Reaching for a match in his pocket, the old man shuffled across the wooden floor of the cabin to the coal-oil lamp by his rocker. Once lit, he slipped the glass chimney back on and turned up the flame. Chauncey, the golden lab, stirred slowly in the corner. Sleep was always elusive the night before his grandson arrived; Harry likened it to the same feelings he had as a child on Christmas Eve.
Harry unfolded the note from his pocket and slipped on his horn-rimmed spectacles.
“Want me to read the note again,” Harry asked the old dog with droopy eyes, normally dead-asleep this time of night. The dog yawned and stretched, then sat upright.
“Dear Grandpa Harry,
I am very excited to spend all summer with you and Chauncey! My friends in school don’t believe some of the stories I tell them about my time with you. They’d like to have a Grandpa that teaches them how to hunt and fish and do woodworking and chop firewood. I told them about our camping trip up in the mountains and how we had to hang the food up in the trees so the bears couldn’t get to it. They all want to come with me.
You told me to make a list of things I wanted to do this summer so I made a pretty long list. Here is some of it:
- Go to the swimming hole.
- Go crawdaddin’
- Go camping again
- Learn how to tie flies
- Make a birdhouse
- Cut firewood for you for the winter
- Take Chauncey to the state park and explore the Gladys Wither’s Memorial Trail
- Learn how to tie knots
- Learn how to identify birds
- Learn how to garden
I’m sure we’ll find a lot of other things. I showed my list to my teacher and she said I ought to write about some of these things for a class project. She’d really like to meet you someday.
Well, I gotta go. I’ll be up in a few weeks.
P.S. Tell Chauncey I’m bring him some big chewy bones.
Harry leaned over and cupped his hand around the chimney and softly blew out the light. The old oak rocker creaked slowly with only the sounds of the old man and the dog breathing. Presently, the rocking stopped and the old man began to snore.
Chauncey’s woof awakened him as the sound of a car sped up the graveled lane. Ethan was here!
“Lord have mercy, you’re strong, Grandson,” Harry chuckled as Ethan hugged him. “Its sure good to have you here again. Chauncey and I get pretty lonely when you’re not here.”
Chauncey sniffed the bag hold the leather collar then bolted after Ethan as he raced to the cabin.
“Let’s go get ready for the swimming hole, Chauncey. Last one in’s a rotten egg!”
Shortly, the old man, dog and young lad piled in the ’49 Ford Pickup with a sign on the door that read,Withers and Son Trucking. Harry put it in gear, pushed in the clutch and the truck slowly crept down the drive. Presently, Harry popped the clutch and the truck roared alive.
“Wow! How did you do that?” Ethan laughed. “We have a remote start for our car and I’ve never seen anyone start a car like that. And we don’t shift like that either. Will you teach me how to drive when I get old enough?”
“Well, how about I teach you right now,” Harry said. “We’ve got to cross Old Man Leonard’s pasture on the way to the Swimming Hole and that’s where I taught your Daddy to drive when he was your age. Now’s as good a time as any.”
“But I don’t have a license,” Ethan said. “Won’t I get in trouble with the cops”
“Not unless you tell them,” Harry chuckled. “It’ll be okay. Every farm kid in the country has learned to drive this way. Now you can have something else to tell your class when you go back.”
“Oh, man, my buddy Kyle is going to be so jealous. I’m telling you, Grandpa, you could run a camp up here in the summer just for my class mates! They all want to meet you and learn the cool things you teach me.”
“Well, that sounds like a grand idea but things are different now with parents than when I was a kid. No one would think a thing about me teaching an 11-year-old boy to drive back in my day, but I’d probably get sued nowadays by some parent thinking I was being irresponsible. I’m just hoping your Mom doesn’t get mad at me.”
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that,” Ethan said. “In fact, she often tells me that each time I come home from spending time with you I’m just a little bit more grown up and that you’re teaching me how to be a man.”
“We talk a lot about you in my class, too. The other day we were talking about puberty and adolescence and all that junk and someone said, ‘How will I know when I’m an adult?’, so I shot up my hand and said, ‘Grandpa Harry says that you become an adult when you accept responsibility for your own actions and don’t blame others for your mistakes. He said some folks might get old, but they never become an adult because they just act like spoiled babies.’”
Harry chuckled. He pushed in the clutch and slowly pressed the brake until the truck stopped. He turned off the engine and all three piled out of the truck.
Harry walked around the truck explaining how the drive train worked, what made the engine run and the importance of caution and safety.
“Now it’s your turn,” Harry smiled at the nervous boy. “Hop in and fire it up.”
Back inside the cab, the old man explained what the foot pedals were, how to slowly lift off the clutch and press on the gas pedal at the same time to begin. After several minutes of herky-jerky-stops-and-starts across the pasture, the young man gained control of the vehicle.
“Me and Chauncey thought you were going to give us whiplash a time or two,” Harry chuckled. “But you’re doing a mighty fine job of it. Now lets go over to that part of the pasture and I’ll teach you how to back up.”
All that morning, the pickup could be spotted tooling around the pasture with grinning young boy behind the wheel, a happy dog wagging its tail in the middle and an old man with his arm draped out the window, occasionally giving instructions.
“Reckon it’s time to head back to the cabin,” Harry said. “You’ve done a right nice job of driving this old truck around the pasture. We’ll have lunch and go to the swimmin’ hole this afternoon.”
Back at the cabin, Harry swung the barn doors open and pulled the truck inside.
“I like the sign on the door,” Ethan said as he rubbed his hand over the lettering. “Withers and Son. That has a nice ring to it.”
“Well, Grandson, I think it’s time to get rid of the sign. The lettering is starting to fade. I’m going to get rid of it.”
“But why would you do that,” Ethan asked sadly.
“Well, it’s time for a new sign. We’re taking the truck in tomorrow to get ‘er all spiffed up and have a new sign painted on it.”
“What will it say?”
“Withers and Grandson Trucking Company,” Harry smiled. “After all, this is going to be your truck someday so it might as well have your name on it.”