At a livestock auction long ago, my father and I had finished loading up our purchase and were turning about to make our exit. It had started to rain lightly, and the already muddy drive was getting worse by the minute.
As we made our way up toward the hard road we came upon a pair of men trying to change a tire on an old and very used trailer. A spry youngster of about my own age was cranking at the lugs on the tire with encouragement from a grizzled veteran many years older than Dad. We pulled off on a precarious spot just ahead of them to see whether we might be of any assistance.
The older man wore bib overalls and walked with a noticeable forward lean, favoring his right leg. The younger man was tall, lanky, and covered in mud from efforts thus far. I later learned their names to be Homer and his grandson Abel.
Their jack was aligned beneath the trailer’s frame the best they could manage for conditions. Dad walked back and forth with Homer beside him to see if any other approach might help. I could see them talking and pointing but heard nothing of their specific plans. As the last lug nut came off the riddled tire, but before Abel was allowed to remove the wheel it was decided more reinforcements to the trailer were warranted… for if its load of fat hogs might shift, matters would certainly get much worse.
The rain quieted a bit and more head scratching ensued. They had a concrete block in the back of their ’63 Chevy half ton. We had a short section of a 6×4 board in our truck. With the two we fashioned a better bracing for the trailer. The flat came off without complaint. Squeals boomed from the trailer, as penned hogs are seldom quiet when life and limb are at risk. The calves in our truck kicked up at the racket – the squealing of hogs in distress must be code familiar to the whole of the animal kingdom.
I finally made my presence useful by helping to free the spare from its roost on the trailer. Once the spare was safely in place the rain picked up again. Any thought of reveling in the moment gave way to rushed plans for escape. Block and board were retrieved, jack lowered from the trailer, and all hands back to their assigned seats. Dad pulled our truck back onto the muddy drive with just a little slipping. The Chevy, however, had set too long on the soft shoulder and couldn’t pull the trailer free.
There was a heavy-duty tow rope in the tool box which Dad got while he was in the Air Force. He pulled it out and held it up in the rain to show Homer. Tow rope in place the two pickups tugged and eventually pulled the trailer out onto the drive. The rain stopped, as if to admit defeat. Dad and Homer removed the tow rope and briefly reveled in their victory. Abel and I checked out our respective cargos. Eight old sows filled up the trailer, and a couple rabbits held down a cage in the bed of the pickup. Abel had bought the rabbits to breed his does – an FFA project in a barn at Grandpa’s farm. We had six Holstein bull calves in a rack in the back of our truck.
I could see Homer reach for his wallet, but Dad put both hands up, palms out like he was signaling a driver to slow down. There was no need for money. Being able to help was enough. Homer and Dad walked up to where Abel and I stood between the trucks. Introductions were made. Homer offered that he was teaching Abel to drive a stick, trailer and all. Dad mentioned he was showing me the ways of a livestock auction. The two men exchanged knowing glances. The damp breeze picked up hinting it might be time to head our respective ways.
A big paw descended upon my shoulder. Homer leaned in and looked me right in the eye. He said, “I may not have a lot of money, but I am a rich man. I have a wonderful family. Just today I’ve made two new friends, and what’s more – for just a couple hundred dollars at this auction I’m going home with eight sows and bucks.”
BTW, Elderstorytelling went quiet in November of 2015… but is still available here: http://www.ronnibennett.typepad.com/elderstorytelling/
Some interesting stories there.