KC AND GRUMP 2
a Sweetwater Saga short story
Stanley Branson carried the toolbox out of the barn intending to put it to immediately use on a section of fence. But as he stepped out from the deep shadows inside the barn, his eyes fell on his granddaughter sitting on the front steps of the ranch house. He set the toolbox down and pulled a kerchief out of his back pocket. Wiping his hands, he walked across the ranch yard to where KC sat with her elbows on her knees and her head held in her hands. “What’s making you so sad, young ‘un?” he asked sitting beside her.
“Miss Mommy and Momma,” KC answered with a sigh.
Jesse and Jennifer had ridden into Sweetwater for the day leaving KC and her brother in the care of their grandparents. Stanley looked at the arched gate that marked the entrance to the ranch yard. “They’ll be back soon enough.” KC raised her head to look at him, sighed deeply then dropped it back into her hands. “Where’s your brother?” he asked as he fought to keep from laughing at his granddaughter’s dramatics.
“He wif g’andma.”
“Why aren’t you inside with them?” KC shrugged. “Bet your grandma plans to do some bakin’ today. She could probably use your help.” KC shrugged again. “I suppose you plan to sit right here until your mothers come home, don’t ya?” Another shrug. “Well, suit yerself,” he said standing up, “I’ve got work to do.” He chuckled to himself as he left KC to retrieve the toolbox. With a final look at the doleful little girl, he walked to the corner of the barn and disappeared around it.
Stanley surveyed the section of fence that jutted out from the back of the barn for approximately fifteen feet to end at a corner post that anchored no other sections of fence. Jesse had told him it was left from the original owner of the ranch and since it was behind the barn, and not really in the way, she had just left it in place having more pressing chores to occupy her time. With his mind focused on figuring out for what function the solitary section of fence had been intended, he set the toolbox down next to the back wall of the barn and reached for the hammer it held.
“What ya doin’, Grumps?”
Startled by the unexpected intrusion into his thoughts, Stanley jerked upright.
The hammer-head caught on the handle of the toolbox for an instant before being pulled loose by the force of the strong hand grasping it. It flew upward forcing Stanley to yank his head to the side or suffer serious injury. With his arm moving in one direction and his head in another, he twisted around on unsteady legs and would have tumbled to the ground had he not managed to grab hold of the fence with his free hand. “What the…?” he gasped as he regained his footing. With one hand firmly holding the railing, he leaned back against the fence with his other arm hanging limp, the fingers still wrapped around the hammer. He looked down to see KC looking up at him, her head tilting to the side.
“What ya doin’? she asked again.
“Didn’t yer momma never tell you not to sneak up on folks?” He muttered waiting for his rapidly beating heart to settle.
She laughed. “Not sneak. Me walked.” KC moved to the fence. She placed a moccasin covered foot on the bottom rail and grabbed hold of the next rail then pulled herself up and wrapped both arms tightly around the wood. “What ya doing?” she repeated.
“Well, before you showed up and ‘bout scared me ta death,” Stanley said, finally releasing his death grip on the fence. “I was plannin’ ta take down this fence.”
“Why? ‘Cause it don’t to nothing but be in the way.”
“It not in way, Grumps,” she said peering up at him.
“It’s ready to fall down on its own,” he said giving the fence a good tug and watching the jolt shudder down its length. “Might as well take it down ‘fore it does.”
KC laid her head against the rail. “I likes it.”
“Fun? How can this old fence be fun?” he asked seeing it only through adult eyes. “It’s dangerous and needs to come down. Want to help?”
“No,” she said sadly. Stanley watched as her lower lip poked out and tears formed in her eyes. Slowly, she stepped down from the rails and turned away.
He tossed the hammer at the toolbox and followed his granddaughter. “Hold up there, young ‘un,” he said grabbing hold of her shirt and stopping her. He knelt on one knee so they would be on equal levels. “You like this fence?” he asked when she turned to face him. She nodded. “Why?”
“I plays on it.”
“You do?” She nodded again. “Ain’t ya ‘fraid ya’ll get hurt?”
He looked at the fence. To him, it looked like any other section of fence found on the ranch. Only this one was stuck in the ground without any apparent reason for its being. It didn’t serve to confine any animals like the corral or protect anything like the fence around Jennifer’s garden. “What do you do to play on it?”
KC smiled. “I shows you.” She scampered away from him and ran around the corner of the barn. He was about to chase after her when she suddenly reappeared. “You stay here, Grumps. I be right back. Otay?”
“All right,” he said knowing better than to argue with the little girl.
Stanley was beginning to get concerned when he heard odd sounds coming from around the corner of the barn. Moments later KC emerged struggling under the weight of Charley in her arms. “Whoa there, young ‘un,” he said as he retrieved the boy.
“T’anks, Grumps.” She frowned. “He heavy. He eats too much.”
Stanley chuckled. “Thought you was goin’ ta show me how you play on that fence.”
“I is.” She walked over to the fence. “Put Cha-wie dere,” she said pointing to a spot on the ground. “He wikes to watch me.”
“He does, does he?” Stanley asked as she instructed.
“Yep.” Once she was satisfied Charley was where she wanted him, KC climbed back onto the fence. But instead of standing on the bottom rail, she climbed all the way up to the top and straddled it. “Look, Cha-wie. I ride horsy,” she called down to the toddler intently watching her as she bounced. “Gid-up,” she told her make believe mount, slapping the rail behind her. Charley laughed and clapped his hands encouraging his sister. “Gid-up. Gid-up.” After a several minutes of riding, KC used invisible reins to pull her horse to a stop. “Whoa,” she said leaning back in her imaginary saddle.
Grabbing a firm hold on the rail, she swung one leg over then dropped down to stand on the next rail. Then she dropped down to the rail second from the bottom. She poked her head through the fence and made a face at her brother who laughed in response. She balanced her belly on the rail and lifted her legs as if to float in the air. “Look, Cha-wie. I flyin’,” she said holding her arms out in front of her.
“KC!” Stanley called out in alarm.
“I’s otay, Grumps,” KC assured her grandfather. “Watch dis.” She placed her hands on the rail and, without any hesitation, pushed with all her might.
Stanley’s eyes grew wide as he watched KC thrust her body backward away from the fence. Sure she would fall crashing to the hard ground below, he started running in a futile attempt to catch her. But before he could take more than a couple of steps, KC tucked her legs under her and landed on her feet. Laughing, she ran back to the fence where he helplessly watched her dive between the railings to tumble to a stop beside her brother.
“Want to play, Cha-wie?” KC asked the giggling toddler. She helped him to his feet and supported him as he walked to the fence on unsteady legs. “You sit here,” she said lifting him onto the bottom rail. Then she sat behind him and bounced both of them on another make believe horse.
Stanley watched the children play for the next hour before he decided it was time to return them to the house and their grandmother. Carrying Charley in one arm and holding the toolbox in his other hand, he walked around the corner of the barn with KC skipping happily beside him.
The fence remained standing but, after a few well placed repairs, somewhat sturdier than it had been that morning.
“Did you take down that section of fence,” Jesse asked as she poured steaming coffee into Stanley’s cup. They were sitting at the kitchen table while Jennifer and Marie undressed KC and Charley in preparation for their evening bath.
“Decide it wasn’t in the way anymore?”
“Decide it wasn’t ready to fall down on its own?”
“For the life of me,” Jennifer’s voice floated through the open door from the back porch, “I don’t know how the two of you can get so dirty.”
Jesse smiled and nodded knowingly. “Found out that fence isn’t as useless as you thought.”
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