The cool night air bites at my cheeks as I stare up into the crystal clear sky. The sun disappeared behind the mountains early in the evening but there’s still a soft purple hue on the horizon. There was a few streetlights dotted throughout the rural community but not so many as to ruin the view of star. The night sky is unbroken by the blinking lights of passenger jets in those days. By the time I was a sophomore in high school I’d had enough allergy treatments to allow me to participatein a hay ride. I had tucked a few antihistamine pills in my pocket just in case I started to have a reaction but they were unnecessary. I leaned back against the wooden sides of the wagon and thought about how much the stars resembled sugar sprinkled across the opaque dome of a late fall night. The only sounds at the moment were the steady clip clop of the horse’s hooves on the hardtop lane. The hay helped keep the youth group warm in the bitter night air and we were covered by beautifully designed Appalachian quilts. And there was rich hot chocolate made with whole milk. Then I felt someone take my hand and I looked down to see the new girl in the group looking up at me. We never spoke. I was too shy in my teen years and seemed to babble and stutter around the girls. Fortunately for me she didn’t speak either. We just cuddled up under the quilt and looked at stars. Nobody seemed to notice us as the horse pulled the wagonload of teenagers through the hills. That is, until the wagon pulled up at her house and she gave me my first kiss before she went inside.
When I see a hay wagon I’m always taken back to a simpler time. A time when the simple things in life were the most important things and we took the time to enjoy them. And, our lives were fully enriched when time was our own.
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