Walking with Dad

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july2016 388

I was about half way to Hannigan Road yesterday, walking my dog down the Fox Lake Road, when I heard the low rumble of the County road truck. Darla does not chase cars, or even seem to notice them, most of the time. She barely gives them a glance as they go by. If I don’t grab her and pull her away, she won’t even yield her walkway, which is right down the middle of the road. We’re working on it.

However, all of my dogs have always hated the road trucks. Perhaps it’s the sound they make when scraping gravel or snow from the roads, or just the noise of the diesel engines. It might be because they pass by slowly, sometimes stop nearby, and often turn around in front of my house. I don’t know.

Maggie looked at cars as a means of meeting folks, and would run right up to them and jump on the door to greet the driver. She’d always want to attack the road truck, though. Clover was afraid of cars, and generally gave them a wide berth. Except for Randy’s car, which she would lay in wait for, and ambush as he drove by. And the road truck, her mortal enemy. She taught Rosa Parks everything she knew, so the little dog grew up hating the road trucks, too. Now Rosa has taught Darla, and my quiet household erupts in wild leaping and barking whenever one of them drives by.

Not knowing how Darla would react when encountering the truck on the road, I hurried to grab her collar and lead her to the side of the road. We waited together until it passed by, then continued on our way. The truck was grading the road yesterday. With the big blade down but at a slight angle, it was scraping and leveling the gravel road, one half at a time. As it went down one side of the road, it pushed a mound of dirt and leaves into the center. It would do the same thing coming back down the other side of the road. A final pass would “crown” the road, smoothing the dirt mounded in the center.

As we continued our walk, my Dad had joined us. It was the smell that brought him to mind. In the same way that freshly cut grass transports me back to my childhood summer Sundays, when Dad would mow the lawn, worked earth brings thoughts of the spring of the year, and Dad in the garden. Dragging the plow behind his small tractor, he worked the clay soil every year, trying to soften and enrich it with additions of grass clippings, manure and mounds of seaweed.

I think Dad always had a garden. When we were tiny, he worked up a small plot of ground, and taught us to space the seeds by measuring the distance with our hands. He was always thrilled to see things grow. He would compete with any of his gardening friends for the earliest radishes, hottest peppers, tallest corn or largest squash. He was proud to carry in a harvest of peas or beans or tomatoes.

Though Dad was a smart man with good stories and many abilities, the garden is what I associate most closely with him. When I leaned close to give him a hug, for most of his life Dad smelled a little of smoke and tobacco; there was usually a hint of beer or something stronger; always, Dad smelled like the earth. It makes me happy that – as the old woman I am and almost twenty years after my Dad has left this earth – something as simple as the smell of freshly turned soil can bring him right back.

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2 responses »

  1. Lovely piece, Cindy. It’s funny, isn’t it, what brings people back to mind? My father and father-in-law were very different men who sadly never met but they both loved their gardens and I often think of both of them when I’m scrabbling away in ours. It would have amused my dad, I think, to know that I have a big garden now as I showed absolutely no interest in growing things as a child or young person.. It wouldn’t surprise him in the least, however, to hear that I leave all the donkey work to my husband! 🙂

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