The Mash Silo by David Arrowsmith
David is a semi-retired history teacher enjoying the freedom to develop new writing projects. He is currently working on ways to present his father’s farming photographs of rural South Auckland in the sixties.
It isn’t clambering up the ladder of the poultry feed silo that worries me. At ten years old I’m small and nimble. ‘Ideal for the job,’ Dad says. Besides, all the family have to pitch in and help on the farm. No, it’s not heights I dread. Love that hut I built high in the totara tree...
I crouch, perched on the edge of the silo looking down at the reversing red Bedford truck from the Poultrymen’s Co-operative bulk food company. I signal to the driver to stop, grab the waving spout, and insert it into one of the silo hatches. Chicken feed thunders up the pipe from the bin on the back of the truck. I kneel beside the hatch, peering inside as the mash pours into the dim, dusty interior.
I sit high up on the very edge of the juddering silo and enjoy the view while I can. It hasn’t always been a poultry farm. Dad purchased the smallish dairy unit when we arrived from England back in 1958, but soon tired of the solo milking drudge. He hadn’t brought his family 12,000 miles around the world for that. No, he’d heard there was more money in poultry farming, much more. A hayshed now housed clucking hens; battery cage buildings sprang up in the farmyard; a packing room with egg cooler appeared; three big silos arrived on huge trucks, reminding me of those scary Russian missiles and the Cuba Crisis, Miss Pride talked about in the currents events class at school.
“Come on, lad, time to check the silo,” Dad yells from below, in his Coronation Street accent, hands on hips in the midst of chatting with the driver. “Must be filling up fast.” I crawl over to the other silo hatch, take a deep breath, and lower myself in. Floundering in this quicksand, I belly flop towards the gushing mash, swiping it away from the hatch. Almost a metre from the top now, I swim in the dark, gasping for air. I hate this!
That’s enough. I clamber out and wave to Dad to stop. Panting, I wipe cakes of chook feed from my sweaty face, covered top to tail in the sticky stuff. Only two more silos to go.
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