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Plowing With Mules Not Allowed by Smart Alec’s

Updated on March 4, 2019
kenneth avery profile image

Kenneth is a rural citizen of Hamilton, Ala., and has begun to observe life and certain things and people helping him to write about them.

“Grady” Had His Morning Ritual

as getting out of bed at 4:30 a.m., drinking a half-cup of black coffee and smoking two or three cigarettes—depending on what he had to do and what all was on his mind. He was not a friend of all friends, but he was friendly to all who came his way. And as for speaking, he didn’t. Only spoken when asked something. “Grady” was not a busy body, but was busy for his 73-year-old body.

He was a widower. His only wife, “Etta” had passed on (as he was quick to say), about six-years ago, and by the looks of his furrowed brow, he was still missing her. Among the many bits of wisdom that he shared with me, was “cutting your hand with a knife is painful, but when you live with someone that you love for 50 years, the pain is always there and never healed,” and “Grady,” whom I found out was a decent Cornfield Philosopher.

“Grady,” Didn’t Attend

weddings, Birth Celebrations or Anniversaries . . .the simplicity of his words are easily understood: “I just show up! If a body sends me an invitation, the people who send these things always expect more and I know that I can’t.” he said one day as I met him in our rural grocery store.

“Grady” had this certain way of talking to you: his face was not two-inches from your face, but he understood your words, because he never had to ask, “what did you say?” With his abilities to teach school, I always thought that he taught school. “Nope/ Too much trouble to go to school.

Mule Fact: did you know that a mule's hearing is the same as a cat's hearing?
Mule Fact: did you know that a mule's hearing is the same as a cat's hearing? | Source

Many is The Time

that I stood and scratched my head at some word or phrase that was very deep, so deep in fact that I would have to ask my dad or mom what “Grady” said that afternoon and like all of his friends, they would laugh at what he had said, but didn’t bother to explain his thinking.

I also remember the year when I turned 14, and no longer did I turn “the age” which I thought was my Rite of Passage from Boy to Manhood, did “Grady” show-up at this School Get-Together than “Grady” appeared as if by magic, but he was walking faster than usual. I had to ask him why the fast walking and right on time he said, “gotta get some of that chocolate pie over there and I know how must of you guys love to eat—most boys do when they turn 14. I did. That is why I know,” and in a wink, he was gone. I did watch this woman (about his age) and he laughed with her and I watched him show her his late wife, “Etta” and I could see the pride in his eyes. And hers. I took my half-cup of lemonade and sat down—I thought that I might see “Grady” do something that defied Mortal Imagination, so I just sat.

“Grady” and this pretty lady did talk for a while. But in his fast-as-quicksilver-fashion, he vanished. I mean, he was 74 and moved faster than any Gazelle in any Tarzan movie.

Boy. plowing a field and a bull tongue plow.
Boy. plowing a field and a bull tongue plow.

The Years Went Slowly

as I would see his somewhat-rigid morning routine and not once did I feel boredom sting my feelings toward because “Grady” was my friend. For always and I felt this about him now a wonderful man of 80, and not losing one step of time. He was a quick and sharp-of-thought than when I first met him when he was 74.

The day did arrive when I ran across him about to take his mule, “Cotton” and as he put it: “get some dirt turned over” and made his way toward his garden spot that he had cleaned-up of the weeds and the cans and bottles that some vandals had thrown in his garden thanks to the vandals being, “short-sighted and dim-thinking,” as he told me about how he wanted me to grow up respecting no only my goods, but those of others and added “do this and you will not go wrong!”

First and then slowly I felt “Grady,” and I start a strong friendship,” one that I still cry like a newborn when I let his memories walk through my mind ever so often. But the most-important thing that I held-off from asking “Grady” about was: Teaching Me How to Plow a Mule, in this case, “Cotton.”

“Grady.” I recall it so well. . .I was then-driving my family’s car, an Oldsmobile, 1975, that my dad had found on “Little Hoss’ Car Lot,” on the outskirts of town. My dad told me to stay with my mom while he went to town on THE big day of bringing back our brand new car. What an exciting day for my parents and myself. When you are 16, and live in a rural Southern town, excitement comes packaged with whatever is New and our station-wagon was New to us.

After my dad looked the car over (with a microscope) because he felt as the “wrong kind of germs can make you feel really dead,” and would say this statement before each meal and before I went out to go on a date. I would quote this statement often. I did get a few hot dates. The girls whom I dated love for me to talk about the Cuban Misisle Crisis. It worked like a charm. Especially the Cuban accent that I stole from Desi Arnaz.

Even in my school days and I saw the opportunity to “make points” with a pretty girl, all that I had to do was get “that” look in Arnaz’ eyes, say a few Cuban words and it was the When-Do-You-Want-Me-to-Pick-You-Up look in my eyes and I promise you that three times out of five, it worked.

I Remember “The” Day

next to the day when “Grady” passed away. Sad is not the word. Devastating, yes. Depression thrown in for good measure. All I wanted to do was join the Army, desert, and run in full-gallop and when the MPs arrested me, I would throw my hands up and hope that one of the M-1s fired, I would be hit so well that I would feel no pain and join “Grady” in Heaven.

Back to “The” Day, that to me, decent and lasting memories are made of, I would sob a little, cry a little and relive the days that I was blessed to relive with “Grady” and myself. I even thought about writing a narrative about “The Day” when “Grady” told me all about life . . .

(Unless I ask a question, I will only publish “Grady’s” Priceless Philosophies:”

Now, here’s “Grady. . .”

  • “Hair lotion?! Never touch the stuff! The hair that The Good Lord takes care of it.”
  • “In my garden last year, my turnips did not grow well—I had a lot of sleepers, huh?”
  • “Army? Yes, sure did. Stayed in there four years and I had plenty and went home.”
  • “I did miss, “Etta.”When she’d yell at me, I always said “Yes and she stopped yelling.”
  • “Horses and mules are okay, it’s just a step higher than a Ford Harvester.”
  • “Messy, sloppy fields? Plowing with Mules are Forbidden.”
  • “Cucumbers? For breakfast? (laughs) I’ve had worse—grits and corn-on-the-cob.”
  • “I had a watch dog a year ago and the dog sat and watched two burglars steal me blind.”
  • “Sure, I was in World War I. I shot at anybody and a few German’s I think.”
  • “My coffee was too strong and it ran to work in the circus as a Strong Man.”
  • “I was in the Paratroopers for six months, before we jumped, I said, Para—who?

Summary . . .

“Grady” was one of my Fewest Best Friends that I was so blessed to know and since my tender age of 16, I never had an elderly man who was so alive and chipper. If someone like “Grady” ever comes through you life, my advice to you is: HOLD ON to HIM. You will NOT BE SORRY.

March 4, 2019_____________________________________

© 2019 Kenneth Avery


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