Starting when Grandmother looked after me while my mom worked at the Metal Products factory in Madison and Martha was at school, I tagged along with him whenever and wherever I could. And when I got a little older I spent most of my summers with him.
There is absolutely no transition.
If Grandmother said, “Marwin [that was Granddaddy’s name], I can't cook y'all any breakfast without milk," he would put on a battered fedora, and I’d ask “Can I go?” and he would say, “I reckon, I reckon,” and I’d follow him out to his beat-up, never-washed truck, and he’d say “Hop in,” and off we’d go to Hanson or Pinetta. ?because it was kind of boring sitting around with Grandmother,
But about the fedora: He always had a new one and an old one. He never wore caps. The new one, always gray, had a velvety look, but the material was probably felt wool, and he only wore it to church.
After a year or so, its brushed surface would darken, and sweat stains would emerge like rust, and the fedora would lose some of its shape and begin to collapse, and it would eventually become an old fedora, and Granddaddy would grudgingly buy a new one.
Grandmother told us never to touch the new fedora.
And about the truck: When I was just a wee child, it was a 1948 black Dodge, always smelling of smoke and dust. It had a crank just beneath the hood in case it wouldn’t start. And the starter was a springy accordion style pedal that you had to mash down while also pulling out the choke on the dashboard.
|His truck was like this, but black.|
It was quite the routine! It required coordination and plenty of patience, but Granddaddy had no patience, so -- especially on cold mornings -- the starter and the choke and the accelerator all failed him and he would shout some words that I was told never to say. I was a little uncomfortable when he got that angry.
If Grandmother happened to be in the truck, she would offer advice that Granddaddy did not want. Even though she didn't know how to drive, she sounded like she was tutoring a young, dense student, her tone laced with scorn, chiding and griping.
This would make Granddaddy even angrier, but he would pretend the &$%!!#& truck was the source and target of his rage.
|I was about 6 when he bought this truck.|
We knew better. Sometimes, I thought it was me, but that was a completely irrational assumption, and I made many, many more of those as a kid. Maybe I still do.
Anyway, back to the milk. We would usually go to Hanson, mostly on a one-lane sandy road with a big mound separating the ruts.
I once saw Granddaddy show affection to Grandmother.
|Grandmother on a happy day|
One very cold and drizzly day, while Grandmother and I huddled around their little house's wood stove, Granddaddy went out to water the cows. When he got back, he walked up behind her and with no warning put his ice-cold wet hands on her neck, and she let out an angry half scream, half shout, and he echoed this noisy protest with a pretend scream of his own, then cackled and looked at me and smiled, while she muttered and grumbled and fumed on the way to the kitchen to get him some coffee.
He would never have done something like that to someone he didn't love.
Finally, about the coffee: He would stir plenty of cream into it, then pour some onto a saucer, then hold the saucer up to his mouth, blow on it a while, then sip it, hardly ever drinking from the cup.
Just for the sake of history, that ritual was not considered strange back in those days. In fact, when you stopped by to visit a friend, you'd often be greeted with, "Come on in the house! I brewed some coffee and it's already saucered and blowed!"