There are no chance encounters. Some look for trouble – a snow storm the perfect place to start.
Like when I climbed out on the roof to remove the snow. When I stretched for the last pile, it had gotten dark, but I wanted the roof to look nice when the neighbors drove by. When I started to slip, there was nothing to do but hope it didn’t hurt. And get rid of the shovel. Only a novice tumbles off a roof holding onto the shovel.
Yes, I’ve done this before. I grew up on a farm and learned about trouble. My father taught me. Like the time he sold a pony, and the guy wanted it delivered on Christmas Eve to surprise his boy – way north of Keene, NH. A storm was forecasted, but special orders didn’t upset Dad, and after all, it was Christmas. There were no highways, and we traveled in the rickety truck what seemed hours, snaking our way over winding roads to some place near Vermont, with a gas stop, nice scenery of hills, and woods and barns and things going well.
When we arrived, the man showed us the nifty stall he’d built – in his house – in the cellar- had a wooden ramp covering the steps so the pony could slide down inside. (I’d learned early when a father wants to do a thing, he finds a way). After much discussion, Dad asked his nine-year-old horse expert, “So what do you think?”
“Well, Dad,” I said, sounding thoughtful. “We could get him down here alright. But they’ll probably never get him back out.” So for the next two hours, we tackled what was left of an old tool shed. When we’d finished, Santa would have been pleased with the pony’s home. Oh, and did I mention – it had started snowing.
But my father kept talking. And talking. When Dad was on a roll, there was no stopping. “Mr. Tatten,” the man finally asked. Snow’in pretty hard. “Shouldn’t you get goin’?”
I wouldn’t call it going – sledding, maybe. The good news is no other cars were on the road. The bad news, no ploughs either. But my father kept the truck moving, reaching his arm out the window just far enough to clear a tiny hole through the ice to find what looked like the road. And I stayed awake the whole way – watching and learning – admiring his concentration as he chain-smoked us home, over white roads we couldn’t much see. My dad, super problem – maker – solver!
After a few hours sleep, we got up Christmas morning to over two feet of snow, the faintest tire trail behind the buried truck the only evidence of our adventure. Sixty years later I can still picture it and think about a little boy, and what a special Christmas morning that must have been.
But mostly, I think about my father and what he taught me about finding trouble.