My Grandad on my Mother’s side of the family was quite a character. He was born in 1900 and saw many changes in his life. He raised a family as a share cropper during the depression amid some very difficult times. Times were so bad during the 1930’s that he took his whole family west on Route 66 to work in the fields and orchards of California. He and his family were some of the “Okies” that John Steinbeck wrote about in The Grapes of Wrath, living in the squalor of the camps on a starvation diet. All of those hard times gave him a unique outlook on life that his grandsons (myself included) loved to poke fun at, but secretly admired.
Grandad loved to fish and taught most of his grandchildren the joys of what my daughter jokingly referred to as “trash fishing”. However, all his experiences also gave him a very colorful vocabulary. I remember many times my mother griping to him about his language and how her ‘darling’ boys would come back from his house with new words.
She just never understood the value of properly used curse words. Not the random words we would pick up at school that were just blurted out in times of frustration. No, Grandad knew how to string swear words together in phrases and cadences that were the admiration of all the teenage boys - and the bane of all their mothers. These had to be filed away for special occasions because to repeat one within Mother’s hearing got both grandparent and grandchild in big trouble. Most of the conversations and adventures I had in my early years with Grandad began with, “Now don’t tell your Mother”. As a young boy, anything that begins with those words has your attention.
Grandad also had a habit of jumping to the worst possible conclusion in instances where all the facts were not known. I remember one summer he was helping us with the wheat harvest. This was the first year Oklahoma had passed the law requiring inspection stickers on all vehicles. It was obvious that whoever passed that law knew nothing about farming and wheat trucks.
The average farmer’s wheat truck was a 1948-to-1950-something truck that was driven for about 3 weeks out the year. The rest of time it was home to various families of mice, rats, opossums and raccoons. It usually took about 1 week of work to get the tenants evicted and to get it to run for the 3 weeks of harvest. No one had time to get them inspected. If they had, not one in ten would have passed. Every wheat elevator around had wheel chocks at the entrance to their scales and were ready to throw them in front of the trucks without brakes. So for several years we farmers did our best to avoid the highway patrol.
This year Dad was unable to avoid the long arm of the law and had gotten a ticket for not having a sticker by the same patrolman who had the nerve to give my Grandad a ticket for running the stop sign by his house. Grandad thought that since he had been pulling onto that same highway at that same spot for 60 years that the traffic should stop for him. He was pulling out there with a team of mules when there was not a highway but just ruts in the prairie. A hard habit to break – not that he intended to try.
Part II- A Good Truck – coming soon…
--Post by Mr. H