It was flattering to be with him
the sole PhD on staff
that buoyant superiority of being the chosen one
a child and parent. No one else. Exclusive.
Code red. Almost harvest time
a tobacco farmer has identified an unidentified disease
only one paddock
a single angry pimple on a clear complexion
isolated outbreak or farmageddon?
Father and son – farmer and apprentice are waiting
the PhD is a local boy made good
he speaks their language and knows their history
as they know his
the companionable ease of a family physician of many years.
Enquiries of mothers and brothers
daughters and fathers and new offspring
sport, weather, commodity prices.
“ Now this problem.”
Fields of tall, proud, green nicotine
one of diminished height, acne splotched
“ like dog balls,” says the expert
commencing a series of questions.
Temperature, irrigation rates, humidity. Anything unusual?
Puzzlement trails into a head scratched afterthought
“ spray rate?” 35 mg per litre the reply
is that the specified application? They think so. Better check.
Correct. In bold green letters on a white container
expertise couldn’t be certain
but fungal infection cannot be dismissed
accompanying sample bags are filled
At the lab, samples are thrown into the incinerator
open-mouthed astonishment… shouldn’t they be analysed.
“Its spray damage.”
Wasn’t spray applied at the appropriate rate?
Exactly. Farmers don’t talk of milligrams or litres
but of handfuls and bucket loads.
Too much has been used. Face-saving is what this is about.
10 days later a letter is written.
An isolated outbreak.
A placebo for red faces to friends and bar room associates
they have their affidavit.
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