Stomach tight and shaking with silent giggles, I listened to his slow footsteps steadily approaching the chicken house. When I couldn’t stand it any longer I leaped from my hiding place to ambush him, circling and hopping from one small bare foot to the other, “Come on Dad! Let’s race! I bet I can beat you to the house!”
As I bounced in anticipation he stopped and smiled down at me, his wisp of a daughter. He pulled a crinkled handkerchief from his coverall pocket and mopped the sweat from his face and neck. Was he considering it?
Then Dad shook his head and said kindly in a quiet voice, “Not right now Susan.”
After long hours of heavy farm work in the fields, he had just finished with the final barn chores of the day. The last job, feeding the hogs, involved carrying hundred-pound burlap sacks of meal on his shoulders – at least one for each pen, lifting them high to pour into car-sized feeders, cleaning the floors with a long handled scraper, putting new bedding down in the sleeping area, and scrubbing out the water bowls. He looked tired and ready for a soft chair.
But I tipped my head back to peer up into his bronzed face and pestered, “Ah come on, pleeeeeez?”
I grabbed his hand and tried to pull him into a fast walk. Dad just had one speed – sure and steady. He was on his way to the house for supper now. I finally gave up on the bouncing. It had never worked before. Actually if I thought about it, it was hard to imagine Dad running. I was so preoccupied with that thought that I didn’t notice the change. I’m guessing that there may have been an unusual glint in his eyes or twist to his smile.
Suddenly an amazing thing happened! Dad leaned his whole body forward, swung his arms, and those long, steady legs scissored wide open into a gallop towards the house. The shock froze me to the ground. I stared with my mouth open – at Dad running! Then I realized he was already half way to the house.
I pelted after him as fast as I could, whining, “No fair! I wasn’t ready! No fair! Hey Dad! I wasn’t ready! Do it again! Do it again!”
As I ran, I watched those long legs stretch and bend, stretch and bend, arms swinging, handkerchief waving cheerily from his pocket. He left me far behind with my stubby, little legs pounding furiously. He reached the backdoor, threw his arms up, and waited for me with a big smile. As soon as I reached him, I started bouncing for another race but he just laughed and escaped into the house for supper.
That hot, endless summer I learned lots of things – about bugs, kittens, gardens, and piglets – but most important was the fact that there’s a kid inside everyone waiting to burst out.