By Mike Hixenbaugh
The sun is cresting over the horizon, and I’m riding through pine forest in the bucket of a front-loading farm tractor. Seated next to me is a 17-year-old home-schooled boy I met a few minutes ago. We’re clinging to the edges of our makeshift metal seat, our legs dangling in front of us as the tractor rumbles along a muddy trail, past swampy thicket and cow pasture, deeper and deeper into middle-of-nowhere Tidewater.
We hit a rut that rocks the tractor front to back, sending me flailing a short distance into the air and down hard against cold steel. Another kid, the burly one behind the wheel, laughs and brings the tractor to an idle. “I’m sorry!” he shouts over the rumbling engine, though his lingering smile tells me otherwise.
And that’s when it hits me: This doesn’t feel like an interview with a wildly popular indie folk band on the verge of a major record deal. I should be sitting in a sleek downtown condo sipping imported craft beer and asking cliché questions. Who are your biggest influences? When did you start playing that guitar? Is this real mahogany? I shouldn’t be riding through the countryside folded inside a rusting farm implement.