Time Traveler

October 29th, 2009

Curtis_LeRoyIn spite of the modern need to find great evil in this nation’s past, I still have fond memories of my childhood and life as it was at that time.

My parents were hard workers and did everything possible to give my little brother and me a good, stable home. There was never any doubt in my or my brothers minds that we were loved and cared about.

I usually get upset when someone rants about what no-goods the people were during that time in our history. Being a Southerner always makes me a target of some very unfair accusations reserved just for rednecks and other assorted riff-raff. Due to my up-bringing and my resolve, I’m able to run the gauntlet most times and come out unscathed. Of course, I’m not always that lucky. My dad used to warn me about my pride and letting it gain control of my common sense. Here I am, seventy years later and just starting to understand what Dad meant.

If I learned nothing else about life and Southern culture, I learned to have great respect for my elders. They need not be my kin for me to be expected to respect their position in the scheme of life and society in general. To be honest, I’d have to admit that much of what I learned about life and dealing with others was not just from my parents but the old people who passed through my life as well.

My Grandpaw Henry was one of my favorite old people to sort of hang out with. He was well known around our town and our county as a character of sorts. Henry was a moonshiner, and I’m told he was a damn good one. My Grandma Luler would tell any grandkids at her house to follow the old man. She knew he’d never take a drink in front of any of his grandkids.

A couple of times he conned me into leaving him alone and going to the early picture show. Give me a dollar and say he’d be sitting under the big water oak whittling and talking to his buddy Travis and whoever else was there, knowing all the while he was gonna slip off to have a sip or two.

Heck, sometimes there might be half dozen of those old men. They’d whittle, talk, and trade knives. I could listen for hours, but Henry would start getting antsie at about 2:00 pm.

I’d be all tied up listening to the virtues of the different brands of knives. Case was the most common quality knife but Tree brand, Hen and Rooster, Uncle Henry, Shrade, Old Timer, and Barlow were all good. Barlow could be had in cheap as well as better models. Lots of boys started out with the old red-handled Barlow. My first knife was an Old Timer. I still have that old knife. Its blade’s worn thin from so much sharpening. I was taught to be a fanatic for sharp knives. The old men under the water oak tree wouldn’t tolerate a dull blade. If you couldn’t come with a good edge then don’t come at all.

So like I said Henry would be wanting to leave. He was thirsty for a little ‘shine, but grandma had stuck him with me, so he figured the hell with it and would go home and go to bed before dark. I’ve heard that wanting to go to bed if you’re upset is an indicator of some deep-rooted psychosis. I don’t know enough about such things to make any comment pro or con. I do know that he lived to be one hundred and four years old, so no one can say the drinking killed him. I poke a little fun at Henry every now and then but I loved him. A lot of my pride and respect came from sitting under that old oak tree and listening the old men talk.

I think sometimes that maybe old people are harder to see these days. I go into places now and wait forever for someone to wait on me. It doesn’t seem to matter where I go; with a few exceptions, it’s a waste of time.

The other day I decided I needed a new air compressor. I put five hundred dollar bills and my checkbook in my pocket and went looking. I went first to Sears and stood for forty-five minutes waiting for a salesperson, no sale. Next was Tractor Supply. This time I did get to talk to a girl who said it wasn’t her job. Her ID tag said she was a sales associate. Maybe she never read her tag. After two more failures I stopped at Auto Zone and asked the counter guy where I might find an air compressor. “We don’t sell them anymore,” he replied. I told him about the lack of success I’d had so far. Believe it or not, he got on the phone and found a place in a nearby town that had what I was looking for. I drove out and picked it up.

So now I have a seldom-used compressor sitting next to a ten-year-old, never-used electric power generator. Maybe it’s better that not everyone rushes to help me when I go into their store.

Incidentally, you sales people out there should not assume that the old feller that you’re ignoring ain’t got a pot to shoot with a BB gun.

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3 Responses to “Time Traveler”

  1. Harvey |

    “Maybe it’s better that not everyone rushes to help me when I go into their store.”


    Great story — never get tired of them!

  2. Tom |

    Another great one, Larry! I agree that we’re losing respect for older people, among many of the other characteristics of a gentler and nobler society. There’s no doubt that we all have to change with the times, but loss of respect for and even visibility of the old folks didn’t have to happen. That’s not progress.

    The line about “should not assume that the old feller that you’re ignoring ain’t got a pot to shoot with a BB gun” is beautiful.

  3. doris |

    I agree, Larry, we are now becoming invisible. I tell my granddaughter that, and she gets mad at me. I am ignored, and not even older people meet my gaze, much. I used to be stared at, and glared at, but now I am invisible. It seems this society feels threatened by older folk, as if we will somehow suck the youth right out of them by seeing us. If only they listened to us, we could sure save them a whole bunch of grief. It is, however, good for women to not automatically hate me now.

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