November 24, 2013

Papaw's Farm


[Re-published from a dormant Hub Pages account by the author]

Grandpa was a mechanic when he needed a real job. The rest of the time he was a farmer, a hunter and just a good ol' country boy. His farm was on a country road way off in the boonies of Arkansas. When he would take us kids to town with him we would always go with trepidation and excitement as we both loved and feared Grandpa. One thing you certainly knew, he would put your stomach into your throat as he gunned the old '59 Cheverolet Apache over the rises in the road. "Stop it, grandpa!" we would scream. All the while grinning like a horse eating saw briars.

My fathers dad was a true man of the depression. He had an eighth grade education but didn't let you look down on him for it. He read books and conversed incessantly throughout his life. What he didn't know he'd find out and if you knew more than him, well, he didn't acknowledge that it made you any better. One thing you could never do is outwit him. You see he had something a lot of folks spend a lifetime trying to get and never make it. He had common sense and an amazing way of judging people by one look in the eye and one shake of the hand. It wasn't just a firm handshake, salesmen learned that one early in their career. No he just had a sixth sense about folks. I remember more than once that we'd meet someone and they'd seem well enough to me. Grandpa was always courteous and would talk as long as you wanted to. Then we'd walk away and grandpa would say, "I don't like that feller." matter of factly. We would inquire and try to get the goods as curious kids will do. He wouldn't really let on anything though, just say he could tell, and that feller wasn't right. In my life I've never found him to be wrong. Mostly it was just people that turned out to be a little full of themselves or couldn't really be trusted.

Grandpa's farm was right beside the railroad tracks. We kids loved to lay in the grass in the front yard and listen to the train coming. Many miles away you could hear the wistful moan of the train horn as it crossed the few county roads in the area. We would lay with anticipation, the sun shining on our faces, the cool grass tickling our sides. Slowly you would begin to hear the rumble of the iron beast on the tracks as it approached the farm. The county road that led to grandpa's house crossed the tracks about 200 yards from the house. As the train came ever closer we would inevitably jumped when the horn blew right before the train roared by the yard only 40 feet from where we lay. Being far off in the country the trains were going full speed through here and the rushing sound and the click click of the steel wheels on the tracks was as loud as a stock car race.

The yard was not really kept so much as used. There was a small patch up front that was mowed, but most of the rest was either pasture or worn down dirt paths that led to the various elements of the farm; chicken coop, pig sty, barn, corral, tire pile, old ringer washing machine, outhouse...etc. I remember vividly 40 years later when I was a young lad and I was playing outside at grandpa's. The diverse environment of the farm was ripe for a young child's imagination. I invented fantasy worlds and played vigorously. I found myself on top of the wringer washer one morning pretending it was my space machine and I was swerving in and out of the stars, physically bouncing around. Suddenly, I noticed a black wasp flying around very close to my face. Being raised in the country I was not afraid of wasps but I had a healthy respect for them. Now, however, I remembered my grandpa saying that black wasps don't sting, it may indeed have been a 'dirt dauber'. Bravely I swatted at the impotent insect like a galaxy bug at the mercy of my lasers and photon guns! Soon, the enemy retreated and with much satisfaction and pride I continued dodging the stars. Suddenly a swarm of red wasps appeared! Frantically I swatted, now in a defensive manner greatly animated compared to the prior assault. My lasers were useless and photon blasts simply bounced off of the determined galactic invaders! As I jumped from my imaginary cockpit I felt the sharp pain of the counter attack visited upon my bare upper body. Three maybe four successful dive bomb attacks sent me screaming into the house. The wood screen door with rusty screen slammed behind me, only punctuating my blood curdling screams! Grandma found me in the kitchen and immediately saw the welps from the wasp stings growing red. By the time grandpa came around to see what the ruckus was, the calming love of grandma's attention and the baking soda paste was soothing the life threatening battle injuries.

"What in the world is all the caterwalling?" Grandpa yelled! Grandpa's voice projected like an auctioneer with a megaphone. Grandma's continued attention to the injuries answered the question. With devastated eyes I looked at grandpa and whined, "You told me that black wasps don't sting!" I cried. "Why, they don't son! I wouldn't pull your leg." he assured me. "But you didn't tell me that they would go get their friends!" I wailed!

Later that weekend having recovered from my intergalactic battle with the space bugs, I was completely thrilled to have found a litter of kittens beneath the wooden steps at the back door of the house. Braving the weeds and grass that most certainly contained enemies galore I was able to reach one of the furry little critters and began playing with it at the steps. The mother appeared and nervously paced and meowed as I teased the kitten with a string. As I played an old rooster appeared and strutted his way closer and closer to the wooden steps. The nervous cat now meowed loudly and attempted to grab the kitten by the knape of the neck. Believing that the rooster was the source of her trepidation as opposed to the large human child I began to move toward the rooster and 'shoo' him away from the area. "Get outta here you ol' rooster! Leave us alone." I yelled confidently. After all size is power to a young boy. It's a rooster, what is he going to do? I persisted in flaying my arms and yelling as the rooster's strut became much deeper and faster. Finally, in a millisecond the 5 lb. bird jumped and flew right into my midsection! The force of the blow completely surprised me as well as emptied my lungs of all the air within. Not knowing what a solar plexus was or how a strike there could completely halt breathing my mind instantly locked with fear and puzzlement. I want to breathe! I need to breathe! But I can't! My God, this evil creature has killed a little boy simply trying to protect a cute kitten! How unfair is this world? How can this be? Help! Help! Slowly, the muscle spasm in my rib cage subsided and my breathing was restored...much to the chagrin of grandpa as this only facilitated the next blood curdling scream and dash to grandma's kitchen, wooden screen door slamming behind. ( Did they use little boys to test these doors? They last forever despite the abuse) As the story was told my grandparents began to chuckle slightly at the little boys tale of desperation and murder! Soon, I found myself in my grandpa's lap, the water cooler providing a strong cool breeze of humid air. The dark living room cluttered with memories and furniture. My hand held on to the huge thumb of the wrinkled calloused hand, my head lightly against the chest. As I again spun my tale of the evil attack, grandpa simply said, "He flogged you!" "He flogged me?" I inquired. My fear and pain instantly replaced by the MOST powerful emotion in a little boy...Curiosity. "What's flogging grandpa." "It's how they defend themselves, that's all. You scared him." he informed me. A short moment of silence as the little boy worked this information over in his mind. "I scared HIM?" I asked. As the answer came the little boys chin rose slightly till finally he rose to sit and face his grandpa excited by this momentous turn of psychological warfare. And within that minute the fear and puzzlement of a small mind became pride and power.

I seldom knew if my grandpa was aware of what he was doing with our moments that we had. What I do know is that I miss him dearly and have for almost 30 years. Not a day goes by that I do not think of him. If you ever stumbled and said, "I can't...." to grandpa he would immediately reply in his booming voice, "Aww CAN'T never could do NOTHIN!" This was repeated hundreds of times in my life with him. There is no doubt that it affected me in a very deep way. My sense of determination and 'can do' attitude has my grandpa's fingerprints all over it. I love you Grandpa, I miss you. I have done my best to pass your wisdom on to my boys and grandchildren.

by: Keith D. Rodebush

In Memory of Archibald Rodebush (Rodie)

The Potential of the Free


[This article was originally posted on a now inactive Hub Pages account. It is re-published here by the author.]

As I walk through the country my soul is softened by the natural environment. The most profound thoughts of my life have occurred during these times of solitude. I notice the life around me and the struggle for it to continue. Plants attached to nothing more than rocks extend roots deep into any crevice offering anchorage. Plants of the cactus family have waxed 'leaves' to funnel any moisture to the root system below for recovery, storage and incremental use by the plant. Long drought periods can be survived in this manner. Lizards scurry about pausing in any shade that provides a brief respite from the direct summer sun. Trees shut down large portions of the canopy and enter an almost hibernation mode to minimize the energy needed to survive through tough conditions. What these observations invoke in me is a realization that the life around me is an example of...freedom. "How, sir, can life which is a slave to its' environment be free?" A very astute question indeed.
     Can life be free if it is completely enslaved by the environment in which it exists? While it seems that this question should solicit the obvious answer of 'No' as the question itself acknowledges enslavement, a closer examination and observation elicit another possible answer. A man who is dropped into the wild with no assistance or contact with the outside world may be bewildered, but no one would doubt that he is free. He is free because the consequences of his actions from that point on are entirely of his own making. The laws of physics and chance still hold power over him as it does in all of the known universe. But his ability to survive, excel and reap rewards of his labor are directly related to the energy, thought and ingenuity he puts forth to the effort. What makes him free, regardless of the limitations of his surroundings is that physical law doesn't change. He can see, hear, smell and otherwise perceive the conditions of the place in which he now resides. Once the limitations of this environment are realized he knows exactly what he is up against and may respond accordingly. In this environment, he is rewarded for positive labor and keen observation and intellectual responses to such. He is punished for sloth; and failure to recognize and respond to possible danger may carry the ultimate price. But he is free. Free to decide for himself how fruitful or generic his life will be. Some of the greatest inventions of mankind were realized in circumstances of Man overcoming his natural environment. Indeed, life enslaved to its' physical environment is nevertheless free to respond to that environment and either reap the reward or receive the punishment for those responses.

Beauty of Nature And Man
Beauty of Nature And Man      So what is the purpose of this intellectual exercise? The purpose is to understand that freedom and liberty are innate characteristics of the human condition. Man yearns to be free, not because of selfish desires to escape his destiny. The opposite is true, he yearns to be free to realize his destiny. Therefore, this to be protected at all costs. It is ony by way of liberty that we can reach the full potential of this glorious life we have been blessed to receive. Groups of humans must have limitations on behavior for the protection of our innocent neighbor, an unfortunate byproduct of free will. However, we must be ever diligent to minimize this control. Imagine if silly zoning restrictions prevented a few guys in a garage from developing the personal computer as we know it today. Imagine if environmental concerns had stifled the invention of the internal combustion engine. Imagine if restrictions and regulations had prevented the development of vaccines for polio, measles and many other devastating diseases. Our nation has achieved untold wealth and prosperity which has been primarily used to diminish hunger, disease and tyranny worldwide. Billions...yes, billions of people live better freer and more fruitful lives because of the foresight of a handful of men and women who yearned to be free, and pledged their fortunes, property and lives to that end. We have been given this torch of freedom to pass on to the next generation. Let us protect it's light, warmth and inspiration with our fortunes, property and lives, that future generations unknown to us will reach their glorious human potential.

by: Keith D. Rodebush