The old man sat down on the front stoop, as I’d often seen him do, and fumbled in the pocket of his wrinkled khakis for his pipe.
“Doggone,” he said. “I forgot my do-hickey.”
He felt in the pocket of a work shirt that was so faded it was almost white and pulled out his pouch of tobacco, expertly taking a pinch and putting it in the pipe bowl.
“Dad-gummit, where’s my thing-a-ma-jig?”
He felt in his front pants pockets for the thing he tamped down his tobacco with, rising to a crouch to feel in his back pockets and realized he’d been sitting on it.
“Always losin’ my whatcha-ma-callit,” he mumbled.
Tamp, tamp, tamp.
He felt in his other shirt pocket for his matches, practically turning the pocket inside out.
“Gul-durn, where’d I put my matches?”
“Uh, other pocket?” I guessed.
Before he could explore his pockets again, we heard a holler, then a splash coming from the direction of the creek behind the house. Then there was a high-pitched scream.
“Gul-durn-it,” he said. “Neighbors don’t mind their grandkids and those city young-uns is scared a everthang.”
He heaved himself to his feet and went to look, taking off his worn straw hat and putting his pipe, tobacco and tamper do-hickey in it and laying it on the porch.
I followed him as he took off in his clumsy bow-legged stride down to the creek.
A little blonde girl of about 9 was standing on the creek bank sopping wet screaming, “Ewwwh,” at the top of her lungs.
“What’s wrong, Maisy,” he said.
“I’m Jenny,” she said. “Maisy has brown hair and is a head shorter than me.”
“OK, OK,” he said. “What’s wrong, young-un?”
“It’s this awful crustacean! It’s icky. Ewwwh! Get it off!”
“Oh mercy me,” grandpa groaned. “That ain’t nothin’ but a little ol’ crawdad. It ain’t gonna hurt ya none.’”
“GET IT OUT! IT’S IN MY HAIR!”
“No need for all this folderol,” he said as he reached over, plucked it out of her hair and threw it back in the water.
“It weren’t gonna do nuthin’ to ya hair.”
“There should be a sign warning people of dangerous creatures in the water,” Jenny said, pursing her mouth in a self-righteous way. She hiccupped and then wailed: “I need my inhaler.”
He turned to me. “What kind of a thing-a-ma-bob is she yackin’ on about?”
“It’s uh, a thing-ah-ma-jigger to help you breathe,” I said.
“It’s a medical device for asthma,” Jenny said. “It helps to open my airways when they get constricted.”
Grandpa scratched his head.
“Well why didn’t ya brang this do-hickey down here with ya?” he said.
“I thought the country was supposed to be peaceful,” she said. “That gray and white bird, it dived down and tried to bite me and I was so startled I fell in the water.”
“Oh now, that Mockinbird’s got a nest up there with little baby birds in it. It’s just bein’ a good mama,” he said.
“Why did it try and bite me,” Jenny said, looking up at him accusingly. “I wasn’t going to climb up there and bother its babies.” She wrung out her hair and made a face.
“Awe shug, it don’t know that. You got all het up over nuthin.’ Not a thang in this whole wide world to be afeared of.”
“You talk funny,” she said.
“And you’re gettin’ too big for yur britches,” he said. “You need to mind your manners. If’n you keep it up, your mama will tan your hide.”
“Our family doesn’t believe in corporal punishment,” she said coolly.
He shook his head sadly as he turned and went back up to the house.
“That’s the younger generation for you,” I said.
“Yeah,” he said, “they got a mouth problem. Think they know more’n everbody and always gotta sass back their elders.”
“Yep,” he muttered to himself. “And they don’t understand plain English, neither.”
He eased himself back down on the porch with a grunt.
“OK. We can finally get back to lollygaggin’. Now, where’d I put my do-hickey?”
Hey readers, you may be bumfuzzled by this column but since it’s the very last one before I retire (I got talked into working another month), I just wanted to make something up out of my imagination and use a bunch of words like do-hickey. It’s been wonderful writing for you guys and gals. As always, please be safe out there and God bless.
Dorothy Cox is former assistant editor – now retired – of The Trucker, and a 20-plus-year trucking journalism veteran. She holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a master’s degree in divinity. Cox has been in journalism since 1972. She has won awards for her writing in both mainstream and trucking journalism.