Crop Duster Dusting

The yellow plane roared out of the sunset over my tent. A crop duster applying chemicals to the soybean field next to where I was camped with my mules.

The crop duster: trailing behind it, a plume of insecticide, fungicide or pesticide.

Back and forth the plane swooped over the bean field.

I wondered about the mid-West breast cancer rate. I wondered about all those farmers I’d met with second wives. Over and over they’d told me, “my first wife died of cancer” and then they’d introduce me to the woman who wasn’t the mother of their children.

I’d spend the nights out behind their barns and when the doors were open the air reeked metallic of poison. The tidy farmers arranged their containers of Roundup herbicide in soldierly rows. Others stored them as haphazardly as if they’d left hungry for a meal.

It got in to my head that everything was poisoned and if I didn’t move on quick I’d end up like their wives.

The notion infected my head and the well water the farmers filled my water jugs with started tasting like the poisoned barns I smelled. Maybe it was in my head or maybe it was just the hose.

Back and forth the crop duster weaved, carving arcs in to the sky. The plane silhouetted against the final orange light, roaring over the bean field, sending down its poisonous mist.

I started smelling metallic poison in the air, not sure if it really was poison or just my imagination. I’m sure every crop duster pilot swears he dropped his load dead over his target. But bombs drift during wars just like crop duster mist.

It got dark. Lying in my tent, I wondered if, on some cellular level, something from inside that plane was changing something inside me.

I don’t hold anything against that crop duster. I understand if I want to eat cheaply from the bread basket of America, I’ll have to swallow the poison with the low price.

Or do I?

Did all those farmers’ wives really have to die of breast cancer?

Heading home: the last I saw of the crop duster


2 Responses to Crop Duster Dusting

  • Joe and I just rode by your driveway and thought about you and your travels. The crop duster worries me also. I am a N.C. State master gardener and we at the community garden are very careful about what we use.

    We enjoy traveling with you! Be safe and enjoy your travels.

    Joe and Lynda Campbell
    Lenoir, NC

  • Hi Lynda. What a wonderful Sunday surprise hearing from you.
    Slowly traveling America’s Bread Basket by mules gives you plenty of time to observe current farming practices – both good and worrisome. I understand making affordable food available to all but this trip really makes me question some of the practices. Unfortunately I have no large scale solutions to offer farmers, consumers and crop dusters.
    Well, growing a backyard and community garden is a great start.
    So good to hear you’re enjoying your mule ramble as well!
    Bernie

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