If Jarett, 15, and Jayton, 8, could, I expect they would build a raft from salvaged wood and journey down the Mississippi River from Minnesota to New Orleans.
They are adventuresome and outdoorsy. Huck and Tom. Imaginative and mischievous.
I met the brothers recently while tagging along with my husband, Randy, to their rural home, where he had gone to measure a tractor motor. I simply yearned for a ride in the country on a spectacular summer evening.
When we pull into the farm yard, Jarett is already putzing in the garage, sporting calf-high waders. Soon, Jayton wanders in.
After some introductory small talk, I ask, “Can I see the lake?” (Randy had told me about the lake.)
Jarett leads. Jayton and I follow, dodging goose poop, walking toward the private lake that nestles up to the building site. At water’s edge we pause as the two tell me about bullheads and deer and geese and coyotes, hunting and fishing, and an island now turned peninsula. And over there, Jarett points, sits his dad’s duck blind.
As we return to the garage, Jayton reveals a grand scheme to capture a goose by setting a trap atop a wood duck house. He pulls a pile of traps from a corner of the garage and demonstrates how he expects a trap to spring tightly around the feet of that coveted goose. I am not thinking about the goose at that moment, but about Jayton’s fingers.
Jarett has already been catching meddlesome gophers for his grandpa, earning $5 per gopher. On my next visit, he tells me he’s caught 40.
On that second trip, Jayton too has gotten into trapping. He checks a trap and returns with news of disappearing bubblegum, gum set in the trap to lure a gopher.
And then I ask Jayton to demonstrate his pedal tractor pulling skills. He and Jarett pile two hefty rocks onto a trailer and Jayton straddles the miniature tractor that he’s outgrown. Last year he earned a second place trophy in a local competition.
“How much can you pull?” I ask.
He hesitates. “Fifty pounds.”
“Probably 20 or 25,” his mom corrects.
It doesn’t matter. Jayton is determined as he pedals down the gravel driveway.
“Why do you do this?” I ask.
“It builds up my leg muscles and makes me work harder.” Jayton says.
“How did you get so smart?” I ask.
He’s heard often, Jayton says, that “your back will be shot” if you don’t use your leg, rather than your back, muscles.
As our brief interview concludes, I recall how my last visit here ended with Jayton racing from the garage. He has something to show me, he says, and then returns with a cattle skull. He plunks it onto the garage floor in front of me, grabs the skull by the horns, angles the jaw directly toward me, bends low. He thinks, Jayton says, that placed in the right location, this could scare someone. I agree. I don’t like those hollow eye sockets staring at me.
But I don’t let on, not to Huck and Tom.
(© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling)