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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Childhood (09/03/09)

TITLE: Before Dawn
By Rachel Phelps


It’s dark. Not the clear, silky dark of midnight, but the fuzzy, bluish dark of the beginnings of dawn, when the world still out of focus and the light is pale blue through the window. It’s still at least an hour before dawn, but it’s time to get up. Even though I was reading Nancy Drew under the covers until 10:30, it’s definitely time to get up.

Grandma and Grandpa’s house is so quiet. I love the deliciously grown-up feeling of wandering through the house at this time of the morning, ready to take on the day before it even arrives. I can hear the crickets outside, the creak of the settling attic fan, and the muffled voice of the morning newscaster coming from the office. Grandpa is already up, as usual.

I creep into the doorway and stand running my finger along the door latch, shy of running in and disrupting his morning routine. He’s dressed for work already, in worn-out overalls and a shirt with the sleeves cut off. I’ve always thought that, for a grandpa, he’s awful strong. I like it when I get bear-hugs from him.

It looks like the news is just about over. Soon he’ll be headed off to the fields for the day, hopefully with a promise to come back and let me ride with him in the combine for a few hours. A little giggle escapes at the idea, even though I promised myself to be very, very quiet.

“G’morning, Punkin,” Grandpa says, turning a little in his chair. Punkin is my special name on the farm. My sister is Puddle-Jumper because she always hops over the puddles when it rains, instead of splashing through like my cousin and I do. I’m Punkin… well, because I’m the youngest of the cousins, and my grandpa thinks it’s cute.

I run over and clamber into his lap, almost tripping over the XL t-shirt I use to sleep in. Grandma will be out of the shower soon and making breakfast, but this is just our time. I hold my breath, waiting for the magic words…

“Want a four-wheeler ride before breakfast?”

The air outside is still cold at this time of the morning, so I borrow a too-large jacket from Grandma when I come to the kitchen after changing. It’s one of Grandpa’s, and it comes to my knees, but I like it. It smells like dirt and sunshine and the wheat Grandpa and my uncle have been harvesting all week. Grandma closes a few of the snaps, leaving the bottom few open so I can still walk, and asks if I want oatmeal when I get back. Bleh, but somehow even oatmeal tastes better at Grandma’s.

“With brown sugar and milk,” I state my conditions, shivering a little in excitement when she nods. I know I’ll be hungry by the time we get back.

Grandpa boosts me up onto the green four-wheeler and gets me all situated in front of him before he turns it on. This morning, he even lets me hold the red switch to start up the engine while he gives it some gas to wake it up. I’ll be able to drive it myself next year, Grandpa told me so, but today I’m happy just letting him.

He backs up slowly to turn around, and then we’re off, practically flying down their hill toward the fields. Dena, their dog, comes from the side of the house at a dead run, intent on catching up with us. Grandpa encourages her along, calling out, “Come on, Dena. Come up, Dena.” To me, it sounds more like, “Hummuh, Dena, hummup,” but I finally figured it out.

We’re heading up to the far pond, the one where the good fishing is. It’s past several hills, over Stranger Creek, and back behind the old farmhouse. I almost got hit by several nasty bugs, but no guts on the coat yet, and Grandpa doesn’t seem to mind the little creatures. Sometimes I think I could never be a farmer like him just because of that.

From the top of the hill nearest the pond, we can see the fields stretch on for miles as the sun just starts to come up. Dena comes panting up to greet us, rearing up for a head pat from me. I lean back against Grandpa and watch the orange start to take over the sky and take away the fuzziness of the light.


“Yes, Punkin?”

“I love you.”

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This article has been read 954 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Chely Roach09/10/09
This is a wondefully written little slice of life. I want to slip into her morning and try it on for size.
I loved the line, "I love the deliciously grown-up feeling of wandering through the house at this time of the morning, ready to take on the day before it even arrives."
Robyn Burke09/11/09
You captured childhood so sweetly here! I could smell, hear, feel, taste all of what you described. Very well written!
Sarah Elisabeth 09/13/09
Very sweet story! I felt like I was right in the middle of my mom's stories of her summers on granma and granpa's farm. Very well written and congrats on advancing to level 3!
Jan Ackerson 09/14/09
I love the oatmeal bit--it really tickled me. Very nicely written story.
Genia Gilbert09/14/09
This is really good! It is soooo childhood that it takes me there, and well written.
Bryan Ridenour09/14/09
I really liked this. Especially the part about no bug guts yet. Very well written!
Betty Castleberry09/15/09
This is a charming slice of life. Your MC is believable. Being married to a farmer, I can relate to the pre-dawn hours. I enjoyed this read.
Lisa Johnson09/16/09
This entry is an excellent example of bringing good memories to life through very good writing. I loved every word from the beginning to end. I believe you will place very high with this entry this week.
Marita Thelander 09/16/09
"It smells like dirt and sunshine..." perfect word picture for me. Sweetly written childhood memory. Good job.
Mariane Holbrook 09/16/09
Has anyone ever told you that you're a great word carpenter? What a lovely story! Big time kudos!
Joy Faire Stewart09/16/09
I enjoyed the relationship between grandpa and Punkin, beautiful. The entry is one of my favorite this week.
Loren T. Lowery09/16/09
Well written, holding my interest all the way through and bringing back memories of like mornings with my great aunt and uncle on their farm outside of Lawrence, KS.
Sherrie Coronas09/16/09
Great "child" perspective and really nice writing. It did make me long for those childhood days. Very nice job!
Allen Stark09/17/09
Isn't it wonderful how we can get into these wonderful story time machines and take ourselves and others back in time? Even though the names are different and grandpa didn't have a four-wheeler, the action sounds very familiar. And my "Punkin," she was born the day before Halloween. Thanks for waking me up with such "warm fuzzies."