Childhood Haven

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2012

Childhood Haven

A paradise on earth! A place of wonder, a place of joy! That was Grandma and Grandad’s homestead on the outskirts of “Smalltown,” Idaho. As my dad turned our shiny new 1957 Ford up the pebble-paved lane toward the old farmhouse, my heart raced in anticipation of the fun time ahead.
Ford
Turning onto the dusty driveway, I beheld their little log house shaded by a jungle of quaking aspens. The leaves quivered and rustled in the breeze with the muffled din of a hushed audience before the play begins. Scattered throughout the large aspen were pine trees that firmly stood as bulwark giants pointing toward heaven. Bounding out of the car in little-girl fashion, I hurried toward the walkway, which was surrounded with fluffy, pastel carnations neatly lined up like pretty maidens. Their sweet fragrance permeated the old-fashioned porch that led to the front door, as if to lure me further inside.
          Eagerly darting through the front door, the flowery scent dissipated as I was overcome with the inviting aroma of Grandma’s homemade rolls. After a few warm, snugly hugs from my apron-clad grandma, she dashed back to her old wood-burning cook stove to finish the meal she was preparing.
          Seeing the dust from our arrival, Grandad, in his striped overalls and scruffy beard, began making his way to the house. He usually entered the back door just in time for dinner. Grandad smelled of hard work and Skoal chewing tobacco, and I couldn’t wait to get closer to him, taking a running leap toward his outstretched arms. How I loved to snuggle close to him and just…SNIFF! As I tried to curl up on his bony lap, his whiskers scratched my face, but I didn’t mind. Whisker burns on my cheeks were a symbol of honor, because it meant Grandad loved me!
          True to form, Grandma’s piping-hot rolls melted in my mouth. Her cooking was fit for royalty, and the scrumptious meal left me feeling satisfied and ready for a nap. As the adults sauntered into the living room for a more relaxed visit, I headed for my favorite place to doze: Grandma’s lap! She was as spongy and cushiony as Grandad was hard and stickery. Oh, the comfort of nestling into Grandma’s pillow-like form! The gentle, rhythmic creek of her old gray rocker, mixed with the beat of her heart, lulled me into a hypnotic-like trance. Aunt Marijane softly played “The Old Rugged Cross” and other favorite hymns. As I slumbered against Grandma’s breast, the simple melody of the piano was transformed into a heavenly symphony, and the quiet conversation going on around me was as angels’ voices from afar.
          Refreshed from my afternoon snooze, the greatest challenge of my farm experience was to begin. Grandma draped a basket over my arm and sent me on a “treasure hunt” for the next morning’s breakfast. With the driven energy of a pirate in search of a precious stone, I trekked to the favorite hiding places of Grandma’s prized hens. High-spirited after my discoveries, I would proudly present my “egg-shaped” gems to Grandma and wait for words of praise to stream from her lips.
 Eggs
          When it was time for Grandad to trudge out to the pasture and bring in the milk cows, he was accompanied this time by a chattering granddaughter, besides his usual companion, a black cocker spaniel named Sparky. Four of my steps equaled two of Granddad’s. Sparky scurried ahead, stopping periodically to check on us with tongue hanging out and tail wagging, as if urging us to hurry.
          Along the way, we could hear the quiet lowing of the cattle as they contentedly grazed on the rich green meadow. Grandad’s gruff voice interrupted their blissful indulgence as he hollered “Here, Bossy, Bossy, Bossy!” In a few minutes we heard the familiar “clang, clang, clang,” from the cowbell around Bossy’s neck. This meant the promenade had begun in obedience to Grandad’s call. We turned and headed toward the barn, with the lumbering bovines behind us.
Cow2
          As we left the freshly-rained-on grassland and approached the barnyard, the distinct and pleasing whiff of the damp earth, the wet hay, and a cow pie or two, became more dominant. Once inside the barn, milking time was to me what a trip to Dairy Queen is to kids today. As soon as Grandad lined the cows up in their stalls and pulled out his three-legged stool, I knew it was time for me to scamper into the house and ask Grandma for my little aluminum cup. Back in the barn, with a cheesy grin, I boldly positioned my cup directly under the cow’s udder as Grandad squirted the white frothy liquid into it. It tasted better than a milkshake, and I guzzled to my heart’s delight. Then, for the cherry on top, Grandad pointed the nipple toward me and squirted the raw milk directly into my mouth. Grandad’s barn had Dairy Queen beat, hands down!
          After a day of vigorous exercise, exposure to farm life, and a warm lavender bubble bath, my body felt limp as Grandma lovingly tucked me into bed. Her lilac perfume, mixed with the line-dried sheets, were a sharp (but pleasant) contrast to the outdoor scents I had been enjoying all day.
          What seemed like seconds later, a friendly salutation awakened me; it was Hector the rooster, who was as dependable as the army bugle boy.
Rooster
Following a hearty breakfast, we began the daily chores. Grandad, donned in irrigating boots and shovel in hand, lumbered out to the field to dig corrugates with a happy-go-lucky granddaughter skipping alongside him. The deep green, dew-coated alfalfa became an emerald lake as it glistened in the first light of day.
          While waiting for Granddad to finish corrugating, I sometimes wandered over to a nearby ditch to watch the industrious water skippers magically scoot from one side of the trench to the other. They seemed to be competing in a rousing sport unknown to the human species. It was grand entertainment for a little girl enchanted with her grandaddy’s farm.
          The days ahead were full of numerous adventures that exposed me to “real life” and instilled in me a love for the land. Though a few days later I was back in the 1957 Ford, returning to the doldrums of city life, my heart stubbornly remained behind. A tear dribbled down my cheek as I waved goodbye to my haven on earth. And I was sure that I saw Grandma dab at her eyes with her apron too.
Apron
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