Well, I think we will finish here but life might get in the way or WP might randomly decide to publish at any given moment. Only way to know is to try. If all goes well I will use my earlier observation about the different physique common in prior generations of Americans, how work played into it and attendance at a funeral as the ingredients for the story I came to tell. I will have succeeded if the original title suddenly makes sense. We shall see.
Listened to a lot of younger attendees have an opinion about the heat and humidity at the funeral. Those in their 90’s seemed to fair much better. This was much in line with the crowd of their peers that appeared unphased by an event held on a warm summer day at river’s edge so many years ago. Looking around at the muscular young men I had to wonder if building big biceps and a big gut would have made one popular 70 years ago. The observation reminded me of a conversation earlier in the week about someone going to a weight room. During it I had heard the words of wisdom from an older man who is now well into his 90’s. Sort of ironic but the cumulatively events is genesis for the post.
Liked that guy then and like him now. Twenty posts wouldn’t cover half the stories but a couple will help. Let’s see here….
I worked for him a lot when I was young. Helped with anything and everything. He trusted me to get it done and I made sure to earn that trust. Simply knowing his wife was motivation by itself .
I’d get there to start the evening’s work after school. A lot of it involved hay or cows and there was almost always various equipment involved. Typically he was two hours or so behind me in getting there. I would have everything needed for the day fueled, greased, hooked up, loaded up or whatever needed be done so that we could be ready to go. This all took place only after she was satisfied that I had eaten enough AND I had checked my thermos of homemade lemonade and declared it good. He always got the same and he always made sure she had a hug and his big grin. Then, and only then, we went.
Oftentimes we went out to deliver straw to work sites in the region. He was a construction supervisor and he provided the straw for the new yards. Those days saw me load/fuel two trucks of straw bales. Soon as he was ready we hit the road. Once there we unloaded and headed home. No big deal right? Wrong. Did I mention these were Chevy’s? Yeah…. Wonderful 350s but not much else worth mentioning. The lack of reliability beyond that engine made his trucks oddballs as work trucks and they lived up to their reputation. They were fueled because the gas guage worked, sometimes. The heater fan worked, sometimes. The headlights worked, sometimes. I had never dealt with equipment that functioned that way so it was interesting. We rushed so we could get home while at least one truck had lights. Now begins the fun…
A lot of the roads were gravel back then. These trucks were 2wd long beds with 350s and a “three on the tree”. He flat told me that we were getting caught by daylight because I was too careful with his trucks. For such a calm, gentle, wise man the lessons that followed were unexpected. Remember Uncle Jessie in the Dukes of Hazard? Yep, it was game on! Slow and easy up the road loaded, flat out coming back. Drifting curves at 60mph in a pickup with no lights right at dusk, sure! They wouldn’t have left it gravel if they wanted you to go straight would they? Lights go out? IF the other truck had lights then it took the lead and you go faster. Pavement? Well, the tires back then got squirrely around a hundred. Yep, we started getting back earlier. BUT, turning on the farm road you had better slow down lest you tear up the road.
We had a huge football team in school. That too is another story but for a point. We got up thousands of bales. Spent a lot of moonlit nights getting up hay most of the night. We were often alone doing it. Them big strong fellows were always getting a job helping him. Coach was the one who sent them most of the time. They tickled the gentleman to no end. He assumed that if the bales were under a hundred pounds, or if your fingers slid under the string, that the baler “needed tightening”. These fine specimens turned into the twenty-somethings I saw today BUT, first he had to have his fun.
Lifting weights and such is about repetition. Three sets of six is cute. Matter of fact, I know that 3×6=18. Quaint I suppose. They came out strutting and flexing. The bales were heavier than they looked but they did ok, well, ok for the first 10-15 bales. 15-30 they were slowing. Normally they had cramps around the 75 mark. “Come on guys, we’ve only got 1,500 left!” Most of them walked away by the hundred bale mark and we got up hay at night again.
See, his comment always stuck with me. He called it “weight room muscle” and observed that “weight-ing room” was more fitting because a boy wouldn’t become a man via the path they picked yet they went to prove manhood. Smart guy indeed. By the way, he was three times their age plus some and rail thin. Me? They typically had me by at least a hundred pounds of “muscle”. Yet we got up the bales they couldn’t.
Thought about these things as I looked at those around me and listened the comments. Had a quiet smile as some of those old folks caught my eye and grinned. Know them and they know me and, together, we figured the “weight-ing room” looked about full.