Monday, August 24, 2009

More Cook's Tale

When we first moved to Oklahoma from California my mom’s mother warned her that we’d only last six months and come “crawling back.” About a year later we were still there though and had moved a couple of miles to a larger farm owned by preacher who said we’d be able to buy the place after a year of leasing, and my dad’s folks had moved into a little house about a mile from us.

The new place sat on 40 acres adjacent to the cemetery that now holds my grandparents, my great-grandparents, and assorted aunts, uncles and cousins and which sits directly across the road from the land my grandparents farmed as a young couple in the ‘40s. My parents will be buried there, and I imagine I will be as well.

There, we still had our milk cows, a couple of new pigs, plenty of chickens, a couple of ponies, one Shetland and one Welsh, and a pair of ducks named George and Martha who would walk side-by-side down the long driveway every evening. My dad was still trying to make it by doing farm labor and my mom had taken a job through the state as a caretaker for an old couple up the road.

It wasn’t as wild as the first place on the “mountain” but it was still pretty cool; we sunk a borrowed wash tub trying to cross the pond to the tiny island in the middle, built huge forts out of bales of hay, and Uncle Mike helped me with my shifting by clocking me on the knee with a fifth of cheap booze every time I popped the clutch or didn’t shift smoothly while driving his drunk ass around on the back roads. I collected terrapins for a while, naming all of them after tanks, and keeping them in the bathtub while I was at school. When I got home I’d let Patton, Sherman, Panzer and Juggernaut roam around the house until one day one of them crawled across my mom’s bare foot while she was cooking (she wasn’t pregnant), all crawly things were then summarily banned from the house and I moved my platoon out to an empty rabbit hutch.

One day, Kelli and I went out to collect eggs from the hen house. Kelli was doing the actual collecting, I don’t remember if I was holding the eggs, or just goofing off, but I do know that she stuck her hand into one of the shadowy wooden boxes where the hens nested and let out a scream that would have made a B horror flick starlet envious and was out the door. I never saw the snake that she had grabbed instead of an egg, didn’t even know it was a snake, I just knew that I’d better do my best to at least keep up with her

Before long, Dad accepted that he was never going to make a living hauling other peoples hay or digging their potatoes for a share of the crop and went back to what he had been doing all his life, driving truck. Like me, his first driving had taken place in the fields, but he had started even younger, standing in the seat to see over the dash as the truck moved down the rows in low gear as my grandpa threw sacks of potatoes onto the bed.

Dad and I by one of the trucks owned by my grandpa and great uncle, 1967.

His new outfit was a small trucking company in Checotah, a small town about 30 miles away. With them he hauled a little bit of everything and I was able to go with him during the summers. I loved those rides, sitting so much higher than everyone else, even at 10 years old, the absolute power of riding something so big and heavy, the chatter on the CB, my being “Little Scout” to my dad’s “Trailblazer”, falling asleep in the sleeper to the drone and rocking of the truck as Dad drove on. To this day I still love the smell of diesel smoke, and have an embarrassing love for the hokey old trucker songs that I used to listen to on the truck’s 8 track player as I sat in the cab playing trucker for hours while the truck sat in the driveway.

One of my favorite trucks was the ’52 Peterbilt that he drove when he first started driving again. I rode with him once to Muleshoe, Texas with a load of grain, returning with a load of tomatoes. In one of the storage compartments of the sleeper we found a tattered copy of the novelization of Star Wars, which I read for the rest of the trip.

The '52 Pete

I learned that preachers lie, just like everyone else, when, as our lease neared its end, his son showed a sudden interest in the farm and we had to move again.

We made a trip to Muskogee and looked at mobile homes and ended up buying one, which dad moved with the Pete to our new home in a trailer park in Checotah. In two years we had gone right back to where we had been in California, Dad driving truck and Mom driving school bus, but the plan was to get back out to the Lenna area, this time on our own land.


Maria said...

Aw...I wish your Da could have had success with his dream of farming. I grew up on a farm in Iowa and I always laugh when people talk about how "idyllic" farm life is. It can be beautiful, but my family worked hard from daybreak to dusk. And I used to be TERRIFIED to stick my hands in the hen's nests that were in the back of the hen house. I was SURE a snake would bite me. Now, that I've read about your sister, I KNOW I was lucky.

Eric said...

She didn't get bit, but she definitely got a handful of snake. My mom had done the same thing not too long before checking the rabbit hutches for babies.
Dad's always loved trucks and trucking and is still driving at 63, so I think he's ok with the way things turned out.