When I Became a Man

A man’s reflection on the summers
spent on his grandfather’s farm.

By: Nathan Landers

I awoke to the sound of a train passing by as I slept on a porch swing. My skin reddened from the scorching sun rays that punish my skin as I lay. The winds of relief cooled my skin every so often to keep me perched on my swing. I understood what and where heaven was. I was in heaven.

As a child I spent most of my summer with my grandfather. I had my own room in his dainty little house just on the outskirts of Newkirk, Okla. That small town had nothing to offer me but trouble when I had time on my hands. My grandpa’s house was my sanctuary; I could not get into trouble. I was the king of the domain, back when I was becoming a man.

Our days were filled with the hustle and bustle of life on a small farm. Milking and feeding the cows, stacking hay and operating tractors and such were just a small part of my days. Most importantly, I would let the baby calves suck on my finger which would keep me giggling for hours upon end. I would perform “seek and destroy” missions on the snakes that made the hay bails their kingdom. My level of expertise would guarantee me a seat on my grandpa’s lap when he was operating a tractor. I assisted him with the small buttons and steering from time to time. We were men.

Our duties were not only dirty work; we also did the cooking and cleaning around the house. He made pies, cakes and French toast. Oh my God, the French toast. I would wake up every morning and be asked, “What do you want for breakfast, son?” He would snicker. He knew my answer of course: “French toast, grandpa” I would reply, “and coffee.” My mouth, a bit more sensitive than his, warranted cold coffee for me; I was under the impression that it would put hair on my chest, and eventually it did. I had the privilege of doing the most important part, adding the ingredients. We were men.

My grandfather was invincible. I have seen him be cut and broken. He never gave it another thought. He knew how to repair everything, including him and me. I was amazed that children actually went to see doctors when there were grandpa’s like him around. It would be a waste of time for me because he could fix it. I was also invincible. With a little coaching and mentoring, I too could fix anything. We were both men.

My grandfather gave up on life just a few years ago. He refused to have an organ removed because it would just inconvenience him. I was so mad. I thought that I could never forgive him for quitting, it was like taking back every lesson that he taught me. Then one day it hit me, everything had built up to a climax which was his final lesson. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose; you make the best of the offer that stands on the table. I became a man.

  © 2005 Nathan Landers. All rights reserved.

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