Grandma and Charlie share a memory of Grandma and Bill the Mule -3rd place Words w/ Wings
|“Grandma, tell me a story,” Charlie snuggled down in my lap as I rocked on the front porch of the old farm house.
“What story do you want to hear, Buddy?”
He snuggled closer being tired after helping me in the garden. “Tell me about the Mule Feathers, Grandma.”
I closed my eyes, calling back the memories of long ago, of a hot summer day, and that precious Old Bill, the gentlest mule ever. “Alright, Charlie, Mule Feathers it is.”
“As I recall, it was a day much like today, all hot and sweltery. Mom, Dad and I had come to visit Uncle Jim and Aunt Edith right here, on this very farm. I wasn’t even as old as you are now, so it was a very long time ago.
“The grownups sat on the porch rocking and visiting, just like we’re doing, while I played with all of the animals. There were cats with young kittens. There were Pete and Molly, the huge dogs that made sure I didn’t get out into the road. The chicken coop was full of chickens clucking and fussing all around.
“Chores on the farm didn’t stop because someone came to visit, so after a while, the cows started heading up to the barn and the hogs started demanding their dinner. Uncle Jim hollered for me to come and help him while Aunt Edith fetched the slop bucket from under the sink.
“I was so excited. I’d never been close to a cow, or a hog. Aunt Edith handed the bucket to Uncle Jim. He set it down on the porch and hinted that I was going to carry it up to the hogs.
“Have mercy, the bucket was so big it came all the way up to here on me.” I slid my hand across the middle of my thighs. Charlie giggled as I wiggled him around.
“Then when you tried to pick up the bucket, it just about spilled. Didn't it, Grandma?”
I laughed, “Yes it did, Charlie. It’s a good thing Uncle Jim was paying attention.
“He grabbed the bucket in one hand and lifted it like it was as light as a feather. He was so strong and so tall. My arm went straight up when he held my hand walking up the road with the dogs playing around our feet.
“The hogs charged at the fence when we walked up. They knew it was dinner time. I was scared that they were coming out to get the bucket from us, so I hid behind Uncle Jim’s overall covered legs.” I laughed.
“But it was a strong pen, wasn’t it, Grandma?”
“Yes, it was Charlie. The hogs crashed into it over and over trying to be the first to get the slop and grain that Uncle Jim was feeding them. Between the noisy hogs and the cows waiting to be milked, it was really noisy.
“We left the bucket, and crossed the road over to the barn. Uncle Jim let in Mary. She was the gentlest cow. Gathering another bucket, and stool he motioned for me to come in. The cool dark barn smelled of freshly strewn hay. Uncle Jim patted the seat and told me to sit down.
There I was sitting on a stool, my feet barely touching the ground and Uncle Jim standing beside this humongous cow patting her rear end, while her tail swished at the flies around her.” I chuckled to myself. “Charlie, I must have had a bewildered look on my face. I didn’t know what to do to get the milk out.”
“That’s when Uncle Jim showed you how, isn’t it, Grandma?”
“Yes, he did Charlie. I struggled for a long time. He was very patient with me and I finally got three good squirts before Mary started losing her patience with me. Uncle Jim took over and the barn cats started mewling. They yowled and howled waiting for their share of the milk.’
“They sat up on their hind legs and caught the milk in their mouths, didn’t they, Grandma?”
“Yes, Charlie, they did. It was amazing watching the stream of milk flying through the air into their open mouths. Uncle Jim tried to get me to open my mouth…”
“But you wouldn’t do it, would you, Grandma?”
“No, I wouldn’t.” I paused looking down at the little boy in my lap. “Who’s telling this story, you or me?”
Charlie straightened and squared off to face me. “You are, Grandma. I’m just helping out just like in the garden today.”
I hugged my precious grandson with his innocent chubby cheeked face framed with sun streaked blonde curls and icy blue eyes that sparkled with mischief and wonder. It was so hard to keep from laughing at his serious, matter of fact expression.
“Alrighty, then,” I started back to rocking and Charlie snuggled back into my lap. “We finished up at the barn and dropped the milk bucket off with Aunt Edith before heading out in the opposite direction to the spring house.
“I guess there had been a lot of rain, because the ground squished through my toes as we walked up to the tiny house. The front part of the spring house was open. the stones framed the spring forcing the water into the closed part of the house. Sitting on the edge, you could see the bubbles rippling the pool of water. Uncle Jim kept a cup up on one of the rafters. We always had a cup or two cups of icy cold water when we went there.”
“It was the best tasting water in the world, wasn’t it, Grandma?”
“Yes it was, Charlie, clean and pure just like it was today. In the back part of the house, was Aunt Edith’s extra refrigerator, according to Uncle Jim but I think it was really his. He kept a water melon or two in there for when company came.
“We left the spring house, traipsing around back to where the water came out and flowed into the creek that formed the boundary of Uncle Jim’s farm.
“I played barefoot in the creek while Jim watched and whittled. When the cows from the neighbor’s farm started coming to cool off in the water, Uncle Jim decided it was time to go back to the house. We started back when Bill and Bob, the mules came over to the fence.
“They knew Uncle Jim had a treat for them, didn’t they, Grandma?”
“I guess so, Charlie, but I was surprised when Uncle Jim pulled out an apple for each mule. I watched them disappear in the blink of an eye. I couldn’t believe it. Uncle Jim looked down at me, “Do you want to ride?”
“You said yes, didn’t you, Grandma?”
“I certainly did, Charlie. Uncle Jim went between the wires of the fence and held them open for me. He lifted me like he was going to throw me to the moon.”
“That’s when he told you, you were a feather weight.”
“Yep, and he told me that Aunt Edith would fix that, if we stayed a while.” I smiled at the memories of delicious farm food that we’d shared at their table over the years.
“Anyway, my legs were still wet from playing in the creek. Bill’s back was strong and wide. My knees barely bent across his back, my feet dangled over the tops of his shoulders. I must have been a sight. I laughed as my tall Uncle Jim walked Bill around the pasture.
“The loud ringing of the bell was the signal to come on home. Aunt Edith rang the bell when meals were ready, so I knew it was time to head back. I slid off of Bill’s back, after leaning over and giving him a big thank you hug, into Uncle Jim’s waiting arms.”
“That’s when it happened, didn’t it, Grandma?”
“Yes, that’s when it happened, Charlie.”
“You hollered, ‘I’m covered with Mule Feathers!’”
“Yep, Charlie, I sure did, and as far as I knew I was covered with mule feathers. My Daddy always said ‘horse feathers’ instead of saying a bad word. So when I got down… I was covered with Bill’s mule feathers.”
Charlie chuckled, “Grandma, you were so silly.”
“That’s it, little one! The tickle bugs are on their way!” We tickled and giggled being silly as the sun set on the porch where so many wonderful memories had been made long ago.