It’s pretty hard to face the fact that it has been about 45 years since I was known as Mickey hanging around in Mackey, Ind., where my grandparents lived. They were my dad’s parents. My grandparents were survivors of the great depression. My grandmother was a bible carrying believer in the beliefs of the Church of Christ. That religion never really set in with me. According to my grandmother’s explanations of its details, it was just too strict for me. She took us kids to church twice on Sunday. Plus, Wednesday bible study whenever we were there mid week. I do believe she bent the rules somewhat on the church’s restrictions on card playing. Apparently the card game Rook was OK.
A lot of things were going on in the sixties; Kennedy was shot, space travel, Vietnam, Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. I being just a kid, most of these things were not important. I had puberty to worry about. That and my grandparents were determined to see to it that I appreciated what a good work ethic was all about. Or, maybe I was just cheap child labor. They owned the only store in Mackey. A mom and pop store / gas station called Dossett’s Grocery. When I wasn’t working at the gas pumps I was doing yard work back at their farm house. It was no longer a real farm. They sold the land for the store. I am pretty sure I would have become a farm boy had they kept the farm. Corn surrounded the perimeter of the yard.
When my mother and dad got divorced all three kids went with dad. A predominate story is that he threatened to kill all of us if mother contested. Living with him was tough. He would not tolerate any misbehaving and ruled with a leather strap. He was raised that way by his granddad in Kentucky. He would drop us off with his parents for a month or so after school was out for the summer. It was what it was. Kids do not have a choice in such matters. (Not like today when they might hire an attorney or something).
The grocery store was open at 6AM. Getting up and having oven heated glaze donuts that did not sell yesterday was typical. My job was to sit on a milk crate and pump gas to the cars and trucks that ran over the ringer hose and pulled up next to regular or ethyl. It was not all that boring. I had classic 1st edition comic books I could slide out gently from their plastic sheaths and return good as new. Or the gourmet bologna salad sandwiches my grandmother would make from scratch from the ends of the bologna loafs. Back then I would have to find out where the manufacturer hid the gas tank opening. Seriously they put them behind the license plate, tail lights and some were masked as logos that twisted off. We had a pretty modern pump, but still we posted an ever changing tax chart to show how much gas to pump in dollars to account for the tax. I hated little old ladies driving up and asking for 5 gallons instead of a dollar amount. So much easier to pump 4 dollars and 95 cents and take their 5 dollar bill. Also I cringe when I look back at the gas prices. 17 cents was the lowest I pumped. That was during a gas war.
It wasn’t all work and church. I would get to go fishing with my grand dad on Sundays. In the fall and winter when we were there for holidays I worked until about noon only. Christmas morning was the hardest. Later I’d go hunting squirrels and rabbits. Cleaning and skinning my kill, making sure to get all of the buckshot out. They were good eating. My grand dad’s truck antenna would bolster many a squirrel tail. A farm boy’s trophy rack.
As I look back those were pretty good days. I got my ears smacked a lot by my grandmother. Unless you were my dad I wasn’t about to let you rule over me. I was a smart ass teenager who hated authority. OK, I tried, grand mother won, especially if she threatened to tell my dad. Grand dad never laid a hand on me. I was his favorite grandson. All in all it was my ideal of a Norman Rockwell lifestyle.