written by James Rada, Jr.
A serial fiction story for your enjoyment
4: You Can’t Go Home Again
Thomas Hamilton was in no rush heading back to Rocky Ridge because he had no idea what he would do when he got there. All he knew was that the bridge at Loys Station was the key to him getting home. Scratch that. He was home. He needed to get back to his own time, and the bridge was the way there.
The problem was that he didn’t know how it worked. He had wound up in the 1950s simply by walking across the bridge at the wrong time.
It didn’t make sense to Thomas. He only hoped it was all part of a bad dream he was having and that he would wake up. Maybe a car had hit him while he had been jogging in the fog. He rolled his eyes. How worried must he be if he was wishing he were unconscious by the side of the road?
Until he figured out what was happening, his body still told him he needed to drink and eat. He inquired at the farms he passed whether they needed a hand. Thomas knew farming. He was a farmer, so it was work he could do. No one needed help. Some paid him for odd jobs that he did, like sharpening plow blades or chopping wood, but they were one-time jobs. Thomas wanted to find steady work in the area while he tried to sort through what was happening to him.
He finally came upon a farm along Myers Road that could use his help.
“What do you know about farming?” John Weikert asked him. John had broken his leg earlier in the week and needed help. His daughters and wife were doing their best, but they had other things to do besides work in the field all day.
“I’m a farmer,” Thomas said. “I have a degree in agriculture.”
John snorted. “My youngest has a coon-skin cap, but that doesn’t make him Davy Crockett.”
“I grew up on a farm. I’m working my way out to Western Maryland to help my brother with his farm near Grantsville.”
“I need someone to help until I get this thing off.” He slapped his cast. “I won’t hire someone only to have him leave in two days.”
“I understand, sir.” Thomas didn’t know how long it would take him to figure out what was happening at the bridge. He doubted it would be something he figured out quickly, though.
In the end, John hired Thomas. Thomas got room, board, and what Thomas assumed was a fair wage for the time. He had to adjust his thinking about money. Even expensive things in 1951 seemed cheap when he compared them to 2021 prices.
John showed him to a room in the barn that had been built for a hand to live in, although the Weikerts hadn’t used a hand regularly for years. Thomas unpacked his clothes and sat on the bed. The room was small but comfortable. It was well-lit with a bed, bureau, sink, chair, and desk. John explained that Thomas still had to use an outhouse and the claw-foot tub behind the barn for his other needs. The barn had power, but the waterline had only been run to a spigot behind the barn.
Thomas came into the house at 7 p.m. for supper. He was looking forward to having his first full meal in two days. Up to now, he had been living off what he could scrounge from farms he passed, but the fruits and vegetables weren’t always ripe.
As he walked into the kitchen, John said, “This is Thomas. He’s going to be our hand around here until I get the cast off.”
Thomas looked around at the Weikerts. John and Amelia had three children, and one of them was the young woman Thomas had frightened when he came across the bridge yesterday. Her name was Jessica. He saw by her expression that she recognized him. The Weikerts also had a 10-year-old named Nathan and a 6-year-old daughter named Emily.
As soon as Thomas smelled the sausages and vegetables on the table, his stomach growled loudly.
Amelia laughed. “Someone’s hungry.”
“I guess I am, ma’am,” Thomas said. “It smells wonderful.”
He ate dinner quickly, or as quickly as he could between answering questions from the family. He tried to keep his story as close to the truth as he could. He didn’t want to have to remember too many lies.
He woke up early the next morning and dressed in his sweat clothes. He had washed them in the sink the night before and hung them in his room to dry. They would have to serve as his work clothes until he could find something else.
When he walked into the kitchen for breakfast, Jessica laughed at him. “I thought you knew farming.”
“You don’t look it.”
“It’s all I have right now. I’ll buy something else when I get paid.”
Amelia laid an arm on his shoulder. “Ignore her, Thomas. She’s just mad.”
“She is learning she can’t run this farm by herself.”
Jessica blushed. “That’s not true,”
Thomas tried to suppress a grin. She looked like a young child who was pouting.
John gave them instructions on what he wanted to accomplish for the day. He had Thomas harvesting the corn using a Massey-Harris combine Thomas had only seen as an antique, although this model was fairly new. The children, including Jessica, much to her chagrin, picked tomatoes. John tended their roadside stand, freeing up Amelia to handle the additional work around the house that the children usually did.
It went smoothly. Thomas enjoyed driving the old combine. It also gave him time to think about his predicament.
After dinner, Thomas walked over to the Loy’s Bridge and walked back and forth across it, hoping to find a way to trigger whatever had sent him into the past. Nothing happened.
When he came across the bridge a third time, he saw Jessica standing to the side.
“What is it with you and this bridge?” she asked.
“If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.”
“Why are you here?”
For a moment, Thomas thought she was asking why he was in the 1950s, but then he realized she meant the farm.
“I needed work,” he said.
“We don’t need your help.”
“It looks like you do. Your father can’t work in the fields, and he probably needed the help when he was healthy.”
Jessica put her hands on her hips. “It’s going to be my farm someday.”
Thomas cocked an eyebrow. “Okay.”
“Just in case you had any ideas.”
“About trying to take my farm.”
“Your farm? I think you have quite a few years before it becomes your farm, and even then, your father might split it between you and your brother and sister.”
“No, it will be mine. They won’t want it. I do. I can turn it into a first-class operation if my father would just listen to me. There is so much being done that is helping farmers get more from their land. I intend to grow our farm and make it larger and better.”
“It sounds like you’ll need help.”
“Not from you.”
“Why not me? What do you have against me?”
She stared at him for a few moments and then she said, “I don’t trust you. You are lying about something. You say you’re a farmer, but you don’t dress like one. You say you have a college degree, but you don’t have anything more than the clothes you’re wearing. And you keep coming to this bridge.”
Thomas was about to reply, but Jessica turned away.
And this was the woman who was supposed to be his future. It didn’t look too promising to him.
Look for what happens next in our March issue