Grandpa As a Magician
GRANDPA Radford had never felt so useless in all his seventy-nine years. He hardly knew what to do with himself now his eyes were going back on him. Always before this summer he had been able to read to pass the time away. Each day he had read and read, novels as well as the Bible, with variations of other wholesome literature in between. Grandpa even loved the funnies and had read them to the grandchildren until his vision dimmed. Strange, though, he could still see the mountains and fields almost as well as ever, but the words on the pages before him ran together in a blur.
Grandpa was sitting in his old Congress chair under the big boxelder in the back yard of his son's home, where he lived now. Nothing depended on him anymore, and he was beginning to feel in the way.
"It's a good old world as long as a body is needed," he mused and tears filled his tired, old eyes. "If only I was needed!" He spoke aloud this time.
"You'd be needed badly enough right now if you were a magician."
At the sound of his grandson's voice, Grandpa hastily wiped his eyes and looked up at the youth defiantly, if kindly, as if to dare him to think he had been crying. He had no need to worry, however, because Kurt Radford was too engrossed in his own problem to notice.
"Now why would you be needing a magician, I'd like to know?" broke in the old man. "I don't take any stock in such, none at all. I figure a magician does his tricks in a natural manner, only he's too quick and too clever for most folks to find it out. Now, son, tell me all about it and maybe the two of us can work out a magic trick." Grandpa showed more zest than he had for months.
"Oh, Grandpa, Joe Rand just sent word he won't have time to thresh for us until he returns from threshing in the next valley, and that may be two weeks or more. He was to have come tomorrow."
"Well, two weeks isn't long to wait. It's early in the threshing season yet, and the grain is so well stacked that if it rains it won't be hurt at all. You're a fine bundle stacker, my boy. Your old Granddad's mighty proud of those stacks of yours. None better in the valley."
"But it's my prize wheat, Grandpa, that I'm worrying about," broke in Kurt.
"Don't worry over it, son. That big canvas covers that small stack completely, so rain won't harm it either."
"But, Grandpa, it isn't the rain I'm worrying about. That wheat must be threshed by Monday morning, for the judges will make the decision then and award the prize, and I did so want that prize money. Fifty dollars, just imagine! I've had it planned all summer what I'd do with that money. Now Bill Garff will get it, for sure, for his wheat got threshed today. I saw it, pretty and plump as can be."
Kurt sank down at grandpa's feet and groaned. Again he was sitting in the 4-H Club meeting and hearing from the county agent how two boys were to be chosen to experiment in growing a new variety of wheat. Each would be given the same amount of seed, with definite instructions on preparing the soil, planting, and watering. Then in the fall a fifty dollar cash prize would be given to the boy producing the greater amount of wheat, free of disease. He and Bill had been chosen from among the volunteers. What a joy it had been to plant and tend that wheat, watch it change from green to gold, as though touched by Midas-hands! All summer he had been building a dream, and now it had crashed.
T was Kurt's turn to have his eyes fill. Grandpa saw and yearned to comfort him, as he used to do, but knew that would never do now, for Kurt was fifteen, so he said consolingly, "Perhaps, if you take your bundles over to Mr. Rand's place in the big truck, he will have time to thresh them before he leaves."
Hope was in his voice, but it filtered out, as Kurt replied, "He's already gone. He had left before I received word. He sent his boy Jimmy over to tell me just as he was leaving."
Grandpa groaned then, too, and slumped down as though defeated, but sat up erect and was as alert as could be when he heard Kurt say, "I've prayed night and morning about that wheat and worked my best, too, and now it looks like the Lord has failed me."
"Don't you go blaming the Lord, young fellow. I've lived four score years, lacking one, and he isn't the one who fails. We're the ones that give up. The Lord does his part, and don't you forget that, young man."
Kurt broke in before his grandfather could say more, "I don't mean to complain, Grandpa, but it's times like this I miss Dad most. Seems to me we needed him."
Tenderness filled Grandpa's old eyes as he placed his arm about Kurt's shoulders and said gently, "I know, son, I know, but remember, too, that the Lord always knows what he's doing. I've watched you develop into a man since your father died, and I'm proud of you, lad."
"I should think the Lord would help me now, then," continued the boy, but his heart was touched by his grandfather's tenderness.
"No one is licked yet, Kurt, if we're not, and I say we're not!"
"What!" exclaimed Kurt. "You mean we still have a chance to get my grain threshed?"
"Yes, sir, we have!" The flames relit in Grandpa's old eyes as he continued, "That is, if you'll keep on praying and work even harder than you have been, for we only have tomorrow left, you know, as the next day's Sunday, and only harm'll come if we work then. Will you do as I say this once, lad?"
"Oh, yes, Grandpa, I'll do anything, if it means I can still win."
"Well, I can't promise that, but by the looks of the western sky we can get your threshing done. Then it will depend on the quantity and the quality of your wheat as compared with Bill's. That can't be changed now, you know."
As Grandpa told Kurt his plan for getting the precious wheat threshed, Kurt gave excited exclamations.
Just then Mrs. Radford called supper, and arm in arm the two entered the house, Grandpa looking happier and feeling younger than he had in years. Being needed was the magic sesame.
HERE was a thrilling excitement, an anticipation in the air the next morning. Kurt was up with the dawn doing the chores, so a little after sunup he was ready to begin his real day's work. When Grandpa came outside, his old eyes held gleams of youth as he saw the large, heavy canvas which had sheltered the precious bundles all spread out on the smooth earth by the barn, its corners staked down, and, on it, a circle of bundles with the heads of wheat turned toward the center.
"Come in now, son," he called, "and have your breakfast: and eat a hearty one, you and Bud and Sally are going to be the threshers."
"Yes, and Neil is coming over, too. He thinks it will be fun."
Breakfast over, the threshing began, and it was fun--that is for a while. It didn't seem like work at all, just tramping around and around on those heads of wheat, then turning the bundles over and tramping again; for that was Grandpa's plan--to thresh the wheat the way they had done it when he was a lad. But these youngsters didn't seem to have the same power of endurance he had had as a boy. Perhaps, he thought, it's because they haven't had to do as much physical work with all the modern conveniences; or perhaps I've just forgotten that I used to tire, too.
When one circle of bundles was threshed, the young folks carried the straw away, then the wheat, chaff and all, was gathered and sacked up.
"I can't see how you can think this wheat can win with all this chaff," objected Bud.
But Kurt said mysteriously, "Just you wait."
Grandpa looked wistfully at the sky as he thought, I sure hope it's favorable for the finishing up this afternoon.
Again and again, fresh bundles were placed on the canvas, the heads toward the center, and the man-power thresher toiled on, with Grandpa using encouraging words as his whip.
N the middle of the afternoon, the children became so tired that even Kurt was about to give up. Grandpa's eyes flamed, and his tired body revived as he said, "All of you lie down and rest a bit, and then we'll start again and soon be through with this part. If my old legs didn't have the rheumatism I'd help you tramp."
Grandpa had been anticipating this moment, and felt that now was the time for him to do as his father used to do when he and his brothers became too tired to go on. First he went in search of some refreshments.
When he brought out some lemonade in the large enameled pitcher, and cookies in a tin pan and cups, he found the children still flat on the ground, almost too tired to sit up. Never had hard earth felt so good to them before. But the lemonade and cookies did help, and soon tongues were busy again and lips were smiling. Sally seemed to notice the pan for the first time, for she asked, "Why the tin pan, Grandpa? We haven't used it for years and years."
"But we're going to now," replied Grandpa, his eyes twinkling. "We sure are going to. Now, threshers, back on the job, and we'll be through before you know it."
Grandpa turned the pan upside down on his knees, took two dimes from his pocket, held one between the thumb and forefinger of each hand, and called, "Ready now, one, to, three--march!" Then he began whistling "Yankee Doodle" and beating on the pan with the dimes at the same time. How those young folks marched! Tiredness was forgotten, and threshing was fun again. Louder and clearer and shriller came Grandpa's whistle, as the rusty hinges of his throat, long unused, yielded to the lubricant of joy. Gouty old hands beat time perfectly on the tin pan, and his foot tapped in unison with the rhythmic beats. What matter if he should be laid up tomorrow? He was young today, and he was needed. Round and round marched the children and, at last, the grain was threshed!
OW," breathed Grandpa, and his whisper was like a prayer, "If only a wind will arise to fan out the chaff." Kurt was evidently thinking the same, for he came over and said, "I'll go get the pans for you to show us how, Grandpa. I believe I feel a breeze coming now."
He was right. Soon Grandpa was showing them how to fill one pan with the grain and chaff and, holding it high, pour it into the other pan, held low, while standing on the canvas so it would catch any grain which spilled. The breezes blew out the chaff while the grain was in the air between the two pans. Then Grandpa reversed his hands and did the same thing again and even again to remove all the chaff. By this time the breeze had become stronger and, with all of them working, pouring wheat from full to empty pans, the last of the precious grain was chaff free by a little after sundown.
As the tired workers surveyed the clean, shining kernels in the sacks, a feeling of achievement filled each soul. Grandpa was beginning to feel the strain, but his voice still had the tone of youth as he declared, "That's as fine a job of threshing as I've ever seen done, and I've seen many of them. That wheat's as clean or cleaner than it would have been had the thresher done it. I'm right proud of you and your thresher crew, Kurt."
"It's you who's responsible, Grandpa. You get the credit for this," came from Kurt's grateful heart.
Grandpa's eyes filled, this time with joy, as he continued, "Now, let's get this wheat under shelter, and Monday the judges can weigh and judge it. If Bill's is better, it must be good."
Grandpa slept like an exhausted child that night and rested most of the next day, but Monday morning, he was waiting for the judges, as anxious as Kurt for the decision. They were waiting on the front porch when the car drove up, and the county agent came with the three men who were to judge. After introductions were made, and they were on their way to the granary, the agent said, "If your crop turns out to be as good as Bill's the farmers around here will all be planting this new variety next year."
The four men remarked about the fine job of threshing, as they weighted the wheat. They wrote down figures, looked at another sheet, looked back again, then the judges nodded to the agent, who turned to Kurt and said, "Well, Kurt, you win by twelve pounds. congratulations! You will receive your check at the meeting scheduled for this afternoon."
Kurt couldn't trust himself to speak as the men shook hands with him and Grandpa, and complimented him on the fine work he had done. Grandpa blew and blew his nose, mumbling something about hay fever, but he couldn't keep back the tears, and they rolled down his furrowed cheeks.
A few minutes later, as Kurt and his grandfather walked toward the house, Kurt added, "Grandpa, do you know why I wanted to win the prize so badly? It was for you, Grandpa, so you'll be able to read again. The eye specialist said if you could still see distant objects clearly, you could read again, if you were fitted with glasses, so tomorrow we're going to have your eyes tested, Grandpa, and soon you'll have glasses to read with. Won't that be something?"
Grandpa could hardly believe it. To be able to read again! And he wasn't useless! Unconsciously, he spoke aloud, "For once I was needed!"
"I'll say you were!" responded Kurt. "You are a magician, Grandpa, and who knows when I'll need you to perform another magic trick!"