KC AND GRUMPS 6
a Sweetwater Saga short story
"You be careful down at the fishing hole, Poppa," Jesse told her father standing beside the wagon. She was seated on the buckboard's bench seat; her wife, Jennifer, was sitting beside her with Charley in her lap; and her mother, Marie, was sitting next to Jennifer. "We don't want to come home and find you've fallen in," she teased.
"You'd be better off worrying about getting through your day without trouble," Stanley grumbled. "Don't be forgettin' my nails."
"They're on the list," Jesse assured her father then turned to her wife and mother. "We ready?" When they nodded, she turned back to her father "We'll be off then," she told Stanley.
"Ain't you forgetting someone?" Stanley asked.
They all turned toward the ranch house when the screen door flew open.
"I's coming," KC shouted running out of the house.
Jesse cringed as the door smacked against the side of the house then swung back toward the door frame and slammed shut with a loud crash.
KC skidded to a stop just before reaching the porch steps. "Oops," she exclaimed then spun around and ran back to the door. She pulled the door back open before gently closing it again. "It's okay," she told the grownups watching her in poorly masked amusement. "Nothing broke," she concluded and started back across the porch.
Stanley stood eyeing his granddaughter, his head shaking slowly from side to side. "That there young 'un…," he mumbled.
"Jesse, don't you dare laugh," Jennifer hissed to her wife who was fighting to maintain a stern look.
KC bounced down the porch steps then skipped over to her grandfather and raised her arms, fully expecting to be lifted up.
Stanley stood firm gazing down at the round face smiling up at him. "Don't know why that door hasn't broke into a hundred pieces by now. Jesse, you best be adding the fixin's of a new one to your list."
KC looked at her grandfather then at her mothers and grandmother, her smile returned by their stern looks. She fisted her hands and jammed them into her hips. "I said oops," she told them exasperatedly.
Stanley grunted and bent down to pick up the child. As soon as she was in her grandfather's arms, KC wrapped her hands around his neck and kissed him on the cheek. "Don't ya be starting that," he grumbled.
"Come on, KC," Jesse said biting back a giggle. "Get in the wagon. We have a lot to do in town today."
"I stay with Grumps," KC announced. "We's going fishing."
Stanley frowned. "I'm going fishing," he declared. "Lookin' forward to some quiet time."
"I go with you," KC said matter-of-factly.
"KC, did you ask your grandfather?" Jennifer asked her daughter, her lips twitching as she tried not to laugh.
KC thought for a moment, her head tilting to the side as she studied the man holding her. "Grumps, you needs worms. I a good worm catcher. I go with you… please," she added with a wide grin.
Stanley stared at the impish girl. He scratched his ear. Then he looked at Jesse who had lost her struggle and was laughing silently. He looked back at KC who was still gazing at him with large blue hopeful eyes. Then he looked at Jennifer who was carefully watching the exchange with eyes remarkably the same color of her daughter's.
"It's up to you, Stanley," Jennifer said, her eyes twinkling.
Helplessly, Stanley looked back at KC. "All right," he caved in.
KC smile grew wider and she turned to her mothers releasing one hand from her grandfather's neck. "Bye," she told them, her hand waving wildly. "Bye, Gramma. Bye, Charley."
Jesse released the buckboard's brake and lightly slapped the reins on Boy's rump. "You be a good girl, KC," she told her daughter as the large draft horse began to move. Chuckling, she warned her father, "Don't let her talk you into any trouble, Poppa."
KC sat in Stanley's arms, content to watch until the buckboard reached the far side of the ranch yard. Then she scrambled up onto his shoulders. Stanley instinctively assisted her change in position, not wanting the rambunctious girl to fall to the hard ground. "I's ready, Grumps," KC said from her elevated perch. "Let's go."
Stanley took hold of his granddaughter's legs and turned to walk to the barn.
Stanley strode easily along the well-worn path that led from the ranch yard to the river. He carried a long thin sack in one large callused hand and a picnic basket, prepared that morning by Jennifer, in his other. KC was skipping along beside him.
"Grumps, I carry that?" KC asked of the sack.
"I be real careful."
Stanley adjusted his hold on the sack that contained his prized possession, a H.L. Leonard fishing rod and reel. It had arrived in a package sent by Jennifer's brothers. The stoic man had been more than a little surprised when the beautifully crafted rod and reel set had been included in the gifts for his daughters and grandchildren. "I'll be carrying it," he told KC.
KC frowned but somehow understood the sack was precious to her grandfather. "Okay. I climb that rock," she said then ran toward a large boulder they would have to skirt on the way to the river.
Stanley watched unsurprised when KC scampered up the boulder's side to stand triumphantly on top of the stone.
"Look, Grumps," she yelled, "I big like you."
"How you fixin' to get down from there?" Stanley asked when he reached the boulder. The rock wasn't much more than three feet high but the height was enough to be an obstacle for most children.
"I jump," KC told him. Then she leaped off the rock, letting her legs collapse as she hit the ground and tumbling head over hills in the dust.
"You hurt yerself?" Stanley asked when KC stood up.
"Nope. It was fun."
"Better not let yer mommas catch you doing that," Stanley scolded.
"It's our secret, okay?"
KC smiled then turned and skipped down the path.
Stanley found a grassy patch of ground along the shore of the fishing hole and set the picnic basket in the shade of a cottonwood tree. "You best be catching us some worms," he told KC who was already turning over moss covered rocks. As his granddaughter sought out their bait, he opened the sack. Carefully, he slid the sections of the rod free. He dropped the sack on top of the picnic basket before assembling the rod by slipping the ferrules at the end of each section together. The reel was already firmly screwed into handle; he freed the hook from the hook keeper then thread line through the guides and out the tip eye.
"You got any worms yet?" Stanley asked ready to start fishing.
KC was already walking back to him, her hands cupped together protectively. "Gots a big fat one," she said proudly. She carefully stepped around a pile of river rocks then held her cupped hands up.
Stanley poked a finger at the trapped worm. "That is a big 'un," he agreed. He dropped the tip of his pole down so he could reach the hook dangling on the line. With practiced skill he baited the hook.
"I find more," KC said then spun around to run back to where she had discovered the worm.
Stanley waited until KC was safely out of reach before flipping his baited hook into the still pool. Then he sat down on a boulder at the water's edge to wait for a fish to take the bait.
"Grumps, look at all the colors," KC held a rock out for her grandfather to examine. The lump of quartz had recently been removed from the river and sparkled in the bright sunlight.
Stanley looked at the rock and nodded, keeping one eye on the tip of his rod. "Sure is."
"I take it home?"
"Won't be once it dries out," he told her.
"Set it there in the sun," he indicated a dry spot of dirt. "Take a look at it when it's dry. Ya might change yer mind about carryin' it all the way home."
KC placed the rock down. "I check it in a bit."
"Think we ought to check out what yer momma put in that basket?" Stanley asked feeling his stomach rumble having been at the fishing hole for almost two hours. Jennifer had fixed it for him but, knowing his daughter-in-law, he was sure there would be more than enough inside for both him and KC.
KC ran to the basket and flipped it open. "Got lots of good stuff, Grumps."
"Like what?" The fish were starting to bite and Stanley didn't want to move from his spot on the boulder.
"Samwiches," KC called out as she looked through the offerings. "Carrots. Apples. Cookies!"
"You best leave them for later. Let's start with the sandwiches."
"Okay." KC removed two sandwiches wrapped in a cloth. She unwrapped them, dropping the cloth back into the basket before carrying the sandwiches to where her grandfather sat.
"There's plenty of room for you up here," he said taking the sandwiches from her hands. He waited for KC to join him then placed one of them into her waiting hands.
KC folded her legs under her as she bit into the sandwich. "Yum," she mumbled around a mouthful of bread and sliced beef.
"Yer momma is a good cook," Stanley said after swallowing his first bite.
KC nodded enthusiastically.
The tip of the rod bent. Stanley dropped his partially eaten sandwich in KC's lap as he yanked on the rod. He stood to fight the trout for a few minutes until it tired and he could reel in the line that the fish had pulled free. Plucking the fish out of the water, he unhooked it then held it up. "Is it a keeper?" he asked KC who was studiously looking at the eight inch fish squirming in his hand. KC nodded. Stanley smiled then added the trout to his stringer line that already held two other fish of equal size.
Stanley chose a worm out of the ones KC had brought him and rebaited his hook. Then he flipped it back into the water and resumed his place beside KC who handed his sandwich back to him.
"You fish good, Grumps," KC said before taking another bite of her sandwich."
Stanley was standing and stretching his back. His stringer held six good size trout which would make for a good meal for the family. He had already pulled in his line, broke his rod apart, and wiped it down before slipping it back into its sack. "Bring me my knife," he told KC who was rummaging around in the picnic basket hoping to find more cookies. "Better we clean these here than take them home and do it.
Unsuccessful in her hunt, KC snatched the last carrot popping it into her mouth before she retrieved the knife secured in a scabbard. She carried it to her grandfather then squatted beside him to watch him gut and clean the fish. She giggled when he tossed the guts into the river only to have them voraciously attacked and consumed by other trout. "Them's hungry," she said as water splashed her when a fish jumped nearby.
"Ya'd think they'd ate enough of them worms," Stanley said as he stood, water dripping off the stringer he held. "Ready to go home?"
KC stood. "Yep."
"You plan to take yer rock?"
KC stepped over to where the piece of quartz lay. It had dried in the sun and, just as her grandfather had told her, showed little sign of the sparkling colors that had attracted her to it. She picked it up then tossed it into the river. "Nope. It not pretty now."
Stanley watched the widening circle of ripples the rock created. "Probably just scared them fish," he grumbled. "Have to work that much harder to catch 'em next time."
KC giggled as her grandfather turned away from the river to walk to a young cottonwood, its trunk split and twisted by a storm years earlier. "It's okay, Grumps. They likes rocks," she said bending down to pick up a handful of pebbles. She threw them into the river then spun around to join Stanley.
Stanley hooked the stringer on the broken truck, allowing the fish to swing freely between the tree and the ground. Then he walked to the picnic basket and knelt beside it to neaten up its contents before closing the top. Satisfied, he stood.
"Grumps, I carry that?" KC pointed to the sack leaning against the trunk of the tree behind the basket. Stanley looked down at his granddaughter. "I be real careful," she promised.
Without answering, Stanley walked to his stringer and unhooked it from the broken tree. He walked back to the picnic basket and, holding the stringer so the cleaned fish wouldn't touch the ground, he bent over and picked up the basket. He glanced at the patiently waiting child. "Can't see how I can carry everything," he said and was rewarded by a smile.
KC walked to the tree and carefully picked up the sack with both hands. The rod, even though broken down into its sections, was almost as long as she was tall and she leaned it against her shoulder to support it.
Stanley smiled at the determined look on KC's face. "You ready?" he asked.
KC tightened her hold on the sack then marched in measured steps to where her grandfather waited. "Yep."
"Then let's go home.
"Goodness, what is going on in here?" Jennifer asked limping into the kitchen alongside Marie. Jesse walked in behind her, carrying Charley.
The table was already set and a platter of fried potatoes had been placed at its center. Stanley was standing in front of the wood stove, keeping watch on a frying pan-its contents sizzling.
"If you catch 'em, you gots to clean 'em and cook 'em," KC said knowingly. She was standing on a chair beside her grandfather holding another platter.
Jennifer groaned but couldn't stop from smiling at her daughter's imitation of Stanley.
"Your momma is never going to get you to speak proper English if you keep listening to Poppa talk," Jesse said ruffling KC's hair. "Looks like you had a good day of fishing," she said to Stanley.
"Yes, and you better be hungry."
"Starved," Jesse said carrying Charley to the high chair.
"What can I do, Stanley?" Jennifer asked.
"All that needs to be done already been done," Stanley answered slipping a fork under one of the trout and lifting it out of the pan. He placed it on the platter KC held then repeated the process with the remaining fish. When all the fish had been placed on the platter, he took it from his granddaughter's hands. He waited until KC hopped off the chair before carrying it to the table.
It wasn't long before the platter was empty.
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