Short Story

Vernon Hanneman was a big man who wore bib overalls every day except Sunday. Some people called him “Fats,” but we never did. His body was so large he was prone to sweating profusely and on the hottest days, kept to his house. But when he was out and about, he was so good natured everyone considered him a friend. He lived up the road from our place on a small farm he had inherited. Our cattle thrived on his pasture land in the summer.

Vernon was still unmarried at the age of 40 and said he was satisfied being unencumbered from anyone who might try to order his life in a direction he didn’t care to follow.

Take for instance this new boat he had just acquired. A wife might say they couldn’t afford it. As a single person he would decide what he could afford and suffer no sass from anyone.

One lovely day in August he took it up to the Missouri River and boated up and down the river all day long. He had some trouble putting it in by himself, but he enjoyed the feeling of motion once he was motoring along. He had put the shade thing up so that he was free from the effect of the sun, there was no wind and then water was as smooth as lass.

He took that boat up to the river a lot during the month of August. Boating by himself eventually became boring. One day he showed up at our farm. The big man found Dale down by the hog house and said to him, “How about you and the family joining me at the river this coming Sunday?” to which Dale answered, “I’ll have to ask the wife if she has recovered enough from a recent family vacation that turned out to be a disaster according to her.”

It sounded like a great idea to me so l agreed to pack a lunch and Dale bought a lot of light jackets. The children thought they had gone to heaven, they had so much fun. Even though Vernon would never be able to get up on skies himself, he had one pair along for our family’s use. And use them they did, everyone learning to get up out of the water, even me.

Vernon kept asking us along, so Dale and the children got quite good at using one ski, slicing the water, weaving side to side. But I really didn’t enjoy eating lunch on a sand bar. Sand bars can be stirred up by the wind. And you have to make a tent out of towels to hide from the sun.

The next summer we were waiting for an invitation that didn’t come because Vernon got sick. I don’t know what kind of sick but he sold his boat. So Dale bought a boat and skies and we continued going up to the river through out that summer. As Vernon had done, we put the boat into the water, using the dock at Lazy Acres' which is owned by a Mr. McGill who had cut up his land into varying lot sizes and rented the spaces to people who wanted to summer vacation near water. Mostly people moved in trailer houses.

Before that summer was over we were notified by a friend that one of those lots would be available. Usually the lot lessee passes it down to family, making an open spot unusual. The friend said we better check out the lot before word got around and someone else snapped it up. So Dale and 1 made a quick trip up there; the river is only 35 miles from our farm. We could immediately see that it was a choice lot, one of the bigger ones. However, there was no established lawn, only weeds, the trailer house was ram shackle and very small. Yet we knew it was a steal because not much was being asked for the old trailer that a little fixing up would render useable.

We bought it on the spot from the man who was moving to another town and immediately needed to get rid of it. He said the rent was reasonable and the lease had another five years to run. We established a lawn. We fixed up the trailer house by painting inside; there wasn’t much that could be done to render the outside nicer looking but inside there was protection from the sun and wind blown sand. We hauled up loads of rock to protect our bank.

This satisfied me for the rest of the summer, but I knew something had to be done about moving in a bigger trailer house. The children liked to invite friends up; the place was bursting at the seams whenever the weather was bad and we had to take refuge inside.

In the meantime, Vernon got really sick and asked Dale to farm his land. Previously, he had tried his hand at raising cattle. He had asked a nephew to be a partner in the venture. To this purpose he had set up a big wide trailer house on his land for the nephew and his family to use. Soon alter, cattle prices went bottom up. Vernon and the nephew had to give up the partnership. The nephew got a job in the city, and Vernon was left with an empty trailer house.

So I asked Dale to see if Vernon wanted to sell this trailer house that could easily be moved out. Dale never got around to it. So I got around to it. I walked up the road and found Vernon at home. “Vernon," I said, “How about selling us that nice home you aren't using?” He sold it to me on the spot for a reasonable price. It was brand new almost and would only need skirting once it was moved up to the river. Boy was I happy. Now I could truly enjoy living at the river on weekends and holidays.

We soon became acquainted with neighbors at the river. On one side lived the Naprstak family. He owned the drug store in Plainview, a town close to Creighton. He had such a dry sense of humor. He showed me how to grill fish.

On the other side resided the Gundersons with whom we went to church with on Sundays. Three trailers down lived the Hoillnans who had four girls the same ages as our children. We rode alot together on their pontoon. In the later years two of their girls helped Dale, Tim and Larry build a five-person pyramid on skies, the men on the bottom, the girls on top. Mr. Hoffman drove our boat for that. People came out to see them perform. The children invited so many friends to come up that we built on a big glassed- in-porch where, at two picnic tables, we could feed 24.

I remember big breakfasts on Sunday mornings after church where Dale would fry the eggs and bacon outside, and I would make pancakes and French toast inside on one of the picnic tables.

I remember the year ofthe big storm. I was there alone without the family. The wind blew so hard that I spent time in the bath tub with a pillow over my head. Afterwards there were trees down all over, one trailer was off its foundation, someone else’s was in the river, the bath tub too.

But ours was strongly built and withstood the onslaught. I remember beautiful sunsets and wonderful Forth of Iulys. I remember tubing down the river with neighbors tubing along beside me. I remember the time we brought up a load of rock using the old pickup with two grandsons along in the back seat. It was a very hot day. The load was too heavy and a tire popped. Matt told his parents, “Grandpa’s tire exploded. He jumped up and down on the jack. He said funny words.” We lived up there for twenty years.

Then the flood came. The trailer and porch were ruined. But the earth was still there underneath all the sand dunes as high as 10 feet that were left in the flood’s wake. Our daughter and son-in-law (to whom we bequeathed the spot) tore down the damaged trailer, got rid of the sand dunes and moved in a brand new double wide. They laid down sod. Everything is more beautiful than ever before and we are welcome to use it at any time. So the next generation goes on.

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