Saturday, July 18, 2009

88 Years; A Memoir

Howdy, kids. Gather 'round, I implore you. Yes, that will be fine. Just don't put your feet up on the cushions, please.

Would you like a juice box?

Heh. Juice boxes. Back in my day, juice only came in cans. Technology, you're a fickle mistress! Left me behind years ago.

You would? What flavor? Doesn't matter--they're all the same mixture of corn syrup and colored water. Cherry? Fine.

A story? Why, of course. What would you like to hear about? Jeremy? A story from when I was your age, eh? Kids, that was a long time ago! I don't know if I can remember any. I'm 88 years old, you know. What's that? No, Jennifer, I didn't get to ride a dinosaur to school. That was a few years before my time. Horses, yes.

Horses? Well, they're sort of like dinosaurs, except that they're hairy. In fact, when I was a younger man, we used horse hair in everything. We used it in our car seats and in our draperies and I remember I even had a counterpane stuffed with horse hair.

What's a counterpane? I'm not entirely sure, Braden. It's sort of like a quilt, except that it's part window and a part counter. That was a long time ago, and things have changed a bit since then. I don't know if they even make counterpanes any more.

Did I ever tell you I served in World War two? Indeedy! I was a Thompson gunner. Or maybe I was a medic. It was a long time ago, and I'm tired a lot these days. I do remember that I had to hide in holes a lot. Maybe I was a sniper.

A sniper? Well, Lizzy, a sniper is sort of you know what a lemur looks like? You do? Good. How about a hay wagon? Yes, like the ones you ride in on Halloween. Well, a sniper is sort of a cross between the two.

They help soldiers, yes. Did I help them a lot? Did I ever! I remember when our unit was in Montana, and we were pinned down by--Montana? It's a place in Europe. It's where chocolate and watches come from, if I'm not mistaken. When you get home, ask your mommies and daddies about it. Maybe they will take you there some day.

Where was I? Oh yes. Nebraska. I was driving a milk truck and my co-pilot and I were lost. GPS? Oh! No, no, Jennifer. We didn't have GPS back then, goodness no. It would have been wonderful, and I'm glad I have lived long enough to see it.

Braden? Could you bring grandpa his flask? Thanks little fella. What's in it? Well, maybe I'll tell you when you're older.

Okay, okay! Settle down, kids! I'll tell you now, I suppose. How old are you, Braden? Five? I suppose that's old enough. I will now lean down, wincing as my old back bends, give you a roguish wink, and ask that you not tell your mommies and daddies where you learned about flasks, because I am a free-spirited and mildly deceitful old coot.

Flasks are what grown-ups keep their mouthwash in so they can carry it around with them. Well, Jeremy, when you get old, you have to use a lot of mouthwash. It'll happen to you some day, bucko!

What's that? Coots? Oh, well, coots are like squirrels except that they have really long ears and little raccoon hands. They like chocolate, if I'm not mistaken.

Yes, there are a lot of coots in Montana.

Eh? Whussat? I am sorry, Jeremy. I am merely emitting rusty and good-natured chuckles because what you have brought me is not my flask, but a Zippo brand lighter.

Chuckle! I will tell you, Sarah. I don't think you've spoken the whole time! You're still the quiet one, I see. A Zippo lighter is a lighter that is made specially to set Zippos on fire. A Zippo is a big animal that lives in rivers. It's a nasty habit, kids, and I don't want to hear from your parents that any of you have started it. Please put the lighter back where you found it, Jeremy. There's a good lad. I don't use it any more, and I would just as soon keep it out of sight.

Did I ever tell you that milk used to come in trucks? Yes! This was back before plastic was invented, so there were no containers around to put milk in, so it had to go in trucks. Every morning, the truck would come by, and a man would get out and unhook a hose from the back. All us kids would line up on the curb, and the man would squirt some milk on our cereal with the hose. He would smile, and we would give him a dime, and we'd go back inside and eat our breakfast.

I drove a milk truck when I was just twelve. I believe I had a co-pilot who got me lost a lot too, but he might have been a Thompson gunner.

Well, when you get old, your memory tends to wander a bit.

Oh, goodness! Was that the doorbell? Well, would you look at that--four o'clock already. Time does fly! I will see you kids next week. Remember what I told you about the flask! I am making a zipping-up motion across my lips, as you can see, so take that to heart.

Grandpa's going to bed now.


  1. This is really good.
    I want I coot. I think it sounds cute.

    I think I would like to see a Zippo in a river.

  2. A Zippo? I thought that was one of the Marx, wait. That was Zeppo, I think. Anyway, funny stuff, here.

    CCG: You can find coots at pretty much any farmer's market.

    For me, instead of a coot, I'll take one o' them flasks.

  3. Sometimes coots come with flasks. It's their nature!


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