The dreaded tool of interruption rang, and that strange vibe that signals trouble ran up my spine. This man can sense danger quicker than a firefighter can sniff out a hot spot that’s ready to flair.
“You gonna answer that?” Better Half asked between bites of scrambled eggs.
“Nope,” I replied. “It’s our oldest daughter wanting to put me to work. Who told her I wasn’t flying today?”
“Could have been me,” Miss chief rat-me-out replied while grabbing the phone. “No, he’s not doing anything,” she quickly replied. Sometimes she assumes I’m a chainsaw to be loaned out. “I’m sure your Daddy will be happy to help…what time?”
“You know,” I started as she hung up the phone, “I’ve got a lot to do today.”
“Sure, you do,” she snorted. “Like sitting on the porch counting ducks or hitting a bucket of balls.”
“Hey, there’s a lot of work to keep this place…”
“It can wait,” she ordered. “Besides, you’ll enjoy this. Wish I could take off work…”
“Now that’s a fine idea,” I quickly agreed. Anything she might enjoy certainly wouldn’t be a manly retreat.
“Nine o’clock at the pumpkin patch,” she informed me. “You meet our grandson and his kindergarten class there. You’ll walk the corn maze, take pictures of him at the petting zoo, and do all kinds of fun stuff.”
“Great,” I thought. “Spend the day with a bunch of kids who can barely tie their shoes or wipe their snotty noses. Be lucky if I don’t catch the plague.”
“Wonder if they serve beer at lunch with those over-cooked hotdogs,” I pondered out loud. It’s strange how women can answer a question with a distaining look.
It’s hard for this Southern male not to wonder about how things have changed. Years ago, our field trips consisted of a long ride crammed into a smoky old school bus while dragging sack lunches. Our teacher marched our little legs off while caring for our educational needs and physical fitness.
This huge, chartered bus, something worthy of a championship football team, pulled into the barnyard to an adoring crowd of parents, grandparents, and, I’d guess, a few doting aunts and uncles. Those cherubs marched out with more cameras flashing than if Cameron Diaz was walking down Rodeo Drive naked. Each child stopped and posed, flashing practiced smiles as another wonderful milestone was recorded.
Finally, my towheaded boy took his turn and seemed a little shaken that Peeps hadn’t provided an official photographer. He quickly shook it off, though, when the thundering herd stampeded toward a pen of goats.
The first five children allowed to pet the baby goats included a ransomed little boy who was dressed in the latest fashion. I’m sure in case a Hollywood agent happened to wander onto the scene looking for fresh talent. It didn’t take me long to spy out his parents.
After being up to my elbows in baby slobber for decades, this man always tries to help newbie parents out. Especially ones with an only child who appear to be in their mid-forties. They’ve read every book on child rearing written by a bunch of long-haired professors who have never changed a diaper. There’s no more dangerous or misinformed group on the face of this earth.
“Mother, I want one,” this little boy demanded from the goat pen.
“I don’t know?” his Vogue cover mother said. In days past, a woman would have wisely pawned this question off on Dad so he could be the bad guy. But she ignored the other donor in this child’s equation for obvious reasons. What man wears five-hundred-dollar alligator skin loafers and a blue blazer to a dang Alabama farm?
“They make great pets,” I interrupted. It’s funny how she looked at me. She quickly assumed this gnarly old guy was one of the farmhands and knew his stuff.
“How big will they grow?” she asked—nothing like watching her Doctor 90210 lips.
“Not much bigger,” I answered with a straight face. “And buy a male,” I added quietly as if our conversation was top secret. It was plain to see that this couple had never delivered a calf in the middle of a wind-blown pasture while being peppered with sleet.
“How can we take it home?” she asked, so perplexed. It was doubtful they owned a truck, and suggesting the baby goat ride in their BMW wouldn’t fly either.
“I’m thinking about getting one for my grandson,” I said while pointing at towhead. There was a sheer surprise when she discovered my role here wasn’t playing Mr. Green Jeans. She suddenly connected the dots and began wondering how my pretty daughter managed to escape being tagged with my looks.
“Oh my,” she gushed, genuine as a nun. “Your daughter is the sweetest person I’ve ever met. We’re new here, and she’s really been a dear to us.”
“Yep, that’s my baby,” I thought. “One minute, she’s sweet as natural honey, and the next, she’s ripping out your jugular vein.”
“I’ll be happy to deliver it for you,” I said, kicking the outhouse door off its hinges.
“That is sooooooooo sweet,” she replied, giving me a friendly pat on the arm.
“This isn’t funny,” my daughter scolded a few hours later. Her voice was minus fifty-eight degrees Celsius. “She nor her husband have ever lived in the country! And you talking them into buying a goat!”
“They’ve got plenty of room for it on that big ole estate,” I commented. “A lot of pretty flowers for it to eat too.”
“I swear you do things like this out of pure meanness,” she groused. Gosh, the older she gets, the more she sounds like her mother. “But the worst part was her going on and on about how sweet my father was and me having to pretend it’s true.” Having vented, she killed her cell phone, making sure there was no rebuttal.
The old Marine taught me that people are like water; they’ll get dank and stale if not stirred. Yes, this man is guilty as charged, but the second act was yet to come. I placed the blue crate on my daughter’s steps, squatted down, and bleated back at my towheaded grandson’s brand-new baby goat. I’m sure he’ll enjoy his new pet. What else are grandfathers for?