This is my humble submission for today’s Write Now prompt. I call it “The Wrangler:”
Sam, um…Michael! Er, Joseph. Aw, boy–you know I’m talkin’ to you; now c’mere! Make me holler like that, knowin’ good and dogonit well who I mean….
I absolutely love my grampa. I scoot my chair a bit closer to him at the table; his hands shake and since the menu at the home tonight includes peas, I keep my distance so as not to end up with them in my lap. He knows my name is Mark, but when the nurses get too close he puts on his “I’m losing my memory” act. They don’t want any trouble so they typically move on. It’s after that when he gets serious with me. Like now. He looks around to make sure no one is listening. “Now, Mark; where did I leave off the last time we was talkin’?”
I used to come every day after school but now that I’m at the university, my commute to get here is longer; not to mention the homework, late classes, part-time work, and club activities. I can only spend Saturdays with grampa now and I hate it as much as he does. Dad–that’s Sam–won’t really come and spend any time. Joseph and Michael–my brothers–never got along with grampa anyway. So, like always, it’s just him and me. “You were telling me about the ranch, grampa.”
He leans back in his wheelchair, feeling the memory as he sighs. “Oh, yeah! Them was the good ol’ days. Don’tcha hate it when old folks say that? ‘The good ol’ days,’ like it was so much better than now.” He chuckles to himself and reaches into his pea-covered sweater; from deep within he pulls a photo and gives it to me.
It was a picture of grampa when he was much younger. “Yeah, boy,” he continues with an ornery side-smile that could only belong to a cowboy, “that was me a long time ago. I happened to get my piccher took right before I went in to muck out the cows. I got made fun of a lot because I was nuthin’ but one of the guys that cleaned up after the cows. I didn’t ride no horses and I didn’t run nuthin’. They called me ‘The Wrangler’ all the time on account’a my bein’ able to get a wayward cow back to where it needed to be better’n anybody else on the ranch.”
The tears in his rheumy eyes kill me, but I came for the rest of the story he had started last weekend. “I guess this is where I got my good looks from, grampa!” He snorts with laughter. “But what about that weird night back in ’47? You were telling me about it last time.”
His eyes widen and he uses his sleeve to wipe a tear from the tip of his nose; I’d have to remember to bring him another sweater next weekend so I could get that one into the washer. “Oh, yeah! So as I was sayin’, I was out back lookin’ for a stray calf one evenin’. Boy, was it ever hot! It gets like that in Texas in July o’course. So I’m out there mindin’ my business, looking for this calf like I told’ya, when all of a sudden I come around this outcroppin’ and there’s all these military trucks. I duck back so’s they wouldn’t see me and I watch. They was pullin’ something out of the ground that didn’t look like nothin’ I’d ever seen before. All of a sudden somethin’ pokes me in the back and it’s that darned calf I was out there for! I gathered it up and got it back to its mama.” He goes silent, back to poking through the last of the cold peas on his plate.
I wait for him to resume but after about five minutes of watching him mush his meal I can’t take it anymore. “And then what happened, grampa?”
“Oh, the calf was fine and I got a double portion of dinner for ma effort.”
I roll my eyes. “No! What happened about the military trucks and the thing they pulled out of the ground?”
Grampa’s shoulders rattle with laughter. “Aw, Mark; I’m just havin’ a go at’cha!” He pauses to take off his glasses and wipe the tears from his left eye, grinning all the while. “Yeah, so the next day there was all this talk about an article in the paper about some kinda unidentified flyin’ object that was bein’ hid by the gub’ment over in Roswell.”
He stops again to wipe off his glasses and looks me in the eye. “That was a lie, son. I mean, it wasn’t no flyin’ saucer in New Mexico that night. An alien lands on earth and encounters humans for the first time–at a cattle ranch in Texas. That saucer landed near that ranch where I was workin’. They told us never to tell and changed the story to Roswell.” He pushes back from the table and waits for me to take him out of the cafeteria and back to his room. “If you don’t believe me, I got proof in ma room…”