Only one grandfather graced my childhood. I never knew my dad’s dad, but my mom’s dad, everyone knew him. He was hard not to know, and even as a kid, I wasn’t sure what to think of his renown. A character, some would say. Quietly proud of him, quietly a bit scared for his inner life and his eternal destiny. As a child, I labored much in prayer for him. And I absorbed different flavors of holy hanging out with him.
Up until my double digits, it was not uncommon for my brother and me to spend a night at Granny and Daddy Hob’s house on the weekends. Farm land and left-over farm stuff–-two barns, a smokehouse, and what became a shed of sorts-–sat at the lower end of the property, sloping at the far edges to the fishing lake. We played for hours in and around the buildings, soaking up the greasy tractor and old hay smells, tinkering with rusty tools and skipping flat stones across the surface of the water. Granny called us in for lunch or supper, and Daddy Hob came in through the back door, hung his hat on the hooks by the basement door, and washed up with Lava soap in the porch sink.
Many times, my brother and I shared our stays with any and all nearby cousins. After supper and an episode of The Walton’s or Little House on the Prairie, we all lighted on a bed or the couch or the floor in a sleeping bag. The clock over the television tick-tocked in a certain Granny-and-Daddy-Hob’s-house kind of way, lulling us to sleep eventually. The next morning, always a Sunday, meant gallivanting. Must get sleep.
At the earliest, in that crisp and damp time of the morning, when the dew stuck to our tennis shoes, we grabbed the handle to Daddy Hob’s truck and slid across the bench seat. The lucky ones reached for the tailgate and flung themselves into the kind of dust that only lives in the back of pick-ups. He cranked the engine, and off we went to do what you do when you go gallibantin’.
First stop, the Minute Mart. Daddy Hob let us pick out one candy. He laughed and talked to Paul and Vivian and whoever else was stopping on their way to church or not to church. I worried for us all, skipping church and everything. But it never bothered my grandfather, or any of my cousins.
Treats in hand, we loaded up again. The wind blew our hair all the through town, across the railroad bridge, and to the farm gate. The truck lumbered over hills and across creek beds, the wind more gentle now and mingling with swirls of unfiltered tobacco smoke. We all laughed as we jostled when Daddy Hob hit some bumps in the field. The rearview mirror showed his blue eyes lost in a mischievous grin.
Daddy Hob called his cows by honking his horn in a certain pattern, very unlike my dad and his technique. Funny, the cows came to his truck the same as Dad’s cows came to his truck, no matter that he called them in such a fashion. He counted, just like Dad, and he checked the salt blocks and the feed bins. We helped as we could or as he let us. But mostly we just were there in the great wide open, counting cows and eating completely unapproved foods and laughing and listening and being bathed in spring sunbeams skipping through the tree limbs.
The morning waned. We had been gone for hours, we thought. Soon our parents came, school the next day. A Sunday gone and no church. Not the regular kind anyway.