Through The Eyes Of Old Timers

Pappy finished the cut and whipped the cape off the kid, who was magically transformed into a really respectable-looking young man. He put his glasses on, hesitated when he glanced in the mirror, and stormed out. I got the broom out of the back closet (stealing a glance at “Miss June 1969” hanging on the wall inside the closet), and started to clean the floor. Neither Pappy nor I said anything. He returned to the chair with the paper and a sigh, and when I was done, I told him my dad was across the street and I’d see him later. “OK, buddy.”

An Imperfect Resolution

On the following Saturday, we found ourselves in the same places, but it was closer to noon when the door opened, and I recognized the student from the week before, who had an older gentleman beside him. Pappy was in the middle of a cut and froze for a second without looking over.

“Uh … sir.” The kid, now facing my grandfather, was stammering as his father stood beside him, his hands behind his back. “I have to apologize for last week.”

He held out a fistful of money, which Pappy took.

“I got the job. My dad here thinks it was mainly because of the haircut. He may be right. I am sorry.”

This is the point where I would love to tell you that Pappy winked at the father, forgave the boy, and handed him back half the money. But none of that happened.

Pappy didn’t say a word. He put the money in his pocket and kept cutting. I stared in awe as if I were watching fireworks on the Fourth of July. The kid and his dad simply retreated and left quietly. I never saw them again in the shop. I think the lesson was learned when the kid apologized, but I think it was really set in stone when “I’m sorry” wasn’t enough to reverse what had been done. The kid got a real lesson that day, and so did I. After they were gone, Pappy winked at me, and the silent wisdom of that “Old Timer” didn’t escape my eye either.

A Glutton For Punishment

I have three sons-in-law. They are sharp fellows, but being young they often think they know more than they really do. My father-in-law, called “Papa,” sometimes offers them advice that they disregard simply because, you know, he’s an “Old Timer.”

When he watches them disassemble something, he reminds them to take each nut and bolt off slowly, and leave them in the general area where they were removed, in the same order in which they were removed. He explains that this helps during re-assembly, but one of the boys in particular always ignores the advice, leaving a pile of nuts, bolts and miscellaneous parts which invariably he cannot re-assemble accurately.

Papa just shakes his head. Then he decides to get even. He waits until they step away from the task for a few minutes then puts three or four extra screws, nuts and bolts in the pile from his tool box. Then when they try to put the project back together, there are several extra pieces. The boys go crazy. He just sits at a distance, laughing quietly to himself while they curse and spit. Not once has he broken down and told them either. I hope for his sake they don’t read this piece. He has too much fun watching them sweat.

Outtakes From Grumpy Old Men

There’s a corner lot across the driveway from my parent’s house that has been vacant for years. The two families whose yards bordered the property planted a community garden there, which they weeded and watered, and made clear to all the families in the immediate area that the vegetables were theirs for the picking; many a salad on our table was made from the lettuce, tomatoes and carrots grown there. The two homeowners (Mr. Livengood and Mr. Kujanek) loved working in that garden, watching those vegetables grow big and fresh.

Each man, in competition, would stare out his bedroom window in the morning and look, look, look through those leaves to see if a red tomato had shown through yet. One day when I was in the garden, I looked up and saw Mr. Kujanek staring out the window of Mr. Livengood’s bedroom. Mr. Livengood wasn’t home, but his wife had let Mr. Kujanek in, and for some reason he kept looking out of that window. He developed an elaborate scheme in which he would tie a Christmas ornament (tomato red) to a stake, and nestle it into the green leaves of the tomato plants to trick Mr. Livengood into thinking a tomato was visible. He was in Mr. Livengood’s house trying to determine exactly where to place the bogus tomato.

Sure enough, the next morning Mr. Livengood went racing into the garden in his bathrobe to pick the first ripe beefsteak tomato, but came up with only a shiny ornament that read “Merry Christmas.” Peals of laughter came from Mr. Kujanek’s bedroom. He opened the window and yelled, “Hey, Ned! Whatcha got there?” The two of them howled and laughed like a couple of wolves. This went on for years between the two, and is a story that really never gets old, even though now it is told by Old Timers.

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