He would drive all the way into town in second gear.
He would drive the whole 5, 6 miles into town in the old rattletrap International pick-up truck and never shift out of second gear.
The “he” was my grandpa- my mother’s dad, Elmer McCammon. You could set your clock by them. Every Saturday my grandpa and grandma would go to town, Sullivan, Indiana and on many occasions, I would be sitting between the two of them as we made our way. Elmer, Gertie and me, 8 year old Larry. We’d go bouncing up and down, rolling along.
Now once in town, Grandma would be going to sell her eggs that her birds had laid that week and if in season, some strawberries from her garden. Grandpa, well now that was another story. Ole Grandpa, once he had the truck angle-parked at the curb on the courthouse square, would start making his way around the four corners of the square to visit and talk with the men gathered on the benches. To a young boy, they were just a bunch of old men.
Those men would be sitting, some on benches, some on the curb, and they had perfected the art of four things: whittling, spittin’, arguing and scratching, and not in any particular order. My grandfather was good at all four but even as a young boy I could tell he really enjoyed his spitting and arguing. Grandma would get on to him about the scratchin!
I once asked him what that big building was in the middle of those four corners. He explained to me it was the courthouse. He said Indiana had sixty-four of them, one in every county and it was where the important records were kept. Also, if you had to go to court to settle a matter, that is where it would take place, with a judge and all. Didn’t mean much to a young boy.
Many years later, I learned firsthand what that courthouse was like on the inside with a judge “and all.” I still remember that cold February morning in 1997 when I sat on the stand in that courtroom. I was before a judge at a hearing to declare my mother; my grandparents only daughter, legally incompetent to care for herself. On that day, I acquired firsthand knowledge of what a courtroom and a courthouse was like. The courthouse where as a small boy I used to walk its’ square.
On that day I would have preferred to be outside where once upon a time men sat, whittlin’, spittin’, arguing and scratchin’.
July 26, 2010