riding drafts
On the edge of our hill.
Dust, drifting up the graveled road,
Five miles below us,
Piques our interest,
Causes the dog to raise his head.
He ***** an ear
Toward a sound we cannot hear.
We hear gravel slapping rocker panels
Before the traveler's roof rises into view,
Catch our breath as the engine slows,
Start running for the house.
A stranger's arrived,
A traveling salesman,
Better than an aunt
Only stopping in for tea
And woman talk.
Dad keeps his welding helmet down,
Repairing broken things.
The hired man inhales his cigarette,
My memories linger on the past....
Salesmen brought the latest farming gadgets:
Additives for fuel and oil,
Battery life extenders,
Grain elevators and fencing tools,
Produce and livestock products,
Lightning rods and roofing,
Chrome-edged cultivator shovels,
Insurance for everything:
Fire, water, wind, hail.
Pitches came without exception:
"Top o' the morning! Looks like you're busy.
Don't want to take your time."
"Looks like you could use some welding rod,
And I have something new for you to try."
"Have you used chromium additive in you livestock salt?
Guaranteed to put on weight and protect from bovine
"Say, have you heard about the effectiveness of a new
Insecticide called DDT? I've got a sample gallon here
For you to try. Works better than Malathion!"
Dad, eventually intrigued, began the slow dance
Of dickering, haggling over this thing or that.
Most salesmen, closing in for a ****,
Hadn't grappled with my father.
At noon, deals still in the air,
My mother called the men,
And we all trudged in to wash,
Waiting in line at the tub,
Scrubbing with powdered Tide
To remove the grime and grease,
Drying on the darkening towel,
Finding a seat at the table.
The salesmen expected the meal
As though it were their right,
A standing invitation:
Stop in at noon,
Make your pitch,
Sit at table,
Close the deal after.
We boys sat and listened
To man talk.
Eyes wide, we marveled
Wondered at Dad's parleying,
Winced at the deals he drove,
Commiserated with squirming salesmen
Surely made destitute by Dad's hard bargaining.
I know the game was played
On two sides,
That the battery additives
Bought for five dollars a packet,
Even with the two Dad finagled free,
Cost about five dollars for everything,
Returned forty-five and change
To the smirking, full-bellied salesman
Who left a cloud of dust on his way
To supper a few miles down the road.
We don't see traveling salesmen anymore at the ranches in Montana. I guess internet sales did them in.