Taking the Saucepan Home

Taking the Saucepan Home

Every night at dusk, this old neighbor of mine would take his folding chair out to the field; along with his pipe and a thermos filled with his Orange Pekoe tea. In the chill of the night, you could see the steam rolling off the rim of the plastic lid of a cup, that’s fashioned to serve as both cap and cup for the thermos; it wouldn’t be long before you would catch the flame from his lighter as he sat down lighting his pipe in his comfort.
I was just a teen at the time, barely out of the green stage of life when I decided to go sit with him. I had talked to him many times during the day, but at night, it was too close to bed time to go visiting in the dark of night; so one night I just snuck out for a visit. I took the closest thing to a chair I had for my journey to see my neighbor, one of those small step-stools that folded up in the middle.
I walked up to him, he bid me welcome, which was good as it was dark, some people get a little edgy in the dark; he just sat in his chair smoking his pipe and sipping his tea.
That had to be about forty years ago, now with teens of my own, I sit out here in the evening, at this time in my life, the chairs are a little more comfortable though.
What are you doing out here Dad? My son asks.
Just looking at the stars, doing a little thinking about, well, thinking about nothing really. I tell my son.
Mind if I join you? My son asks.
No, come, pull up a seat. I tell my son.
Where’s the little dipper Dad? Asked my son.
See the Big Dipper up there? I asked pointing my finger.
Yes. He told me.
From the front of the Dippers edge, the top star. If you look straight up, that is the North Star. Look hard, even out here in the boonies, the Little Dipper is hard to see. I tell my son.
It is hard to see if you don’t know where to look. What star do you think Mom is on? My son asks me.

{Silently one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven, Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels. Henry W. Longfellow}

Oh she is on the North Star if anything, it’s an easy star to find, but your Mother used to get a chuckle out of me, I could just never find that North Star; guess I expected a star that was a little brighter. After all, people from the pioneers to ships captain’s found their way by that star; she used to tell me that I would be lost forever if it wasn’t for her. Something inside me always agreed with her. I told my son.
Did I ever tell you about Old Mr. McCray, an old neighbor of mine when I was about your age? I asked my son.
Don’t think you have dad! My son said with interest.
Well to start with, he was in his late eighties, born somewhere’s around 1890, in Kansas somewhere; came out here in the Dust Bowl days. Mr. McCray said that was a terrible time, the chickens didn’t even know when they could roost because it was so dark, eating sleeping and breathing dirt. He said he went to drive to his neighbors farm to check in on them and their family, but he couldn’t find his truck, farm equipment, field truck, including the livestock was all buried under the thick covering of dust. He went to the barn, there was a place that he would park his Ford Runabout, a carport attached to a barn. He made his way over to where the truck was parked, he couldn’t even see it, back then, pick up trucks were C-Cabs or convertibles; the high winds had blown the top and curtains off the pick-up and filled it with dirt. After some digging, he said he found the window frame, what glass was left had been sand blasted by the storm, the rest was gone.
He said, he dug out his truck, loaded it with whatever was left of their belongings; and said goodbye to Kansas.
He bought some land out here, farmed it, raised a family, but lost two of his sons in the Second World War; leaving a daughter that was killed in a car crash, and his wife who died due to complications from breathing all the dust back home in Kansas. I told my son.
Wow, that poor guy, lost everything, that’s sad. His son says to his father.
Mr. McCray told me one time, that the world today abides with their self imposed pain and suffer, afraid to stand strong; with a strong back and morality. He said, you buck nature, you quickly learn respect; or you die. He was right, people today, they complain if they have to go to the store to get milk for their cereal in the morning; I knew one guy that was poor as dirt and still wanted to go and get a pedicure.
That’s the world we live in, there is no respect or dignity in this world. Old Mr. McCray was right, but he lived and learned the meaning of life. I have always counted him as a wise and good friend. I told my son.
I bet he was a grumpy guy, with all that, he had to be! My son said.
Really no, he was very kind and giving, always pleasant with me, that’s how we came to know each other; he let me interrupt his solitude. He didn’t go out of his way to make new friends so that he could have someone to talk to, he had his own things that kept him busy; but if you treated him with respect, he would drop whatever he was doing and help you in your need. He gained a bunch of friends, even more acquaintances; Mr. McCray was a good man. I tell my son of the quality people should be seeing in their friends.
So what did you do out there at night? My son ask.
Nothing just talked, looked at shadows; and talked. It was a comfortable time, when everyone else was skipping life by getting loaded, or dancing in the street with flowers in their hair; I was learning life from a master. Someone that had seen some of the worst that life could hand them, and they survived; their dignity intact. I hope through the years that I was able to pass some of him onto you and your sister, that would be nice; in this version of the world anyway. I said to my son.
I think you have, now your Mr. McCray seems more like family, that’s something Dad. Whatever happened to him, you never said much about him till now? My son asked.
You asked what I was doing when you came out, I was looking at the stars; thinking some of Mr. McCray. I had asked him, with all his loss in mind, what would happen if he became ill? He said that he had lived enough life, so he would let God and Nature take their course with him. Then he said something that caught my attention, he told me that when the time came to go and meet St. Peter, he was going to simply ride that old Saucepan Home to his family. He never said what the Saucepan was though, but when he told me that, I looked at his face, a slight smile showing his contentment with his life. I told my son with a smile.
Did you ever find out what the Saucepan was? My son asked.
For some reason today I began to think about the Saucepan, started thinking about the conversaition at the time, you know how you found the North Star tonight? I asked my son.
Yeah, by the Big Dipprer! My son replied.
Well Son, that’s the Saucepan, you know son, I would go visit him from time to time in my older years, he would be playing old records of the Son’s of the Pioneers; said that was his church. Some years ago I drove by his home, there was a lady in the front yard; she told me that he had passed about a week before, she was a friend and was cleaning up his home to sell.
On the way home from his home, I started to think of my time looking at the stars during that time. I can swear, that in that time, there was a night that every star in the Big Dipper was shinning brighter than any other time I have ever seen before; or after for that matter. Well Son, that is who Mr. McCray was, and it’s time for us to hit the sack. I told my son.
If it’s okay, can I sit out here for a few more minutes? Maybe I will see Mom sitting on the North Star! My son requested.
Sure, that’s alright, and who knows, you just might see the twinkle in her eye; that will be her telling you that she loves you . . . Goodnight Son.!

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