Farmer’s Sidekick

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.


60 thoughts on “Farmer’s Sidekick

    • I was so sick of my neurotic mommy voice. I needed a break. I started thinking about this memory when I saw that Farmer commercial during the SuperBowl. Brought up all these memories. Yeah Write editors will not approve, but what can I say? I”m an outlaw.

  1. Oh. I adore this. So beautifully, simply written. (Deceptively simple, I’m sure.)
    Makes me miss my grandpa – not a farmer, but a bit of a cowboy. Not Dallas, but Austin. Gruff and hard-of-hearing, but full of love in his own way.

    • Oh Austin. Damn, I love Austin and the Hill Country. I definitely should have made this shorter, but sometimes when memories are involved, the posts are really for me and my family. Thanks for reading.

      On Tue, Feb 12, 2013 at 10:03 AM, Outlaw Mama

      • No way – I wished it were longer! And it’s great to write for yourself and your family – just a bonus that the rest of us enjoy it so much.

        I really miss Hill Country… I haven’t been since my grandma moved in 1998, after my grandpa died. I have great memories of visiting them.

  2. Reading accounts from your past always refreshes my childhood memories and i enjoy this. I wish I wish I could express my memories as eloquently as you do. Keep writing girl!

    • It’s brings up so much stuff. When I write this stuff I end up bawling myself to sleep for all the weight of memory and how crowded out the past gets with the present and the future. I want to capture it before it flits away forever.

      Love and miss you!!!

      On Tue, Feb 12, 2013 at 10:14 AM, Outlaw Mama

    • Every time I think of them lately I get all teary and want some rural therapy, which is hard to come by in Chicago. I imagine your younger voice is as hiliarious as your adult one…would love to hear her sometime.

      On Tue, Feb 12, 2013 at 12:07 PM, Outlaw Mama

  3. Such a simply, and beautifully, painted picture of an idyllic childhood memory. Loved it.

    Brought back lots of happy memories of gardening with my uncle as a child. Those were the days.

    • Like standing on the edge of a field with no one around except your mostly deaf granddaddy who’s sort of pissed at you and you can barely see him up in the driver’s seat????? yes. Exposed. Hate it. Time for a new word to describe something that I hate that is also useful, necessary and the sine qua non of art….what is that???? EXPOSURE. Vulnerability.

      Ok, now I am writing a post in my comments.

  4. Love this. What rich experiences for a child to grow up with. At least it seems that way to me, a child of the suburbs. My mom grew up in farmland and couldn’t wait to get away. I would stay away from the mushrooms there too. 🙂

  5. You did a great job conveying the voice of your younger self and making these memories so real and vivid. Such great childhood memories I’m sure. I can just picture you standing there with that glass of water perched on your head!

  6. Oh, I love that you wrote about little you and I wrote about little me this week! And I love the memories you have here — from those awesomely important tasks at your Grandmother’s store and the tedium of riding up and down the rows in the fields. Loved this!

  7. So fun to write in the child’s voice, isn’t it? You did it superbly. Almost makes me want to go back to Texas. Although, you know if you keep writing these sweet posts, you’re going to lose your outlaw image. . . 🙂

  8. You are one of the most charming writers I’ve ever read (gush). Never know what I’m going to get when I come for a visit and I love that about you! Young you is a hoot and I love this story especially the Inlook Outlet. Mushrooms in cow poop…dis-gusting!!! Awesome memories! It wasn’t so long ago I road in the back of a pick up and it was as fun as I remembered it being so many years ago.

    • God, OSHA would have a field day with some of the stuff I did back there at the farm. IT was another place and time. I miss it dearly. Thank you for the affirmations– they made it to my heart. I am grateful.

  9. I may not be the first to say it but it doesn’t mean I feel less strongly about it: You absolutely nailed the voice of a child in this! I spend most of my time with children but I don’t think I can get in their heads like that anymore. Your details set the scene so well.

  10. I am a little behind on my reading. That being said, I am so happy to have read this, Christie. Your writing brings back so many sweet memories of your grandparents and my grandmother. Memories of you, Susan, Julie and myself. I will keep those to myself, just in case your mother is reading.

  11. I’m not sure how I missed this post! It brought tears of nostalgia to my little farm girl eyes. I loved the point of view. My gram also worked at the clothing store in town (called Country Flair!). I very rarely got to ride in the back of the pick-up, and I know cow manure smells a lot better than pig shit. By the time I can really remember, my grandpa was more of a land baron than farmer, but your granddaddy sounds like my dad–a man of few words.

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