Getting Snooky’s Number
I needed to get a little digging done on the job, to create some road so the skidder could get to some hillside timber. I didn’t have Shrack’s phone number, but I knew where their place was. It wasn’t far from the job, so I just stopped down before going to work. Wouldn’t you know it, pop was the only one there.
Within a minute or two of the door buzzer announcing a customer, he came tottering out. He didn’t use a cane, but held his hands wide apart like a tightrope walker keeping his balance. “I’m 86, he said. Done a lot of digging in my day, but that time’s past. Now it’s Junior’s job. Ran school buses for years, but we got out of that in 1970.”
“Yeah, we’ve done a lot of work up at Hemlock Acres. I know where that road you’re talking about is. Down low on the hillside. But he won’t take the dozer up there with this snow. On a hillside, the grousers on the dozer tracks are just like ice skates. Hillside and snow. Can’t do that. But yeah, I know where that is. That used to be the only way in there before they pushed in the road from the top of the mountain. Was an old farmhouse up in there. Foundation’s still there, kinda near that new place they put in. He grew potatoes & cows up there for years. Nice enough guy, but that wasn’t the right place to grow potatoes. Too high and dry.
“This valley was a lot quieter then, forty years ago (it’s not exactly bustling at present). Yingly’s still had the store up on Main Street. ‘Course, we had the fuel here. Then we got into pots here recently. Take ‘em around to weddings for the Amish, pig roasts, auctions, all kinds of stuff. Nobody else around here had ‘em. Over to Bellefonte, that was about the closest. Turned into a pretty good business. That’s what carries us these days.
“Yeah, I know where that little slant road is. But Junior isn’t going up there til the snow’s off. He won’t work on a snowy hillside. My wife, now, she was a Horner. Her folks lived out by the crossroads. I’d go out there on my bicycle when it got dusky and throw pebbles at her window to see if I could get her to come out. Her folks didn’t much care for me, you know. But you know how love is. Here we are 65 years later. Guess her folks were wrong. Hah!
“No, I don’t believe Junior will go up there to do that. He don’t much care for hillsides and we just got a high-lift with a bucket. Snooky’s only a couple of miles from here. Wouldn’t be really any more time for him to get up there than for us. You know where the stone church is, just up the other side of the interstate? Well, his place is the next one past the tax collector’s place, that Mayla, if you know where her place is. He’s got a dozer. Probably only take him one pass to clear that old road out enough for you. Yep, his machine’s better suited to what you need done.
“I had a stroke a year and a half ago. Pretty much paralyzed my right side, but I’ve come back from that, mostly. Only I’m still all but blind in my right eye. Can’t see the numbers in the phone book. Here’s the page with Snooky’s number on it. Only I can’t see which one’s his. Here’s a pen and paper. You can write it down.”
I started edging towards the door, Snooky’s phone number grasped tightly in my hand. He kept on regaling me with the milestones of life in the valley over the last three quarters of a century. A step or two. A wry smile, with an acknowledgment of what Pop had said, while trying delicately to tell him that I really needed to get to work.
Thirty minutes to get a phone number. I left richer for having listened to him. I guess he needed to talk. That’s the nature of ministry, isn’t it?