King Me

Grandpa looked very dapper in his newly steamed and cleaned Stetson cowboy hat. He was standing before his dresser mirror, adjusting his brand new red bow-tie. He was getting ready to go to his first meeting as a new member of the ‘32nd and Denison Cattle and Land Club.’

His grandson Tommy could see that he was pretty excited, “I think you look sharp, Grandpa.” The old man smiled back at the 13-year old boy in his mirror.

Tommy thought back to how this entire evening had come about, realizing it had been a two month process. It had started when Grandpa said, “I’d sure like to be a member of that new club one day.”

“What new club?” Tommy asked as they rumbled down the main street towards Route 64.

He pointed towards a plain looking two-story building. “That club,” he said as they rolled by. Tommy turned in the truck seat and studied the structure. He couldn’t see anything special about the place and he turned back to his Grandpa and made a wry face at the old man.

“I don’t get it,” Tommy replied.

“It’s called the ‘32nd and Denison Cattle and Land Club,’ he said to the young boy sitting next to him, “and I wanna be a member of it.” He paused then added, “But I don’t wanna ask them myself.”

That gave Tommy an idea. He decided he would do his best to get someone from that Club to ask his Grandpa to be a member.

It was the following day that Tommy went down to the hardware store and then to the feed lot out back where most of the retired ranchers and farmers sat, playing checkers. He loitered about, watching the games and listening to the old men as they talked and accused one another of moving when it wasn’t their turn.

Soon one of them asked him if he was interested in taking him on. Tommy jumped at the chance. That day he played about ten games and lost everyone, but because he was a good sport, he was invited back.

For the next month and a half Tommy returned to the feed lot and played game after game of checkers. Often he would return home, finish his chores, and have supper and then head for bed, mentally exhausted. He was getting better at checkers, winning more than half the time and even dreaming about playing the game in his sleep.

Then the day came that the subject of the Club came up. Tommy listened for an opportunity to say something about his Grandpa. He started by asking innocently, “What’s the Club all about?”

After the explanation, Tommy asked another question, “How can my Grandpa become a member?”

“Well son,” one of the older gentlemen started, “You let me handle that.”

Tommy responded, “Yes, sir.”

That night Tommy could hardly sleep. He was so excited by the prospect of his Grandpa getting an invitation to become a member of the 32nd and Denison Cattle and Land Club.

The following morning, shortly after chores and while they were eating breakfast, Grandpa’s telephone rang. He picked it up just after the third ring. “Speaking,” he said. There was pause. “This Friday night at 8 o’clock, okie-dokey.” He hung up the phone and came back to the breakfast table. He was smiling.

After a few more bites of eggs and bacon, he finally spoke, “That was the President of the 32nd and Denison Cattle and Land Club.” The retired rancher smiled widely then added, “And he has invited me to join their Club.”

Tommy wanted to whoop for happiness because he knew that that what his Grandpa really wanted. He tried hard not to hurry through his breakfast as he sat there. He still had to wash up the dishes before heading to the feed lot.

The next ten days were more relaxing for Tommy, knowing that he had succeeded in getting the invite for his Grandpa. His skill at checkers was improving as he was starting to win nearly seven out of ten games he played. Plus he enjoyed listening to the old men and all the stories of the ‘good old days.’

“Well, I’m off Tommy, you need anything call your Aunt Bev,” Grandpa said as he stepped out the door. A minute later the old Dodge pick-up could be heard starting up and the tires crunching on the gravel as he pulled out of the driveway.

Tommy reached under the couch and found the boot horn and slipped off his cowboy boots. He wondered out into the kitchen in his stocking feet to raid the refrigerator of a piece of fried chicken and a soda pop. He turned on the radio and leaned against the counter.

He finished the drum stick and tossed it in the garbage can and then sat down at the table. An old Bob Wills song was playing and Tommy was trying hard to remember the name of the tune. He sipped at the soda bottle as a set of headlights flashed through the nearly dark living room. It was the sound of Grandpa’s truck.

Tommy looked over at the clock, “He’s only been gone 15-minutes,” he said to himself. He got up and started towards the front door.

Grandpa stepped through the doorway and closed the door with a solid thump behind him. It was obvious to Tommy that he was angry about something. The first thought the young boy had was, “Did he find out?”

“That dirty rotten old son of a…” his Grandpa started, but did not finish. He stood there, fingering the edge of his hat. Then he sat down on the edge of the couch and finished, “They said I could be a member but they don’t allow ties in their Club.”

Tommy could see his Grandpa was getting frustrated again. The old man paused and when he got a hold of his temper said, “But before I could get it off, that old fart Pickens cut it off.”

That’s when Tommy realized that the ends of Grandpa’s tie were missing just below the knot. The youngster walked back into the kitchen and fetched a beer from the fridge and gave it to his Grandpa. “Thanks,” he said, then he added, “I don’t want to be a member of their Club anyway.”

Tommy had to turn his back to his Grandpa so the old man couldn’t see the hurt as it washed over his face. Then his Grandpa said, “Anytime you want to play checker, I’m pretty fair myself.”

He turned and looked at his Grandpa. There was twinkle in the old mans eye that told Tommy that he had known all along what his Grandson was up too and that he appreciated it.

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