Red Dirt Diary #2

Photo: C. Peterson

Caity Peterson
by Caity Peterson




Finally, the wind started to blow. It probably meant rain, which of course, was not so great for my experiment. But it also meant that the insupportable humidity was blown away and the temperature finally dropped. I could move again. I rolled down the window and stuck my face out like a happy puppy as we trundled down the pot-holed road to the experiment.

This is the easiest part of the day. No tight time frames, no sun, no digging. Just go grab tripods. Take them apart, bind up the cords, and put the protective covers on the sensors. Organize it all in the back of the pickup. And watch the glorious landscape change colors as the sun goes down. Every evening in Tupã is glorious, and always just a little bit different. Today the incoming rain clouds lend a romantic gloom, the clouds seeming as though painted on the low horizon.

Alex, one of the ranch hands, passes by on his motorcycle heading for home. I know it’s him from the dreadful noise that his motorbike makes, like it’s about to blow a piston at any moment. He lets off a long honk from his horn and salutes us, and I give him a big-armed wave back. Later, Tiago and José drive by in their white pickup with the mud tires. Another honk and a cheerful wave. People are so nice here. I feel warmed by the fact that they know me, are friendly towards me, are even there to help me when my truck battery starts acting up and I don’t know what to do about it. I hum a little tune as I set off to collect the next tripod.

The dogs have arrived. They probably came following Tiago’s truck. They are by far the three happiest dogs in the district. Being so, they believe that everyone on earth is there to play with them. They recognize us and come charging through the soybeans, unapologetically steamrolling plants as they frolic around investigating scents and generally seeing what’s up. Sombra, the sleek black lab, has found a rock – her favorite game. “Not now, Sombra…” but she drops the rock right on your toes, not about to be rebuffed. I throw it as far as I can to give myself some space to wrap up the next set of sensor cords. The next time she creeps up from behind me. I see the rock before I see her, rolling up next to my boot and coming to an expectant stop. “Sombra, you are incorrigible.” Henrique, my assistant, is enchanted by her. He laughs and throws the rock again and again, Sombra never tiring.

Arthur and Eduardo arrive just as we get back. Right on time, I tell them - to miss the work, that is. We make dinner, a pretty passable pasta with meat sauce. I bring old Tío Breno his plate and medicines. We polish off the pasta and throw the rest to the pack of ranch mutts waiting expectantly at the door. Tonight, I finally sleep well.