Just imagine it is 1958, you are 18 years old and you have been hard at work in fields on the family farm all day.
Today was a hot one! The Oklahoma humidity has relentlessly kept your body as wet as a well used dishrag at the local diner. Your neck, long ago tanned leather from the sun, is hot and your hands are sore. You hear a rumble and a rattle in the distance and you straighten out your aching back as you stand up from the irrigation ditch. It’s been a long day. Your eyes follow the straight line of the canal and there on top of its spine coming toward you is the farm truck. You shade your eyes as you try to make out who is driving the old Model T style pickup, with its hanging rear fender, long-gone back bumper and it’s calico paint. The sun conspires against your efforts and so you simple bend over and continue moving the pipes up out of the water and scoop another shovel full of muck up and out onto the grass. Whew! It’s hot.
After a minute or two the truck arrives in slow swirls of dust and comes squeakily to a stop. The engine sputters, belying health, and then the motor switches off. You straighten once more and see the driver is your father.
“Water jug in the back.” He slams the door with the necessary energy to overcome its sagging angle and worn latch mechanism.
“Don’t mind if I do.” You ram the shovel into the soft earth at the water line and climb out of the ditch, making your way to the back of the truck where the galvanized water jug sits, the beads of sweat a promise of something cool inside. A dusty tin cup sits nearby where it rattled its way across the bed. Using the inside of your shirt you clean it out and then fill it with the refreshing water. Without a breath you swallow down the water and then refill, this time taking two breaths in-between gulps. It is wonderful! A cup of semi-cold water, can change a person’s whole outlook on life.
You hang the cup back on the dangling S-hook, knowing it won’t stay, but good habits are hard to break. Turning back to the ditch you are surprised to see your father in it. He is wearing his own rubber boots and putting his back behind shovelfuls of sucking mud. You walk up not sure what to say – this was your job and you hope it doesn’t mean you weren’t doing it.
Without looking up your father speaks with a grunt. “You can take the truck back to the house. I need you to go get some gasoline for the tractors.” Another protesting shovel of mud.
“Yes sir.” You are surprised to say the least. Your father was supposed to be in town all day on business and wasn’t expected back until dark.
“Ma’s got the money. You can get something for yourself, if you like, with the change. Just keep it small.” He still hadn’t looked up.
If I like!? You say to yourself. Wow! Outwardly, you appear unexcited. “Yes sir.” You don’t wait for your father to add anything or change his mind. You walk quickly over and get in the old truck, again slamming the door and then checking it for a secure close. You press the starter with you foot and ease it into 2nd gear. As you pass your father you shout across the cab and out the passenger window. “Thank you!”
Your father doesn’t reply, but lifts his hand up over his head in a sorta wave. You are sure you saw a smile on his face though, as he hefted another irrigation pipe up and out of the way. You disappear in a swirl of dust, squeaks, and rattles.
As you move the gasoline pump handle over to the last of the jerry cans, you hear music as a car pulls up. Just as you turn your head laughter reaches your ears – that crystal clear note of a young woman’s laugh. Your eyes find the source. It is a new white and baby blue Chevrolet Bel-Air and the top is down. That’s not all that grabs your attention. Inside are three pretty girls from town. You don’t stop to consider what they are doing out here at this little petrol station, only stare with your unabashed admiration of the car and its contents. The girl in the back seat waves as her two companions occupying the front seat stare back. You smile and wave back. This brings a giggle and a wave in return as they motor up to the pump next to yours.
Remembering the jerry can you look back just in time, as the gasoline spills slightly over the top. Hurriedly, you screw the top on and slide the can off the tailgate into the truck bed. Replacing the dispenser handle you brush your hair off your forehead and glance over at the shiny car and the radiant girls. The two in front are singing to the tune of the radio, trying to draw your attention and impress you, but the third is just sitting there quietly, now in the shade of the overhang, looking directly into your eyes. Your heart skips a beat as she smiles again. She is very pretty! You slide the nozzle home and step across to the Bel-Air and say with the bravery of a blistered, strong, muddy, dusty-faced farm boy.
Okay, turn your imagination off now! Man, sorta makes one miss the ‘Good Ol’ Days’! Here’s the story behind the story and the picture: We were driving through Oklahoma and visiting the place where my grandfather and grandmother grew up, Guthrie. We had to make an emergency potty break for one of the kids and found a suitable-sized pullout to be able to stop and turn the trailer around. This is where we stopped. As business was being attended to I walked around and this is what my mind’s eye saw – this story that I just told you. I couldn’t help but be nostalgic for a life that I had never quite known. I took quite a few pictures; my wife watching, wondering what in the world was I doing.