On that particular day, things did not go the way a particular little nine-year-old boy in West Kentucky wanted them to go. It was not a matter of weather. The weather, in fact, was quite pleasant, sunny and somewhat mild for July. So, no, it was not the weather. Nor was it a matter of not being allowed to play. It was, oddly enough, a matter of not being allowed to work.
Roy Morris was baling hay on that particular day and little Charlie Two Shirt wanted to help with the hay even though he was short and small. His dad introduced him to visitors at church as “the runt of the litter.” Compared to his two older brothers, the description seemed accurate enough; they were both tall, handsome and muscular. Charlie Two Shirt was strong for his size but neither of the other two words was ever used to describe him. An overbite exaggerated his large front teeth and his blond crew cut did nothing to hide the various scars on his head. He hated the annual school pictures and the teasing of his classmates when they called him “Bucky” or “Beaver.” But he loved to do farm work.
His dad and his older brother Paul were getting ready to go over and help Mister Roy with the hay. His dad was nearly fifty years old and though he was only five-eight, he was muscular and in amazing shape for a man his age. He could haul hay or cut tobacco all day long and still have plenty of strength and energy left for doing the milking. Charlie Two Shirt’s brother was already nearly six feet tall even though he was just thirteen years old. He and their father finished tying on their shoes while Charlie Two Shirt went down to his basement bedroom to get his gloves.
When he came back upstairs and walked outside, the pickup was gone. A trail of dust drifted above the long gravel driveway that led to a longer gravel road. He ran to his mother and asked, “Where are Dad and Paul?!”
“They’ve gone to help Mister Roy with the hay.”
“I wanted to go help, too!”
His mother looked down through her glasses, wiped the dishwater from her hands and patted his shoulder, “Well, I guess they didn’t know you wanted to go. You can help me with the green beans after I finish the dishes.”
Charlie Two Shirt walked back outside and stared at the gravel road and the last wisps of dust drifting into the fencerow in the curve a half-mile away. It was three miles to Roy Morris’ farm and he knew it was pointless to ask his mom to drive him over there. She was in the middle of washing dishes and after that she would be canning beans. He didn’t want to can beans; he wanted to haul hay.
So without another word and hoping his mother would stay in the kitchen in the back of the house, he walked very quietly across the driveway. He decided a shortcut through the pasture would save him at least a tenth of a mile. So, he ducked between the strands of barbed wire and headed over to Roy Morris’ place.
An hour later he was helping Mister Roy drive his old Popping Johnny across the field while Paul threw bales up and their dad stacked them on the wagon. “I can’t believe you walked three miles of gravel road to come help me haul hay,” Mister Roy chuckled, rubbing Charlie Two Shirt’s head with one hand. “Now you keep this tractor going straight between these two rows of bales.”
For a little while, Charlie Two Shirt forgot about his big bucked teeth and his scarred head and his runty little body. He gripped that old black steering wheel tightly with both hands and grinned from ear to ear.