In the light of a sky full of stars and a low-slung moon, the farmhouse looked much the same as we had left it. The two-story house with the wide front porch, three windows on the second floor, two on the first. Four cane chairs on one side of the screen door, a four-person glider on the other. The round stone well still had its place in the frontyard, sheltered by a little roof that mimicked the roof on the farmhouse, black shingles with gingerbread trim along the eaves. The milking barn was down the slope to the right, the horse corral attached to its left, the chicken on its right. The hay barn and the tractor were behind the farmhouse, beyond the fenced in backyard where grandmother and now mother used to hang three clotheslines full of sheets and other laundry.
The lights were off in the house with only the security lights still on in the milking barn. Blue-Eyes seemed to know the way through the door then down the hall, up the stairs and my room straight ahead. All doors were closed, only night lights were glowing from the outlets along the walls.
I fell into my feather bed, collapsed really, not even taking the time to pull down the patchwork quilt my grandmother had made upon the occasion of my birth. This had been my father's bedroom, back then he shared it with the next in line, his brother Willie.
By instinct or by scent, Blue-Eyes knew that his sleeping place was right beside my bed, on the braided rug.
As I began to slip off to sleep, I found myself wanting the smell once more the smoke of Granddad's Black Cherry tobacco drifting up from below, where he took his last smoke at night, there on the porch. I would hear him humming the church hymns he had learned on his mother's knee. I would hear him softly whisper words into the night, words that I always took as prayers. I would hear the holy quiet of a peace that settled deep upon a farmer's soul and upon a farmer's little world. Then three raps of his pipe against the porch rail, to clean away the ash of yet another day. And then in his final chore, he would flip the switch that would turn off the light, down the way in the milking barn.
This night I somehow heard it all take place once more, but I do know it took place only in my tearful memory. And so it fell to me to run downstairs and flip that switch once more.
Blue-Eyes and I, we slept deeply in our dreams.
And in the early morning as the sun splashed on my face through the lace curtained windows, I awoke. But when I awoke somehow all things had changed. Blue-Eyes still had eyes of blue, but his sheltie coat was of blue merle grey, much darker than before, the markings much the same but yet the same. My back ached as I pulled myself off the worn and yellowed patchwork quilt. My eyes were dim, my hands were gnarled, my fingers bent and calloused. And then I did remember what had happened to me... I had become an old, old man after many years.
I rubbed the sleep from eyes before I put on my wire-rimmed glasses, I washed my face and stroked my salt-and-pepper beard. In my closet, I found my red and black plaid shirt, my well-worn Levis, I put them on as if they were old friends awaiting my coming to them. I slipped my woolen socks into my Red Wing work shoes that were spattered with flecks of paint and tar.
I hushed Blue-Eyes. "Let's not wake the house. Shh. Quiet now." Down the hall, we walked and two doors down, I knocked. I eased it open, "Shawn, Scott, it's time." I walked in. Roused them each, Shawn the dark-haired older boy, serious, studious, so eager to please. Scott the blond-haired younger boy, playful, creative, so willing to give it his all. Together we wrestled on some clothes and then tip-toed down the hall, then down the stairs, and then out the door. And Blue-Eyes led the way.