By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
We were hosting a neighborhood supper to welcome back Chip and Nan, who’d just returned from a spring and summer working in the North Dakota oilfield.
After our initial greetings, I asked why they had endured the baking summer but hadn’t stayed for the pleasant autumn.
“I wasn’t taking any chances of getting snowed on before we headed home for the winter,” Nan said. “I figured the early bird gets warm.”
Historically, Chip has been the punster in the family, but sharing a travel trailer with him 12 hours a day for 20 weeks must have affected Nan.
Bud drove up on his John Deere “B” with a sack of pears in his left hand. Clyde walked in with a bowl of potato salad, and Abigail was holding onto their 4-year-old great-grandsons, Matthew and Mark. Having made their acquaintance before, I feared the boys’ parents’ plans to try for Luke and John.
When Abigail let go of Matthew’s hand to give Nan a hug, he took off for the nearby pond, and Mark wrestled free and followed. Most of us trotted or trudged after them as fast as arthritis or avoirdupois would allow, but Nan sprinted, catching Matthew at water’s edge and handing him off to Chip before chasing Mark into water that was waist-deep for the boy.
Clyde took Matthew from Chip. Chip turned toward Nan, who was trudging shoreward with Mark in tow.
“Can I give you a lift?” Chip asked, extending his hand from the bank.
Nan quipped, “No, thanks. I’m wading for someone.”
Eventually the muddy boy and all who’d handled him got cleaned up, and we found clothes that would do in a pinch. The peace didn’t last long, though.
Sue was stirring a Cajun stew, and Mark sneaked up behind her to look into a bowl on the counter. Nan reached just in time to keep Mark from knocking over the okra intended for the gumbo. Sue turned to assess the chaos, and Matthew, who had also escaped Abigail’s grip, darted in and reached toward the simmering pot Sue had let go of. Nan deftly pinned both of Matthew’s arms to his ribs with her free arm.
Before the rest of us could collect our thoughts enough to say, “Wow,” she offered a Chip-like observation.
“Two mini-cooks will ruin the stew,” she said calmly.
Nan asked if she and the boys might use the fallow garden for a while. We nodded assent, knowing that she knew it was securely fenced in eight-foot chicken wire.
I walked ahead to open the gate.
Looking in turn at each of the two youngsters she was embracing tightly and then at me, Nan said, “Necessity is the mother of detention.” Contact Daily Journal Oxford Bureau reporter Errol Castens at firstname.lastname@example.org.