Growing up in the country has a long list of advantages. I mean, how many of you can smell cow manure and immediately think, "Mmmmm. Smells like home!" You couldn't convince me it was an advantage to live in the country when I was about twelve. I decided to peddle Grit newspapers as a way to earn extra cash. Riding 5-6 miles round trip on my bike to peddle less than 25 papers wasn't the easiest thing I ever did. A friend of mine who lived in town could find 25 customers within a block or two, but...I lived in the country!
Living in the country meant quiet nights with chirping crickets in the summer time. It meant windows open with cool night breezes blowing across the bed. It meant the fresh scent of sweet corn growing a few feet outside my window. It meant fresh fruit and vegetables all summer, the tenderest beef I ever had anywhere (literally) and family gatherings with watermelons and homemade ice cream.
Occasionally, though, it meant dark times. Being far from streetlights can make you forget just how dark a night can be. Like the night I heart a strange sound that seemed to be just outside my bedroom window. No moon was shining that night and, try as I might, I couldn't see what was making the noise I heard. What it sounded like was someone pushing our rototiller around. I ran that little tractor and I knew well the sounds of those wheels turning. What sounded like the wheels spinning slowing around their hub was, every few seconds, accentuated by a sudden "CLANK". I happened to know that a couple of blades were off the 'tiller and laying near it; we took them off frequently to narrow the cutting width so we could till between vegetable rows. It sounded like someone was rolling the 'tiller away and picking up the blades to take with them. "We have a robber right outside my window," I thought. I was scared!
I slipped out of my room and stepped down the hall to my parents bedroom. "Dad, I keep hearing a noise and I think someone is trying to steal the rototiller," I said anxiously. He got up and led me back to my room. Quietly he stood and listened. I nervously stood behind him. Finally, he walked to the window and raised it completely; I was ready to bolt!
Dad took the empty frozen orange juice can that we used to prop up the window and said, "Here's your thief." Inside was a little hardshell bug that had flown down into the can and couldn't get out. It would fly around the perimeter of the can a few times (sounding amazingly like rototiller wheels!) and, frustrated, make a fast dash trying to break out through the side of the can: "CLANK!"
I have lived about a half century since that night and never forgot it. I knew where to turn when times were gettin' dark. I would that every kid had a dad whose strength and unconditional love would see them through childhood and prepare them to face the dark times that inevitably cloud life. On this Father's Day I pause to gratefully remember my own dad. This is my 22nd Father's Day without him, but he left me a lifetime of memories to cherish.
Happy Father's Day!