My parents story is a sweet one. They grew up in the very small town of New Holland, Illinois in the hard scrabble 1920's and 30's. By small town I mean a community of around 200 in the heart of the black earth farm country of central Illinois. They lived a block apart but because of a three year age difference did not really discover each other until both were out of high school and World War II was a fact of life. Dad was a young Navy pilot and mom a rural school teacher when they fell in love and got married.
Every summer my mom, dad, brother and I would spend at least one week of dad's vacation in New Holland visiting both sets of grandparents and assorted aunts, funny uncles and cousins. My maternal grandfather died when I was only eight but Grandpa Copper, a very relaxed fellow indeed, stuck around until I was well past my 28th birthday. He was a major character in what, to my young eye, appeared to be one of the requirements of living there.
As a grade school aged kid I would often accompany Grandpa on his daily rounds. He was what most folks would call retired but that didn't stop him from having a routine that managed to fill most of his days. He dressed for it too. Every morning he would put on a suit, tie and fedora before walking to the small New Holland post office to get his mail. His first stop was always the front porch of his pal Floyd Wendell. Floyd, like Grandpa, was a gentleman farmer who had long ago left the grind of crops and cattle for life in town. After remarking on how much I had grown and how much I resembled either my father or my mother, the two would talk of grain prices and the weather. A stop at Virgil Crumpler's gas station was next; the same topics of conversation were on the menu along with complaints about the price of gas. I was always amazed at Virgil's ability to keep a plug of tobacco in his head in spite of having a single digit compliment of teeth. No Grandpa round was complete without a stop at the one and only grocery store in town owned by Wilbur Buce. There was usually a list of items written in Grandma's hand that needed to be secured and "put on account" before we headed home in time for Grandma's scolding about forgotten items . The bank, my Uncle Louie's S&L Lunch/Bar, and finally the post office rounded out the obligatory daily stops. We were most always back at the house in time for lunch and a gander at the farm markets report on Peoria television before it was time for Grandpa to tune in a ballgame so he could "rest his eyes". Day over. Mission accomplished. ZZZZZZ
What started me thinking of Grandpa and his ever so busy days was the recent realization that I too have begun to fall into a similar anticipated pattern of behavior. It's not quite as predictable but give me time, I'm only 70. Grandpa was still a man about town into his late 80's and early 90's.
Here in North Idaho, in an effort to slug away at my "10,000 steps a day" regimen, I often start with a stroll through the park where a chat with Paul the squirrel guy is always entertaining and enlightening. "Pauly Walnuts" is a former New Jerseyite who knows more about squirrels than anyone should. He treats the little fuzz balls of the park to hazel nuts, red oak acorns, chestnuts and other exotic seeds. It's fun to see how smart the little clowns are. Paul and his wife, Donna, have names for most all of them and I've witnessed how the squirrel kingdom recognizes their car when they arrive each morning. I don't want to be around if they ever miss a day.
The post office is usually my next stop as there is, in spite of email, often something that must be dropped in a mail shoot. After that I often chat with Walt, a fisherman who never misses a day of angling. Every morning I watch as he pulls in bass, pike and assorted pan fish while his mouth grips an ever present corncob pipe. In the four years I've been here I've learned of his life in the Coast Guard, his failed marriages, battle with the bottle and his career as a country singer in dive bars from California to Idaho. He's a very nice man who gives away most all of his daily catch to neighbors and people in need.
After my Walt stop it's time to head home through the park where Griff, Mark and some of the other maintenance men and women make our city park one of the prettiest in the nation. Sometimes they have time to share some gossip of happenings not usually seen in a public park. For example a recent incident regarding a couple and their bucket list of love was topic A. Perhaps we'll save that for another post. Yep, no time for that now. It's nearly 4:30 and I don't want to miss the early bird specials at either I Hop or Denny's. I think I'm fitting into this curmudgeon thing rather nicely.
|Walt reeling in another one.|