Garrett, December 1972
It's the day after Christmas in seventh grade. We're visiting my parents' relatives in Indiana. Today we drive out to the farmhouse near Garrett to visit my Grandpa Prater, my mother's father, and bring him his Christmas presents.
Grandpa Prater is 70 years old, but still big and rugged, with thick arms and shoulders and huge hands. He wears overalls, sometimes with a white t-shirt underneath, sometimes without, so you could see his hard round pecs dusted with white hair.
He moved from Kentucky to Indiana with his family in 1942, to take advantage of factory jobs during World War II. Now he is widowed, and all of his kids have moved out except Uncle Edd, who acts more like his brother than his son.
There's no car in the driveway, and no one answers when we knock, so we figure that they're out, at the store or visiting friends in town. We drive down the road about half a mile to the Trailer in the Deep Woods, to visit my Cousin Buster and his parents and wait for them to return.
Cousin Buster shows me the guitar he got for Christmas, and tries to play "Your Mama Don't Dance," by Loggins and Messina. He doesn't do well. "I should have asked for a banjo," he says. "Man, I could really howl on that box."
"Why don't you ask Grandpa if you can borrow his?"
Somehow we decide that it would be a good idea to sneak into the farmhouse while he's gone and "borrow" the banjo.
We walk through the woods until we come to the side yard. There's still no car in the driveway.
We climb onto the porch and go in through the parlor.
I've been there a thousand times, but never when the house is deserted. There's something eerie, even sinister, about the two overstuffed sofas, red with clawed legs, the old console radio with a black-and-white tv on top, the picture of Jesus on the Cross that changes to an Ascended Christ if you look at it right.
The kitchen is familiar, too. I've been there many times. But there's something sinister about the plate of toast and Sue Bee Honey left on the kitchen table, as if someone suddenly rushed out. Or was kidnapped.
I've never been inside Grandpa Prater's bedroom.
I've never been inside Grandpa Prater's bedroom.
First there's an anteroom, with some coats on hooks and shoes on the floor. Then a big oak door.
Cousin Buster is a little pale, too. "No, I can't wait. He won't mind."
He gingerly turns the handle and opens the door.
It's a long, narrow room, with an old-fashioned bed, a pitcher on a wooden dresser, clothes hanging in an armoire. An armchair with clothes piled on it. A half-full bottle of whiskey and an old leatherbound book on the nightstand.
Grandpa Prater is lying on the bed!
His shirt off, his overalls undone, thick arms behind his head. My first thought is that he's dead, but then I see his massive hairy chest subtly rising and falling. He must just be asleep -- sometimes old people take naps in the middle of the day. Uncle Edd must have gone off by himself, taking the car, and Grandpa Prater didn't hear us knocking.
Later, replaying the scene in my mind, I see a massive bulge in his overalls, but it's probably just my imagination. I didn't get a sausage sighting that day.
Still, the unexpected semi-nudity, the hairy chest, the sense of transgression and secrecy all combine to make the sight decidedly erotic. I feel a stirring down below.
Should we continue with our quest to borrow the banjo?
Cousin Buster begins tip-toeing across the floor.
:Suddenly, without moving or opening his eyes, Grandpa Prater says "Hello, Joe, what do you know?"
We yell in surprise.
He sits up in bed. "Come here and sit with your old Grandpa for a spell."
I hesitate -- getting too close to alcohol is a major sin for Nazarenes, and Grandpa Prater is sort of scary, with his incomprehensible Kentucky accent and smell of whiskey and Aqua Velva. But we climb onto the narrow bed, and he wraps an enormous arm around each of us and draws us close.
I really like having a muscular arm around me. The stirring down there continues.
"Um...we wanted to borrow your banjo," Cousin Buster says.
"To learn to play like you," I add, to flatter him.
"The banjo is old-fashioned! You should be playing new music. Rock and Roll. The Beatles. In my day we all listened to Eubie Blake and W. C. Handy. I was modern! It was my Daddy who wanted to hear 'Barbara Allen'"
We didn't know what he was talking about at the time, but Eubie Blake and W.C. Handy are jazz musicians popular in the 1920s, and "Barbara Allen" is an old folksong.
He reaches past Cousin Buster to get the book on the nightstand, and opens it to a page with a sports team. "That's me, your old Grandpa, on the wrestling team at Salyersville High School. Wasn't I a caution in those days?
He is actually pointing out a basketball team. But one of the boys looks like him.
"I was going to study to be a science teacher, but my Daddy said 'No, son, you're a man now, you have to marry and start a family. Now, I swan, Grace was the prettiest gal this side of Prestonburg, but why couldn't we have waited a year or two?"
Translation: when he graduated from high school, Tony wanted to go to teacher's college, but his father forced him to get a job instead, so he could afford a wife and kids. I hear the "job, wife, kids" litany constantly today.
"Maybe then I could have paid for nice things, like a bigger house, in town, and a nice car."
And a bathroom!
"...and doctors, when the babies got sick. And when Grace got sick."
Cousin Buster extricates himself. "So, can we borrow the banjo?"
He waves his hand. "Sure, take it. Keep it til the cows come home. But promise me one thing -- when you all become men, you won't let your daddies tell you what to do. Go to college. Make something of yourself, no matter how cute the little girl down the holler is."
Translation: Don't listen to the litany of "job, house, wife, kids." Escape to West Hollywood. Find a home.
See also: Erotic Story about Me and My Grandpa #1: Wrestling Moves