It seemed like a “forever ride” for a boy of 4 or 5 whenever we struck out for Starks. Of course, this was decades prior to the transformation of Harry Brown’s farm into an infamous marijuana party place.

Back then it was just another of the landmarks meaning we had almost arrived at Grandpa’s and Grandma’s place. The forever ride ended at the place I found to be the most splendid spot in all the world. The weekends we spent there were merely preludes to the endless summers I spent with Grandma, Grandpa, Scotty, the border collie who rounded up the cattle at Grandpa’s command, and the chickens, sheep and horses.

Grandma was the center of my life in Starks. I loved the sweet, gentle lady. Our walks down Route 43, then just a gravel road to the village center, were wonderful. There we checked the mail at the post office, sometimes using the public phone to call my mother to check in. We visited Sadie’s store for supplies, and the old men clustered around the stove or squatting on the front steps would always stand up for Grandma. When I asked her why they stood, she just said, “Ask your mother, dear.”

Grandma always held my hand the entire walk in the event the rare motorized vehicle should speed past. Often during our village adventures, Susie, the lady with the very hairy upper lip two farms away, would summon us in and heap a pile of molasses cookies in Grandma’s open apron after producing one for me, always with a great flourish.

So, it was with a sense of impending dread when I was asked by Grandma, “Did you say something mean to Susie?”

Owning up to such an act was the most difficult thing I’d ever had to do. Would Grandma be angry with me, dislike me?


Nonetheless, I told her how an older neighbor boy and I had made fun of Susie’s hair-covered lip the day before when she called us in for a cookie.

Gently she took my earlobe, saying, “Young man, you will tell Susie you are sorry.”

Then, my earlobe still in her gentle grip, she walked me to Susie’s home. There we stood for what seemed an eternity until Susie appeared in the open door.

“This young man has something to tell you,” Grandma said.

Susie cocked her head and asked “Yes?” looking straight into my eyes.

I spluttered out my first-ever apology, whereupon Susie stepped down and planted a hairy-lipped, sloppy kiss on my cheek. Then she produced a fresh molasses cookie from her apron pocket.

Grandma did not hold my earlobe on the walk back to the farm; she simply held my hand as always and smiled at me. Grateful that this crisis had ended, and inwardly vowing never to poke fun at anyone ever again, I asked, “Grandma, why did you lead me to Susie’s by my ear?”

“Ask your mother, dear,” she replied. I never did.

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