It took her the better part of the morning to hack her way with a shovel through the first few inches of cold, root-choked ground. There were easier places to dig a grave, but Mavis hadn't picked the spot just because it was where Edgar proposed.
The white oak was the tallest tree in the windbreak behind their Iowa farmhouse, and Edgar had been a tall man. The rope swing Mavis's daddy had hung from the oak's branches was still there, frayed now with age. When she was a girl just beginning to notice that boys were good for something other than teasing, Mavis used to sit in that swing and dream about the handsome man she'd marry someday. Edgar hadn't been all that handsome, but he'd been a good, decent man who'd loved her with all his heart, and she'd loved him with all of hers. Mavis wanted to lay his memory to rest in a spot that was special to her no matter how much hard work it took to dig the grave.
Before the sun climbed high overhead, Mavis gave up on the shovel and started attacking the rocks and roots with a pickaxe. She worked up a serious sweat as she got into a steady rhythm with her swing.
It felt comforting to be warm. The sun wasn't much good for that these days. The sky as far as she could see was filled with the same dark, ashy clouds that had been there the day before, and the day before that. The clouds made the sun look like a pale, pitiful ghost of itself.
She should have started with the pickaxe, but the pickaxe had been in the heavy equipment barn, and that had been Edgar's place. Mavis didn't like to go in the barn anymore. The tractor and cultivator and corn harvester they'd put themselves in debt to buy were her husband's babies, and they looked forlorn and abandoned without Edgar to take of them. No one had used the machines since her husband left to fight in the war. Mavis doubted anyone would ever need to use them again.
The life Mavis and Edgar had worked so hard to build for themselves was gone. The farmland might have been in Mavis's family for generations, but Edgar made it bloom. He'd planted hundreds of acres of corn year after year, an ocean of green that stood eight feet, ten feet high, almost as far as the eye could see. All that hard work had finally started to pay off. This year had looked like the second in a row their family farm would turn a profit.