As far as I know, my father’s father (“Papa” to all us grandchildren) only went to Texas once. That was when he went to Galveston to attend a reunion of the crew of the USS Tonkawa, the seagoing tug that he served on during World War II. He gave me a magnet that he picked up from the Elissa while he was in town. I’ve still got that magnet; it has a prized place on my refrigerator along with several dozen other magnets I’ve collected during my travels over the years.
John Robert Clifton, Jr. died almost fourteen years ago, but I saw him as clear as day this past Sunday in Serbin. How did that happen?
I’d be willing to bet there are a few things that will automatically take you back to your childhood when you experience them. The sound of a two-cylinder John Deere tractor does that for me. My grandfather owned two styled John Deere Model B tractors (so a little newer than the one pictured here).
Sunday afternoon when we were at the Wendish Fest, we were on the other side of the grounds from these tractors when I heard a faint but familiar sound above the music and the noise of the crowd. I told Margie I was heading over to see the John Deere running, and I found myself on the receiving end of a quizzical look that said something along the lines of “How do you know it’s the John Deere that’s running?”
Well, if you’ve ever heard one, I’m sure you’ll agree that you won’t forget it. I stood there for a few minutes with my eyes closed and suddenly it was about 1980 again. I was at my great-grandfather’s farm, out by the old Bulldog hit-and-miss engine, and I could hear the John Deere coming. PopPopPopPop-pop-pop-PopPop. And there he was, moving slowly up the hill. POP-poppoppoppop. Pop. He eased the tractor up by the old shed underneath the ancient oak tree on the west side of the house and looked at me and smiled as he cut the engine. Pop-pop—pop—pop–wheeze.
I opened my eyes again and looked at the three men in cowboy hats gathered around the old Model B talking. I never saw my grandfather wear a cowboy hat, and I’m sure he never found himself in Serbin during his lifetime, but I’m just as sure that he would have been right there with them, deep in conversation and watching that tractor run.
It was good to see you again, Papa. Thanks for coming out to the Wendish Fest.