Summer Help by Randy Simons

were summer help. Temps. Red hats. High school heroes bound for college. They trained us to pull and stack lumber. 2×4’s and 2×6’s from the green chain. Rough cut. Heavy. Tools of our trade were rigid leather gloves and Beechnut tobacco. Payday Fridays we snuck into King’s and drank draft beer, playing darts with men twice our age. Danced with women who wore too much makeup and left before breakfast. Our pockets filled with sawdust and foam earplugs.

Richard bought a new pickup truck. Extended cab with oversized tires and a tow package. We drove to rodeos and tractor pulls. Swapped fists with former high school rivals. The mail brought me an acceptance letter to a university back east. Scholarly enough for a small town kid. Now I spend days in an office that overlooks down town. A coy pond with concrete benches trimming it in. My Carhartts and steel-toes traded for a tie and Italian loafers.

They tore down the mill, the equipment hauled away for scrap metal. I didn’t return for the ten-year class reunion, leaving instead, memories of cedar-scented flannel shirts and miles of gravel roads. A town that died on break whistles and summer help.