Burning Bridges & Midnight Oil

Time passes slowly in the summer when the heat beats down on your head and you’re working the hot afternoon. Living in the Arkansas Valley means hot dry summers through most years, and too many afternoons of heat beating down. Dirt blows and the days grow hot and long.

I remember as a child, my grandfather saying, “It’s two in the afternoon and that sun ain’t gonna budge until well after four, I might as well go in and take a nap.” And he did.

We spent cool afternoons on the porch in front of a fan blowing air across us from the sprinkler watering the lawn. Cool breezes with an occasional spritz of water from an overzealous sprinkler felt good. Sundays were my favorite. While we rested Grandma and Mom made homemade ice cream and ran it in the freezers.

My grandfather’d had a heart attack in his late forties, so he spent those hot afternoons resting. We didn’t want a repeat of anything from before. I don’t remember those days. The grandfather I knew was stout as a mule and twice as stubborn. He had a nice disposition, unless you crossed him, and he didn’t suffer fools kindly. He figured in his life, he’d dealt with enough stupidity to last, so he shouldn’t have to deal with anymore.

On one particular summer afternoon, we rested on the porch and a neighbor came down the street on foot.

“Hi Mac, how’ ya doin’?” The old geezer lived about six doors down and didn’t have the time a day for my grandfather unless he wanted something.

“Great, you?” Granddad didn’t ever put too much energy into folks he didn’t cotton to.

“I saw you had that old car sittin’ by the garage, and I wondered if you’d be wantin’ to get rid of it?” The old guy got to the point fast, but then he just waited for Granddad to answer him.

“Nah, can’t say as I do. I might sell it, but I’m not in the notion of just gettin’ rid of it.” Granddad sat up a little straighter and picked up a stick to whittle.

“Well, I thought you might not want much fer it,” he chewed on a stick and waited for Granddad to answer him.

“How much are ya offerin’?” Granddad stuck his stick between his lips and poked at the one tooth he still had.

“Well, Mac, I got a hunerd and fifty dollars here, if you’ll let me have it fer that?” the neighbor looked at his feet, never met Granddad’s eyes.

Granddad waited. He didn’t say anything at all.

“I suppose I could throw in that fifty dollars I got from the seed this week.” He dug his toe into the dirt, “Can’t do much better’n that.”

Granddad sat still, pokin’ his tooth with that stick he just whittled.

“My wife has three hunnerd put back for an ‘mergency. I s’pose I could put in another two hunnerd of that.”

Granddad didn’t say anything. He just sat there.

“I’m supposin’ we could save more money for an ‘mergency. I’ll give you five hunnerd dollars for that car out there.” The neighbor dug his toe deeper in the dirt and stood there twisting his foot against the sidewalk.

“Well, I suppose I’d sell it for five hunnerd. It’s got good tires all around, new white walls, a good engine, I worked on the transmission, and I put a new paint job on it last week.” Grandad stopped.

“Five-fifty, Mac and that’s my final offer.” The neighbor toed the edge of the sidewalk and rolled his foot to the side. “Ya gonna take it.”

“Sold. I’ll get ya the keys.” Granddad got up from his chair and walked in the house. He brought back a bill of sale and a set of keys from the kitchen cupboard. They filled out the paperwork and the neighbor handed Granddad the money.

Granddad counted every one dollar bill in the stack twice, and put it in his pocket. The neighbor man nodded and took his paper work and left. He stopped at the driveway and looked the car over good before he opened the driver door and started the engine. He drove past the house and Granddad nodded as he drove past. The neighbor got a good deal, but Granddad waited until he got his price.


When you wait long enough, burning bridges and midnight oil burn out and what’s left is the value of the relationship. You get what you want, without begging for it.  The heat of a summer day passes comfortably with cool breezes and a shade tree.


2 thoughts on “Burning Bridges & Midnight Oil

  1. Hi Jan…great post. Do you realize you are all the original inventors of the fan spritzer machine you can now buy in stores. Ugh. Who would have thought. I enjoyed reading this…very well done.

    Warm regards,
    Donna McDine

  2. Hi Donna,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    I hadn’t thought of the fan-spritzers, however, I’ve learned over the years that a pan of cold water in front of a fan makes a big difference in the temperature of a room. We spent many years without air conditioning. When I was a kid I don’t remember knowing what a/c was until I was a teenager. Maybe we had it and I was too busy living to remember?


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