When you’re a 5-year-old city-dweller, there are no sweeter words than, “You and Donna will stay on the ranch with Grandpa and Grandma this weekend.” How I loved the sights, sounds, and even the smells of their completely different world. Staying overnight meant a Saturday picnic on the mountain. But, watching my parents drive through the ranch gate, my tummy felt funny and my eyes, watery. Guess my Grandpa noticed, ‘cuz he grabbed my hand.
“C’mon, girls; let’s get to chores while Grandma finishes up her bread.” Funny how the odor of the barn dried up my eyes, isn’t it? Laughing at the new piglets playing in their pen took away my tummy-ache. Why would city grown-ups say the funny smell of pigs makes them sick?
We finished chores and made our way back to the house. The moment we opened the screen door, the aroma of freshly baked bread hit me. “I was just about to put these sandwiches in the picnic basket. Do you still want to eat on the mountain or did Grandpa work you too hard so you need a rest?” Eyeballing the thick slices of homemade bread used for the tuna sandwiches, I clapped and jumped up and down. How much better they would taste on the mountain.
“We’re not tired, Grandma! Put the sandwiches in the basket, please.” One-by-one the two halves of each sandwich were placed in the woven straw basket. Grandma had lined it with red and white gingham cloth, a second piece for a covering.
We skipped to the front door where Grandma offered us the handle of the picnic basket. She gave us the familiar warning to go around and come up the backside of the mountain, ‘cuz there was a deep canyon in front.
I helped carry the picnic basket until we started up the mountain; but, then, I had to let go. It was my sister’s job to carry it up the narrow path ‘cuz she was seven. At last, we were next to the tree. The space was a little rocky, but it was easy to clear away a place to sit.
“Do ya think Grandma and Grandpa come up here to have lunch sometimes? I’d come every day if I lived here.” My sister said she didn’t think they ever took the time to have picnics. “Do ya think they’re too old for picnics?” This was a worry to me ’cuz I’d heard people die when they’re too old but didn’t know what number that was. Grandma already had two five’s in her number and I only had one.
“Can you just eat? I dunno if they’re too old but you ask too many questions.”
Tugging on the brim of my cowboy hat like I’d seen Grandpa do, I settled myself down for a few quiet bites. With the sounds of mooing cows and screeching chickens not far off, I scanned the mountain for any sign of squirrels. I couldn’t see any from where I sat, so I stood to go a little higher.
“Hey, sit down. Where do ya think you’re goin’?”
“Just up there; I want to check for squirrels.”
“Finish your sandwich first.”
Holding up my half-eaten sandwich, I reminded her, “Picnics are for eatin’ standin’, sittin’, or walkin’, don’t ya know?” I reckon she didn’t know, and, boy, did she take her job to watch out for me seriously.
“C’mon back here, right now! You know you’re not supposed to go to the top.” I took three more quick steps up, whirled around for a fast check and returned to my sister. “Did ya see anything up there?” Ah-ha! She did want to go to the top, too. That’s when I decided it must be really hard to be the big sister. I mean, it was her job to keep me from doing the very thing she’d like to do herself.
Except for a few grasshoppers and assorted tiny bugs, there wasn’t much interesting on the mountain that day. We finished our sandwiches and headed back to have the usual dessert of milk and cookies with Grandpa and Grandma.
Returning as an adult, I discovered that our mountain had been a sprawling, 10-foot high pile of rocky earth, located about 20 yards from Grandpa’s front door. Our deep canyon resulted from the removal of that dirt. Still, it was a marvelous place for young children to enjoy a picnic lunch on a warm summer’s day.
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A True Story
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