This is a guest post, submitted by Fr. Jim Schmitmeyer, author of the “Can I Get an Amen” column in Today’s Parish. Fr. Jim is the pastor of Holy Angels Catholic Church in Childress, Texas and Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Memphis, Texas. For more ways you can use prayer practices and other techniques to support adult faith, see this article on the Today’s Parish website.
Nick and Pat stand next to their pickup truck. I lean on the tailgate, my foot propped on the hitch. Nick’s face is drawn, his eyes tired.
“The fire at Dickens took out 75,000 acres.”
For a moment, we stare across the open plain. In the distance, smoke wraps around a mesa, its folds as soft and gray as a bandana.
“Billy Roy helped fight that fire.” I say. “Crystal said he came home at 4 in the morning.”
“Anyone get hurt?”
Nick and Pat are retired ranchers. Billy Roy is a young farmer, lean and scrappy. All three are my neighbors. For a moment, I imagine Nick backing a trailer to load up cattle, Pat opening the gate, the phlegm of smoke in their throats. I see Billy Roy atop a bulldozer, fear on his face, fire crackling beside the cleats.
In these days of drought, I suspect their prayers sound more like curses than polite requests.
“We gotta go.”
A breeze angles the brim of Nick’s hat. He looks at Pat. “You got co-op books to balance.”
She yanks open the door. “What’s to balance?”
The truck pulls away. I walk to the porch and pull up a rocker. Twilight settles on the fields. Soon, lights atop irrigation derricks begin their nervous winks. It’s a nightly routine. For miles, flashing beams slit the night with stabs of light.
South of town, Billy Roy checks the derricks on his brother’s farm. The wheels of his truck rock across furrows of dirt. The headlights polish piles of field stone and, now and then, silver the eyes of a thirsty coyote.
Inside the cab, country music replaces the clang of bulldozer cleats. Yet worry remains. It’s a time of drought, after all, and the ground cracks open like Judgment Day. Cattle get sold and people get religion.
And I wonder if Billy Roy prays among the derricks, amid those bells of water, as hard as he does in the crackle of fire.