An old man uses his walking stick
for something besides walking.
A short story
Floyd H. Smith, Jr.
I walked up to the door and looked out. As I stood there looking out, I noticed that the bird feeder was empty. I’ll have to fill it up when I get back I thought. After finishing my survey of the yard I glanced up at the thermometer. It’s one of those big round types with numbers big enough for me to see without having to hunt for my glasses. The big red dial was pointing just under thirty-five degrees. There’s no numbers between twenty and forty so I guessed the temperature to be thirty-three degrees. Cold enough for a jacket, especially since these old bones stay cold all the time anyway. I’d better put my cap on too, as it may start raining again before I get back. After putting on the jacket and cap I was ready for the trip. When I reached the door again I picked up my walking stick. The stick is kept by the door for easy grabs when leaving the house. It’s really kinda ironic about the stick. Just about a year ago while walking in the woods, I saw this little oak tree with honeysuckle vine growing around it. The vine had wrapped itself around the tree early on and as the tree grew it bulged out around the vine creating a bulging spiral trunk. I had seen pictures of walking sticks that were spiraled, but none that were quiet like this one. One might think I’m a little touched in the head, but I walked up to that tree and said, “Tree, I’m going to make a walking stick out of you”. Who knows, one day I might need one. Now, just a year later, I don’t leave the house without it.
As I stepped out on the porch, the cold north wind hit me right in the face. The beard that I had grown a few months earlier made me look a lot older, but I didn’t care. It does a good job of keeping my face warm. When I reached the steps to the porch I noticed they were still wet from the rain. Easy does it, I thought as I stepped off the first step. I don’t want to be laying here in the yard when the wife gets home. After successfully making it down the steps, I walked across the yard to the driveway. Going, will be fairly easy. It’s the coming back, that will be somewhat of an ordeal. When you’re young, you don’t think much about the trials of an old man. “Let’s build our house way off the road. Up there on top of that big hill”, I had said. Now, after all these years, I still think we made the right choice.
“I can’t just stand here thinking about the past”, I said aloud. “If I don’t get moving, it will be dark before I get back”. After walking for a ways, I stopped to rest. “Stick, old buddy, I don’t know what I’d do without you”, I said as I leaned on the stick.
At the edge of the driveway is a big old pecan tree. And I just love pecan pie. I’ve picked up enough pecans to make a few pies, but crawling around on the ground is kinda hard on me, what with the arthritis and all.
“Well, looky here. There’s enough pecans to make three or four pies”. The rain had washed the pecans down the hill and they had become trapped in a big pile. I didn’t know whether to thank Mother Nature or The Lord. So, to be on the safe side, I thanked them both. “ I’ll pick those pecans up when I get back. Or maybe, I’ll pick them up tomorrow.” I better get going. It’s gonna be dark sure ‘nuf now before I get back.
Walking on this gravel road is kinda hard with these wobbly old legs. But with the help of this stick I’ll make it just fine. Besides, it’s all downhill from here. After walking for a while longer, I stopped to rest. While standing there leaning on the stick, I thought I might sit down for a bit. “What am I thinking? If I sit down, I’ll never be able to get back up”. As I started walking again I noticed the wind was picking up, and it was getting colder. If my legs would work right I could walk a little faster. Well, would you look at this. It’s starting to rain, and it sure is getting cold. Should’ve wore my gloves. “Oh, stop complaining. Your almost there now”, I said to myself. The rain was starting to freeze on the road making it more difficult to walk. After nearly falling a couple of times, I decided to walk in the grass. Oh yes, this is much better.
After making one more rest stop, I made it to my destination. Well, almost. The mailbox is on the other side of the main road. The asphalt road is covered in a solid sheet of ice. What to do? I decided to sit down and slide across the road on my butt. This will be fun, I thought. Just like when I was a kid. With myself in position, I put the stick against a tree, and gave a shove. “Wheee”! And away I went flying across the icy road and crashed right smack into the mailbox. As a kid, I don’t remember having fun hurting this much. I took a hold on the mailbox post to pull myself up. Pain shot through my leg as I made the attempt. I must have broken it when I slammed into the mailbox.
I’ll just have to sit here and wait for someone to come by and help me. Here comes a car now. This is my lucky day. Ha, Ha. At least I still have my sense of humor. The car was going slow on the icy road. As the car came closer, I recognized it as my wife’s car. The car stopped in the middle of the road, and my wife got out. She walked carefully toward me, so she wouldn’t slip on the ice. “Well, isn’t this a fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into”,she said. “Let’s get you into the car and up to the house”. With some difficulty, we managed to get me into the car. “Don’t forget my stick”, I said. “Honey, do you think we could get the mailbox moved up to the house”?
Floyd H. Smith , Jr.
January 24, 2002