My parents fell in love in third grade, during the Great Depression.
On bright fall afternoon, my father, Granger McDaniel, squatted next to Whittington Creek. Patiently, he jiggled a piece of string. There was a tiny piece of bacon attached. He knew most of the crawdads were gone this time of year but he had a feeling. Finally, Granger watched as a crawdad approached the bacon and snapped his claw onto the meat.
“Gotcha!” he said as he raised the string up and removed the crawdad. He looked closely at the crawdads face and bulging eyeballs. “I’m keeping you for the baby! He’ll think you’re really funny, I bet.”
He shoved the string, bacon and crawdad into his deep front pocket then without hesitation or thought, started running, into the woods and up West Mountain.
There wasn’t a visible trail but Granger knew exactly where he was going. He expected every rock and log. He knew each fork and tree. He’d run this game trail up and over West Mountain so many times he didn’t really have to think as he ran.
West Mountain was steep, but not terribly tall. Granger reached the summit in less than fifteen minutes. Grinning, stopped to take in the view for a moment and get his bearings. Then as quickly as he stopped he bolted down the mountain, sliding and skidding, sometimes sling shotting around thin trees to slow himself down.
Exploding out of the tree line, Granger stopped completely to catch his breath. He whipped off his hat, licked his dirty hand and smoothed his dark shaggy hair.
He was standing on the edge of a manicured lawn. A beautiful white colonial house with dark green shutters and trim loomed in front of him. After dusting off his pants with his hat, he suddenly sprinted to the back door and knocked twice.
He saw Louella, in her white uniform peek out the window at him before she opened the door.
“Hi Miss Louella, can Ann play today?”
“No, Dr. Stell said she needs to practice her piano.” She handed him a small plate with two cookies and a glass of milk. “Eat up and leave the plate on the table.”
“Can I take one of the cookies to my baby brother?”
“It’s your cookie, do what you want.” She watched him for a moment then said. “Tie your shoe before you leave so you don’t trip running down the mountain.”
“Yes ma’am,” he said as he shoved an entire cookie in his mouth then slugged down the little glass of milk.
Louella closed the door as Granger dropped the extra cookie into his deep front pocket with the crawdad. He squatted down and tied the lace on his ragged shoe, pulled his cap down tight on his head and started running.
Before my dad died, when he was fifty one, he told us to pour his ashes on West Mountain, because he’d always be running to his girl.
It’s always been said, my mom and dad fell in love in third grade. It wasn’t always easy.