Artie’s Adventures

Hank and Ab Day 1

Hank loved the mornings and had been up reading his Bible and praying, when he heard Linda moving around in the kitchen. He checked the time, it was 5:10. He thought, “Ab will be here shortly.”

Hank continued reading until the smell of the coffee beckoned him away.  As he entered the kitchen, he realized he was happy. The things he had missed so much were all there; his wife busy making breakfast, the warmth of the room, and the aromas. He thought out loud, “Life just does not get any better than this.” He kissed Linda good morning and poured himself a half cup of coffee.

As he did he predicted, “Ab will be here in 3 minutes.”

Hank knew this because Ab’s 1936 Reo truck could be heard a quarter mile away.

Linda poured a cup of fresh coffee, and set it, the sugar bowl, and cream at Ab’s usual place.

Ab’s truck wheezed to a stop in the driveway. A moment later, Ab let himself in the front door without knocking.

Hank said, “I’m going to have to fix that lock.” Ab scoffed, “That door has never been locked in the hundred years this farm has been here.”

Linda greeted him, “Good morning Mr. Dunn, your coffee is ready.”

Ab replied, “Bless you child. I’ve been following the smell of it since I turned off the Beaver Brook Road.” Nodding to Hank, he moved to the table without further invitation. There followed the tink-tink-tink sound of spoon on cup as Ab stirred in his cream and sugar.

Ab looked right at home. He wore rimless glasses that protruded above his beard highlighting his lively blue eyes. His long sleeved cotton shirt was all but covered by denim overalls. His well worn work boots, showed they were not “work” in name only.  All was topped off by a battered straw hat, now resting on one knee of his crossed legs.

“Good Coffee Linda,” he said appreciatively. Linda acknowledged the compliment with, “Thank you Mr. Dunn. It’s all part of the *Alan Farm* service.”

Ab turned to Hank and said, “I saw three skunks on the way over here, and it is only the 23rd of August. They don’t usually start moving around much until late October.” He continued while leaning toward Hank, “Almost hit one of the damned things.” Followed by, “Sorry Linda.” to apologize for using the word “damned”. Hank said, “It is a Bible concept but never applies to four legged skunks.”

Linda began serving up the eggs, bacon, fried potatoes, and toast. Hank topped off his cup and sat down. Linda joined them. Hank asked God’s blessing and thanked Him for the provision He had made for them in Christ.

When grace ended Ab attacked his breakfast giving out compliments with every bite.

Ab’s wife had died about a year before, and he was on his own.

It was not that Ab could not cook for himself. He could and had in fact, cooked professionally for logging camps. He was very good at getting the food on the table; however, it was pretty much flavorless when he did.

Hank told Ab their skunk story and about Dr. Chenry giving the skunk a sedative, and Phyllis getting sprayed, and her tomato juice bath. Ab laughed, and added tongue in cheek, “I think Doc Chenry is a veterinarian.”

Hank explained, “Doc was here checking on Art’s finger.” Hank went on to recount that event. Ab questioned, “Art is a little young to be using power tools, isn’t he?” Linda interjected, “He made me and his sisters some lovely shelves. More coffee Mr. Dunn?” She poured half a cup without waiting for a response.

Virginia came into the kitchen just then. She went to her mom and gave her a good morning hug. Then she gave each of the men a peck on the cheek, and said in a voice full of morning huskiness, “ Good morning.”

Ab, in surprise, said, “You’ve grown girl.” Hank added, “That’s what happens when you feed them regular.” Ab was still staring at Virginia and asked, “How old are you now?” Virginia, confused by the attention, glanced at her mom for reassurance and responded, “Fourteen.” Then feeling uncomfortable, she stepped behind her mom. She busied herself with organizing the counter for the breakfast that would follow.

Ab continued, “That’s what I thought, but then seeing you I thought I was wrong.” He then added through a broad grin, “I know there is supposed to be the first time for everything but I did not want that to happen today.”

As the men were finishing breakfast Phyllis came into the room. She went straight to Ab and climbed up on his lap. She let her head fall back against him and snuggled down. He slid an arm around her and said, “Good morning Stinky.” Phyllis turned to meet Virginia’s gaze. Virginia said, “I did not say a thing.” Phyllis then shifted her eyes to her father, who said, “I never used the word ‘Stinky.’”

Ab chuckled at having stumbled into a family moment. He rubbed his beard on Phyllis’ cheek and squeezed her. She protested slightly but stayed on Ab’s lap until it was time for him to leave.

As they stood to leave, Art came into the kitchen fully dressed but with his sweatshirt wrong side out. He greeted Ab with “Good morning Mr. Dunn”, and stuck out his hand. Ab responded to this formality by shaking Art’s hand and saying, “Good morning to you Master Alan.” Ab held on to Artie’s hand and rolled it over to examine Art’s finger. Ab commented, “Your trigger finger is too short. You’ll never get in the Army.” To which Hank responded in a grave tone, “We hope and pray he is never needed.”

Phyllis contributed, “I think *Master* *Alan* better learn to dress himself.”

Art did not respond. His dad had his full attention.

Then Hank said Art “Remember, don’t milk Lucy. I want to dry her off.”

Hank, trying break away said, “Goodbye. See you tonight.”

Ab went to his truck and after a great deal of coaxing brought the engine to life. Hank started the old Ford and moved in behind Ab. The two-truck convoy rattled and shook its way out of the driveway and started on the 40-minute drive to the location where they planned to work.

The family watched until Ab’s truck disappeared over the first hill.

Art lingered a moment taking in the morning view; watching the light of the late summer sunrise as it began taking its foothold on the day. And as he did he noticed a few leaves were already in their fall colors. It was a melancholy reminder to Art that summer was ending.

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