Monday, July 4, 2016

One very personal Independence Day

Today is Independence Day. 240 years ago the United States declared themselves separate and equal to Great Britain. But this day I find myself remembering a very different July 4th, one of the fondest memories of my childhood.

It was around 8:30 in the morning and I was 9 or 10, just goofing off in my backyard. I saw Grandpa Joe come out of his house (he and Grams lived next door to us) but he didn't see me. He walked out his back gate and up towards the old barn where he worked, the same old barn I have now. Naturally, I had to investigate. What could he be doing on a holiday?

I got to the shop right as he was opening the truck doors. "What are y'doin, boy?" he asked in that vague gruff manner of his when he wasn't in full on gruff mode.

"Wonderin' what you're doing," I answered honestly.

"Well, c'mon in then". Joe was welding something underneath one of the stake trucks he used for delivering the welding equipment he rented. I held a flashlight for him as he scoped out the job. Then he fired up an old Hobart welder he used exclusively in the barn, gave me a welding helmet with strict instructions to keep it on until he said I could remove it, and commenced with the repair on the truck's frame.

After a while he paused for a break. We went and got donuts ('vittles' he always called coffee break donuts or snacks) and ate them while we drank our coffee as he smoked a cigarette or four. Then he went back to finish the job, me wearing that far too big and heavy helmet and holding a light for him when asked. Soon we were done.

He shut everything down and did a quick clean up, and then locked up the barn. He turned to me and took a five dollar bill from his wallet and told me to take it. "You worked too," he told me to tell his son and daughter-in-law who might wonder how'd I'd come across such largesse. Five bucks was huge, to a 10 year old in 1970. I said thank you. In fact, I believe it was more like "Thank YOU, Grandpa Joe!"

"Aw Hell," he said back, as was his wont.

So I earned my first pay on a long ago July 4th. And I had a really good time doing it.

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