The old man worked his way methodically through the meadow, his long cloak brushing through the tall summer grasses. It was almost dusk and he still had a lot of work to do before the Solstice was over. On this, the longest day, he had been up before dawn setting out his traps along the ley line than from the ancient gnarled oak and down the hill towards the brook. It was a pattern he had repeated twice each year for longer than he could remember. It had been well over a hundred and fifty times by his reckoning. Although the summer had always been easier than the winter, these last few years were really taking their toll on him. His joints ached but he would soon be finished. He recalled how, all those years ago, as a young boy, he had bounded through the fields, full of enthusiasm as he had learned his trade from his predecessor. How he had been scolded and told to slow down and feel the rods to make sure they were placed perfectly and had done their deed.
He had thought the tradition would continue forever, and be passed down for generations to come, but he was wrong. First, the Great War had taken so many from the village and then the revolution that brought technology had relegated so many of the old ways to mere folklore. He was truly amazed at the speed of the change. He had no apprentice, and over the last few years he had resigned himself to being the last Collector.
As he reached the final rod he carefully unfastened the iron jar from his belt, traced his forefinger over the runes on the lid and removed it. With a clockwise twisting motion he extracted the iron rod from the ground and gently tilted the hoop over the mouth of the jar with practiced, steady hands. He muttered his short incantation and gently tapped the hoop, watching as the sunbeams slowly, almost reluctantly, drifted into the jar. Replacing the lid, he added the final rod to the quiver on his back and turned to watch the sunset.
This had been another good harvest.
© 2016, Richard Reeve