My Granddaddy is a farmer. That means he has to wear thick overalls all year, even when it’s July and too hot for cooking with the stove. Farmers can’t ever wear shorts. He also drives a tractor in the field, but that’s not his regular car. His regular car is a yellow and white pick up truck. My mom says we aren’t allowed to ride in the way back with the tools and the rusty water can, but she stays in Dallas so she never knows that we do.
Grandma works at a store called The Inlook Outlet. She tells everyone she sells “ladies ready to wear,” but I don’t know what that means. I can’t wait until I am a size 8, because the prettiest dresses come in size 8. In the back of the store are rolls of material that the ladies who use patterns buy. There’s a built-in ruler glued to the counter by the cash register where my Grandma measures out yards. I guess some people would rather make their own clothes. Maybe they aren’t size 8.
When I visit my grandparents, I split my days between Grandma’s store and Grandaddy’s farm. When I go to the Inlook Outlet, I get certain special chores since I am the manager’s granddaughter. I get to sort the hangers and eat the Saltines that are always in the break room. After 5:00 PM I get to run the vacuum cleaner. There’s a little pushie vacuum cleaner that you don’t plug-in that my Grandma sometimes uses, but it doesn’t work so good, so it’s better to wait until the end of the day to use the real one with the motor.
When I stay with Granddaddy for a farm day I get to see the cows and do stuff that no one back at school gets to do like touch the salt lick or take the wire off a hay bale. Grandaddy doesn’t talk much, and he can’t hear a thing. We always have to say everything twice to him on account of he lost his hearing riding tractors all those years. Now he wears special earphones when he’s on the tractor. They look like big rubber doughnuts attached to a headband.
It’s not as much fun to stay with Grandaddy because farmers don’t do much on a single day. There’s lots of driving around and checking on things. One day he takes me to a place where they fill the back of the pick up truck with real cow manure. That’s what farmers call cow poop. Anyway, heaps and heaps of it are loaded into the pick up. I don’t sit in the back that day. When we get to the field Grandaddy asks me to help him shovel it out. It smells so bad I want to puke. I put a red bandana from Grandaddy’s pocket over my face and hide behind him while he shovels. The craziest part isn’t even the smell of the manure. Nope. It’s the big fat mushrooms growing in that manure. Yep. Mushrooms as big as my fist are suck between all those mounds of manure. Grandaddy tells me to grab the mushrooms so we can eat them for dinner. I don’t know if he was kidding but I won’t touch those mushrooms even if the Baby Jesus asks me to. Now I never eat mushrooms at their house.
When I ride the tractor with Grandaddy I get bored. We go up a row, and then down a row. All day long. I bring a Three Musketeers and a thermos full of water so I can keep him company. When I get tired, I ask him to let me off. I walk back to the house by myself because I want some of that crunchy peanut butter that Grandma buys at Hickerson’s. Grandaddy finds me, and he’s really mad because I left him out in the field with all those rows of black dirt. He doesn’t say anything, ‘cept “Why’d you abandon me to eat lunch without me?” He slams the cabinets kind of hard and makes himself a sandwich.
I wish I could say I am sorry. I know I’d have to say it twice, but I can’t even say it once. We chew our peanut butter sandwiches without talking, and I hope he forgives me for sometimes being so bored that I act up.
Later that day, I ride the tractor for at least 10 rows before I ask to get off. Again I run back to the house. I make him a big glass of water, and I even use the ice pick that Grandma says I should never, ever touch to get some frozen chunks for him. I walk back to the field and hold it up high over my head so he can see it from his tiny seat in the tractor. He sees me. The ice has melted in the heat, but he drinks every last drop. I hand him half of my Three Musketeers even though Grandma says he doesn’t have a sweet tooth. He takes it and says I am a good sidekick.
I know I am forgiven.