A while back, there was a boy named Tommy; who like many of us had no idea what he wanted to be when he grew up. His interests drifted like snow on a frozen lake. At one time, he considered anthropology or archeology; just because he enjoyed finding arrowheads and fossils.
Tom’s hobbies were nearly as undecided as his career plans. Having tried model-building, kite flying, and even stamp collecting, he never found the hobby that could hold his interest long.
The summer of his fourteenth year he was to spend a week with his Grandparents in the mountains of Idaho. At fourteen, being confined to a remote mountain in the summer didn’t hold much appeal; when he could have been at the beach with his friends.
Grandpa picked him up at the bus station in an old pickup truck. Gramps was real old as long as Tommy could remember, probably sixty at least. The legs of his blue overalls were both stained dark and faded.
The wrinkles he wore on his face spoke of years working in the wind and sun. There were wrinkles that told of hard times and a few that hinted at laughter.
An hour of dusty roads brought them to the ranch; it was a stretch to call it a ranch with only a couple horses and a dozen or so cattle in the pasture. Grandma was standing on the covered front porch as they pulled into the yard. She was just as he remembered; a red gingham apron and silver hair framing a sweet old face.
After supper, they all went out on the porch to watch the sunset.
The next morning Tom woke to the smell of smoked ham cooking.
Grandpa was already in the barn working as the sun came up, but it was almost eight before Tom joined him.
Gramps was stacking hay bales and stopped only long enough to instruct Tom on mucking out a stable. This was pretty much what Tom had expected, a week of hard labor with nobody his age to talk to.
Old people didn’t talk much; mostly they spoke at you, not to you.
Once the barn was cleaned out, there was a fence to repair and rocks to move. Supper was fried chicken, mashed potatoes with chicken gravy and corn still on the cob; if nothing else, the food was good.
After supper, Grandpa took a small shoebox and went out to the front steps. Tom sat in one of the big rocking chairs on the porch.
Gramps took out his pocket knife and began whittling on a piece of wood that sort of looked like a little horse. Each evening it was a similar routine, supper, whittling, bath and bedtime.
Friday came fast and Tommy was leaving for home the next morning. After supper, Gramps picked up his shoebox and went out to the porch. Tom sat in the rocker waiting for him to begin whittling, but Gramps just sat there looking out across the pasture. As the sun set, and the fireflys began their evening dance, Grandpa stood up to go in the house; but as he walked past, he placed the shoebox in Tom’s lap.
The screen door made its long squeak and slam as Gramps went inside for the night. Tom opened the box to find his Grandfather's old pocket knife and a beautiful prancing colt lying side-by-side on a bed of curled woodchips.