It was said that it was the pitchfork that had caused him to be struck. He had been carrying hay out to cattle and it was said that the iron prongs of the fork had served as a conductor for the bolt of lightning that had killed him. To an impressionable young mind it was a story that suggested the world was a dangerous place; if sudden death could come to the gentle fields of our village, then was there anywhere that was safe?
The boy thought that the world was not just a dangerous place; it was an unjust place. The lightning strike had occurred before the boy was born, yet it somehow burnt a deep furrow into the idea that there was a natural fairness in the world; it denied any thought that people received their just rewards. The farmer had been remembered as a quiet, softly-spoken man, a man who had worked hard all his days; his family were gentle people, people who laboured hard and who spoke kindly of all.
The house stood alone at the foot of the hill, a tranquil place surrounded by a garden that was abundant in fruit and vegetables. There seemed an incongruity between the context and the event, how could a moment of such devastating violence and terror occur in our green and pleasant village?
The incident, when recalled, was a matter of fact, there was no speculation other than whether the pitchfork was responsible or whether something else metal had allowed the conduction. Had we been religious people, perhaps there would have been an attempt at some explanation, no matter how unsatisfactory, but we were not.
It being more than fifty years since the quiet house in the well-tended garden was first passed, it is odd that the story of the lightning has remained so fresh. The man’s family were young when he had died, they were middle aged when the boy first met them, but he always wondered what it must have been like to suffer such an experience. Dying was a fact of everyday life in the country, burials took place in the cemetery at the end of the road, it was not the dying, it was the manner of the dying; sudden, arbitrary, freakish, frightening.
The world seemed always a dangerous place to the boy who heard the story. If such a chance, random, destructive moment could happen, then what else may lurk out there?