Playing old men

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As a little kid, my friends and I found dozens of ways to keep ourselves entertained, long be-fore the introduction of cell phones and video games, which seem to have mesmerized today’s generation.

We could spend hours riding our stick horses through the woods, chasing bad guys, just like the Lone Ranger and Tonto. Of course, carefully selecting the right sapling, and meticulously shaping it to be either Silver or Scout was part of the fun. After we tired of riding, we could always find an iron rim that had been discarded from an old cart or wagon wheel, and push it along for miles with a u-shaped, Prince Albert can, nailed to a sawmill slat.

Most of today’s kids seem to lack that degree of imagination – but there are exceptions.

Cole is 5 years old (going on 50) and for the past few months has started coming to the convenience store every Saturday and Sunday morning with his dad and hanging out with all of us old fossils who are there every morning, 364 days a year. We don’t do much, other than drink coffee and give each other grief on topics ranging from making fun of the way we build our fenc-es, to ridiculing each other for the brand of tractor we have, to accusations of flirting with each other’s wives.

Cole prides himself on being a “working man” and “cowboy.” It’s plain for everyone to see as well, decked out in cowboy boots, John Deere cap, Carhart shirt, coat and Wrangler jeans. He carries a pocket knife (that he’s happy to show anyone) and wears a holster holding a pair of pliers attached to a western belt with a buckle big enough on which to eat a meal. Oh, yeah, he knows how to use both the knife and pliers – safely.

On weekends, Cole is the star of the show at Baumer’s (the name of the convenience store), as he goes from old man, to old man, asking them what they’re going to be working at that day. He will gladly tell them what he’s going to be working on, from tractor repair, to picking up rocks. He seems to fit right in with the regular gang of old farmers.

Last weekend, after his trip to Baumer’s, he stayed with his grandmother for a few hours, while his father had to leave for a while. His grandmother asked the young boy if he wanted to play some games while Dad was away.

“Sure,” Cole answered “That sounds like fun.”

“Would you like to play Hide ‘n Seek, Cowboys and Indians, or something else?” his grandmother asked.

Thoughtfully, Cole replied, “I think I’d like to play ‘Old men at Baumers.’”

“I’m not sure I know how to play that game. What do I do?”

“Well,” the boy began, “I’ll be Crownover, and you be Myers.”

“Then what?”

Cole began the game by getting right in his grandma’s face, wagging his finger, and shouting, “I told you to quit flirting with my wife!”

“Now, what?” grandma asked.

Cole shot back, quickly, “You act real mad, and then make fun of my tractor, or fence, or truck, or anything.”

Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’

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