RITE OF PASSAGE: The nudge
My grandfather, Walker Winfield Scott, was a tall, lanky Irishman. I always thought there was something special about hanging out with a man who shared my first name. He and my grandmother lived on a small farm outside of Miami, Mo. I often spent the weekend at their home. In the summertime, I stayed for weeks at a time. For a small child, there’s no place like a farm with 100-plus acres—especially if that child has a vivid imagination.
Some of my fondest childhood memories come from time spent on that farm. For some reason, it seemed that whenever I was around, Granddad needed my help. We all have a need to be needed—even little boys. Everywhere he went, I went. When I rode with him into town to load his truck with cattle feed, we never seemed to get back home without making a side trip. My grandfather never ate much candy, but when he did, it was Spangler Circus Peanuts. As a child, I found these treats mysterious and delicious all at once. In case you’ve never had one, they’re a marshmallow treat made in the shape of a large peanut, banana-flavored, but orange in color. To this day, I wonder what circumstances or events caused someone to dream up this candy. I guess it’s just another of life’s mysteries that will remain unsolved for years to come. I remember silently chewing the candy peanuts as we drove back to the farm. I didn’t think life could get any better.
My favorite thing to do with my grandfather was attend the cattle auction. For a young boy, this event was sensory overload. Truck after truck drove in, loaded with braying cattle. As the livestock was unloaded, a thick carpet of dust rose into the air and the smell of fresh you-know-what surrounded us. But all of that seemed like nothing when the auctioneer began his chant. If I close my eyes, I can still be pulled into the memory of his magical song, “One dollar bid, now two, now two, will ya give me two? Two dollar bid, now three, now three, will ya give me three?”
As he picked up speed, the auctioneer whipped the crowd into a bidding frenzy. I never figured out exactly what the farmers were saying, but their bidding sounded much like the word “up” with a long blast in front of it. Soon they were yelling, “HHHUP!, HHHUP!” as they bid against each other. At last, the competition narrowed down to only two. The auctioneer gave a final, “Last call, dollar bid, now, will ya give me?” Then he yelled, “Going once, going twice, SOLD!” As quickly as the show had started, it ended. I never felt sad because I knew that in a few seconds, it would all begin again.
On the days that my grandfather was buying, I sat close beside him. When he wanted me to bid, he nudged me with his elbow. I deepened my prepubescent voice in an effort to sound like a man and yelled, “HHHUP” on his behalf. When I was one of the last bidders on some particular sale lot, the auctioneer pointed his cane directly at me to start the “last call.” I sat and waited intently for my grandfather’s nudge.
Somewhere in Granddad’s life, he came into possession of an auctioneer cane. When Granddad passed away, the auctioneer cane became mine. It hangs in the entryway of our home.
The older I get, the more I realize that I had a grandfather whose nudging went well beyond the cattle auctions. Once, he took me into a bank vault and showed me what $1,000 looked like. This young boy was wide-eyed as I gazed at the tremendous stack of 1,000 $1 bills. Back then, I thought having a quarter of my own to spend meant I had hit the jackpot.
Granddad told me, “This thousand dollars is yours. But in order to get it, you have to go from now until your 16th birthday without smoking.”
During my early teenage years when my peers were experimenting with smoking, I knew that just one cigarette and that stack of $1,000 dollars would go up in smoke. On my 16th birthday, I went to the bank and claimed my money.
I find it sad that many of today’s young people lack a concerned older person who will nudge them in the right direction. Many lives have been re-cast after a simple nudge from a caring senior adult.
“Now, what will ya give me for a nudge? Two dollar bid, now three, now three, will ya’ give me three?”
This auction will never end because the touch of a grandparent on a child’s life is . . . priceless.
Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827)