Harry looked at the black and white wedding photo on his night stand as he sat up in bed. Taken more than 70 years earlier, it was the last thing he looked at each night and the first each morning.
“Gladys,” he said, picking up the small frame. “I sure wish you were here to enjoy our Grandson. My goodness that boy is good for my soul. Somehow the lad has conned me into taking him to the old swimmin’ hole today. I don’t reckon I’ll tell him you and I used to go skinny dipping there. Don’t want to traumatize the children, we always said.”
Harry looked at his cane leaning in the corner of his room as he fumbled to button his shirt. Oddly, he never used it when Ethan came over for a visit. Something about his 11-year-old grandson’s presence made his step lighter, his old bones not ache as much and his heart, happier. He heard a voice in the other room of his log cabin; Ethan was talking to Chauncey, the golden lab. Harry rose and walked across the old wooden floor to the door.
“Hi Grandpa Harry,” Ethan spoke softly as the golden morning light filtered through the window. “I was just telling Chauncey we were going swimming today. Does he like to swim?”
“Oh, of course he does,” Harry chuckled. “That’s what he was bred for – swimming in cold water to retrieve ducks and geese that had been shot by hunters.”
“So, do you think he’ll go swimming with us today?”
“Go swimming? Grandson, you’ll never get him out of the water once we get there. Let’s get breakfast on and we’ll go after the chores are done. It’s going to be another hot one today.”
“I was telling the kids in school about doing chores with you and a lot of them didn’t know what farm chores were. I told them about giving hay to the cows and getting the eggs from the chickens and scooping cow poop out of the barn. That grossed some of them out! We all live in the city so we don’t ever do things like that.”
“Don’t you have chores at home? Harry asked incredulously.
“Not like what we do here. I have to make my bed and make sure my rooms clean, but that’s about it. Oh, and make sure the dog has food and water.”
Harry scratched his chin thoughtfully.
“So, the teacher made me write a list of all the chores I do with you like chopping firewood, cleaning the fireplace out, milking the cow and slopping the hogs. They had never heard of slopping the hogs, so I had to tell them it was just a term you used for feeding them. The kids want to milk the cow, too. We saw something like that at the state fair, but we didn’t get to try it.”
“Well, they can milk ole’ Bessie anytime they want,” Harry chuckled. “As long as there is hay in her bunk, she’ll let anyone milk her.”
“They wanted to know what it was like to milk a cow and I told them it was kind of like squeezing yogurt out of one of those things we get in a tube.”
“Well, I don’t reckon I know what you’re talking about, but I’m glad you like it.”
“Yeah, I told the kids that Bessie was brown and one of them asked if chocolate milk came out of her.”
Harry laughed. “There has to be a jokester in every group! I’ll bet that kid thought he was funny.”
“No,” Ethan said sadly. “He was serious. So were some of the other kids that thought that, too.”
“Really?” Harry was incredulous. “How does that even happen? Do they not know where their food comes from?”
“Well, most of the kids just think food comes from the grocery store. They don’t have Grandpas like you that live out in the country and have animals. They were kind of freaked out too when I told them that you butchered a hog and a steer butchered in the winter so you could have the meat and sell some of it.”
“Don’t they eat hamburger or bacon?” Harry was astonished.
“Oh, yeah, they all love hamburgers from Mickey D’s and everyone loves bacon. They just didn’t know it came from animals.”
“Well, I’ve heard of a lot of strange things in my life, but I have to admit this is the strangest,” Harry pondered. “Might be a bit far to bring all your friends up here, but it appears to me a trip to a local farmer near you might be good idea.”
“Hey, I have a great idea,” Ethan blurted. “How about I take pictures of you and I doing farm chores then I can show the class. The teacher and the kids always like to hear stories about you and Chauncey. Plus, it would help me get good grades!”
“I like that idea, Grandson,” Harry smiled. “Now, lace up your boots and let’s go tell Ole’ Bessie that people think she gives chocolate milk. She’ll probably laugh so hard she’ll snort milk out her nose.”