Why, it seems like just yesterday that Granddad and he had
built the fireplace in the den complete with gas lines and
artificial logs and all. The two of them would lie in the floor with
their heads on pillows, propped up in front of it after dinner each
day for a little nap before Granddad had to go back to work. "Let's
Make A Deal" was on the TV, but he and Granddad didn't usually see
more than a few minutes of it, because they would fall asleep and
then Granddad would wake up a few minutes before having to leave for
Granddad worked with a good friend in the painting business.
He had taken his grandson with him on a few jobs but he was too
young to be of much help and really didn't like actually being there
as much as he liked the idea of being there with Granddad. There was
that one time, however, when Granddad was working for a lady who
wanted her porch painted
Granddad was to paint the inside of the house and the
exterior walls. The price was set and the job was agreed to. The
lady who owned the house later decided that she also wanted her
screened-in porch painted the floor of it, anyway. Granddad was
almost finished with the job and decided that, since the deal had
been made already, she could hire his grandson to do the porch. He
would show him what to do and give him very specific and simple
instructions on how to do it and guarantee his work. The lady agreed.
Granddad told him how to stir the paint, how much to get on
the brush, where to start, and how to do it from beginning to
end. "Have you any questions?" he asked. There were none.
Honestly, he hadn't listened very well or, if he had, he didn't
follow instructions very well. After about three hours Granddad was
finished with the outside and came around to check on his young
apprentice only to find him putting the finishing strokes on the
floor. It looked very nice it would have looked nice for anyone,
but especially for an inexperienced teenager. There was only one
thing wrong; and, while the youngster didn't see it yet, Granddad did.
Kindly, but firmly, Granddad said, "Son, did you pay
attention to what I was telling you earlier?"
Most pleased with his work, the boy thought his mentor was
complaining about the quality of his nearly finished job. It was a
hot day and he would much rather be swimming or sitting in the shade
of a tree or fishing or even watching TV in an air-conditioned room
than sweating over smelly paint! With more than a little frustration
in his voice he replied, "Of course I did. Don't you like it?"
"It looks very nice, all right. But, why didn't you do it
like I told you?"
"If it looks all right, what difference does it make how I
"You may not think it matters now, but you'll see later
that it matters."
The boy didn't like that answer, but he didn't say any more
about it. He really thought Granddad was just being silly and old-
fashioned about it, anyway. It was good enough. Not to worry, he
thought to himself, my way is as good as his. He'll see
He kept on thinking that until he only lacked a space big
enough to kneel on being finished. It was then that he felt his feet
touch the sidewall of the porch. His way wasn't as good, nor was
Granddad's as silly and old-fashioned, as he had thought. There,
painted into a corner, he learned the value of experience.
(To Be Continued).
H. L. Gradowith
He thought of the time Granddad had taken him squirrel
hunting in the woods near Greenway. It was where Granddad had hunted
when he was a boy. He was excited! He had hunted before, but not
with Granddad. As they drove to the woods in Granddad's GMC pickup,
both were quiet. He didn't know why Granddad was that way, but he
figured it had something to do with being a man so he decided that he
had better be quiet too.
They left the highway and turned on to a smaller paved road.
After a few minutes they turned to the right, onto a gravel road.
About one mile later the gravel road veered hard to the left but
Granddad slowed the pickup down and went over a bank to what was
nothing more than a dirt trail.
Had it been earlier in the year they would be driving between
two sections of a farmers' soybean field; but had it been earlier in
the year they wouldn't be going squirrel hunting. The truck came to
a stop about three-quarters of a mile later at the edge of some old
Granddad had his .20 gauge automatic (which would later be
given to the boy himself) and the boy had a .22/.410 over-under
single-shot. As they loaded up, Granddad set down the rules no
shooting unless each was in plain sight of the other, no using
the .22 except on shots high up in a tree, keep the safety on at all
times until the shot was selected, etc. He never knew there were so
many rules to hunting, but he had never hunted with Granddad before.
As they were making their way into the woods, before they had to be
quiet, Granddad told him of how things used to be. He spoke of his
own father, and of jobs he had worked through the years, of World War
II and the work camps he had been in here in the United States. It
was all very interesting to the boy he liked that sort of thing
When they came to a spot Granddad liked, they stopped and
stood for quite a while. The boy didn't like standing still at all.
He didn't know just what they were doing, or why they weren't doing
something else, but he was as quiet as possible.
After a while, Granddad said, "Did you hear that?"
He hadn't, but said that he did anyway.
"Follow me and don't shoot until I tell you to. Be as
quiet as possible."
He followed as quietly as an excited and awkward and clumsy
teenager could. Dead leaves, sticks, and size 13 triple D cowboy
boots don't make for a quiet stroll
"Do you see it, son?"
"Up there in the lower branch of the first fork in that big
oak. Don't you see it?"
Granddad guided his eyes with his hand and the boy saw it.
"Shoot it, Granddad" the boy whispered excitedly.
"Quiet there. I want you to shoot it."
"Do you think I can?"
"Yes Take the safety off the .410 barrel and line the sight
of the gun up with the squirrel's head."
The boy removed the safety and raised the stock to his
"Do you have him sighted in?"
"I think so."
"I have it."
The boy was shaking with nerves and excitement.
"If you're sure you have him lined up, slowly pull the
trigger. Don't jerk steady as she goes."
He did. The squirrel fell. They did that several more times
that afternoon. Granddad never took a shot. The boy never forgot it.
H. L. Gradowith
He and Granddad had built a brick bar-b-que in the back yard,
but he must have been too young to remember much more about it than
that he had helped build it. The only time that he had even
remembered it being used was on the Fourth of July to cook
hamburgers, and he wasn't even sure that was a real memory.
The Fourth of July was a big day in his hometown. They had a
parade (in which he often participated with a baseball team float
or in his other grandfather's police car). There was a big picnic
too, complete with a carnival. Granddad's house was only one block
from the picnic grounds, and only two blocks from the parade. That
made it a sort of resting station for family and friends wanting to
get away from the crowd and heat and into an air-conditioned room.
Most of his Fourth of July memories were pleasant. Riding
the carnival rides, watching the local little league ball teams play
even playing himself one year on the All-Star team, eating
watermelon at Granddads', working in one of the hamburger booths It
was such a fun time.
There was one memory, however, that was neither pleasant nor
fun. It had started a few days before the Fourth when he and a
friend had done something terribly wrong. They weren't bad boys
not yet, anyway, but what they were trying to do was anything but
good. Back then, boys of his age liked to smoke cigarettes or at
least to try to smoke them. Often he would smoke the butts from his
dad's ashtray. Sometimes he would steal them from an unattended and
open pack never from dads though, he counted his. I think it was
probably illegal (technically) for him to buy them for himself, but
that wasn't what stopped him from trying. Others his age bought
them, and he could have also. What stopped him was the fact that
everyone in town knew him, and his parents and the rest of the family!
He and this friend were at the creek one day a real creek
on which they played and fought Indians and Pirates and many other
make-believe enemies and they decided that they "needed" a smoke.
Neither had any money. There was only one thing to do they
would "take" a pack from the local grocery story. They didn't know
what "shoplifting" was, and "stealing" sounded very scary, so they
would just "take" a pack or two. They worked out the details and
picked their market.
His job was to distract the cashier by asking her a price for
something he didn't intend to buy anyway. His friend was to use the
distraction as an occasion to take a few packs of cigarettes and put
them into his shirt. It was a simple as that. Nothing to it. It
would all be over in a few minutes.
They entered the Rebel Market and put the plan into action.
He distracted the cashier; his friend took the smokes and placed them
inside his shirt. Everything was going to plan not bad for a
scheme hatched by two twelve-year-olds. They started for the door
cool and calm. It was then that the plan began to fall apart. His
friend was wearing a mesh shirt! The store manager took him by the
arms and shook out four packs right onto the floor! Our boy ran
but as he made it to the door he saw his aunt ________, Granddad's
daughter, looking on.
H. L. Gradowith
As he made his way back to the creek he was terribly afraid.
He prayed a long prayer in which he said all the wrong things and
asked for all the wrong "blessings" in all the wrong ways and for all
the wrong reasons.
"God, please let ________ be OK. Please don't let them send
him to jail. Please don't let him tell them that I was involved.
Please make aunt _________ forget that it was me. Make her think
that it was someone else. Please don't let mom hear of it she'd be
so ashamed of me. Please don't let Grandma or Granddad hear of it,
they'd be so hurt. Please don't let dad hear of it he'd whip me
something awful "
The prayer went from begging and pleading to promising and
"If you'll get me out of this mess I'll never steal again."
(Now that someone was caught he knew that it was stealing and not
"If you'll fix this up, I'll never smoke another cigarette as
long as I live. I'll die first!"
He sat there on the sandy banks of Sugar Creek, fully
expecting to hear a siren and see the flashing lights of the patrol
car any minute. He could already feel the tight handcuffs. He hoped
the officer wouldn't hurt his neck when he pushed his head down and
shoved his body into the back seat (his mom was a big fan of Mannix
and Columbo and Kojak so he knew just what to expect).
He wondered if the fingerprint ink was permanent or if it
would wash off. Would there be reporters and cameras? Would his dad
make bail for him? How many years would he get? Would he have to
wear striped clothes? Would they put a sheet around the commode for
him he always wondered how folks in jail could go to the bathroom
with everyone looking on ??? This was awful. How could someone so
young get into so much trouble???
After what seemed like forever it was only an hour or so --
________ came climbing down the bank to join him. The store manager
had just hollered at him, threatened him, and let him go.
"It was nothing," he said.
"They didn't even call your dad?"
"No he said I just wasn't to come back in there for six
"Are you sure they didn't just let you go so they could
follow you to where I was and arrest us both?"
"I'm sure. It'll be OK."
He hoped ___________ was right, but deep down he feared that
it wasn't over yet. He just knew aunt _________ had seen him.
Three days passed slowly and with great difficulty but
they passed. Finally the Fourth of July arrived and nothing had come
of it. He planned to eat and go to the parade and eat and ride the
rides and eat and play games and eat he hadn't been able to eat
much since "it" happened. For whatever else was lacking, he sure had
an active conscience. He thought of all the fat people in the world
and how that if they wanted to get skinny he knew the way just
steal something and worry the pounds away.
The parade was over and he made his way to Granddad's house.
He tried to be cheery and normal maybe a little too much. But, as
it happened, his faηade was not needed. He knew it right when he
entered the den. There stood Grandma, hands on her hips.
"Son, your Granddad is in the living room and he wants to see
Knowing better, he still thought it worth a try to keep the
"Does he need help with something? I can do it. I have the
time. I like helping Granddad. I'd do anything he asked "
Soberly, even sadly, Grandma said, "He doesn't need any
help. He wants to talk to you."
He made his way into the living room. Granddad was on the
couch, lying down. He never did that especially on the Fourth of
July. He cleared his throat and said, "Granddad."
"Grandma said you wanted to see me?"
"Do you have something to tell me?"
"What do you mean?"
He said nothing in reply. The air was thick enough to slice
with a knife. How he wished there had been a police car and
handcuffs and jail and all that stuff. That would be better than
this. He knew there was no use trying to get away from it. He
With all seriousness Granddad concluded the meeting: "Son,
you were raised better than that. I am disappointed in you."
He didn't say any more of it ever. That was enough. How
it hurt to know that he had disappointed Granddad. Grandma never
mentioned it again. No one spoke of it. There were no police, no
handcuffs, no stained fingertips, and dad never knew. But there's
not been a Fourth of July since that one that he doesn't think about
H. L. Gradowith