JUNIE

by  Brenton Bauer

"Junie get out of that street! Right this minute!" shouted Gladys from the front door. "Did you hear me?"

Junie paid no attention to his grandmother. In fact, he was ignoring her completely. He held his bright blue Tonka lumber truck in his hands, got down on the road and pretended that his truck was a big truck like his dad's carrying lumber to Los Angeles.

"Junie! Ah, Junie! Get out of that road this minute or I'll have to get a tingling switch and tan your little legs."

"No! I don't want to. I'm playing truck," replied Junie.

Gladys wiped her hands on her apron, opened the screen door, walked across the porch and started down the four front cement steps. "Junie are you still in the road?" But like most kids, he had a stubborn mind of his own and he did not move. "I'm at the gate. Come here, now!" Gladys turned and walked along the path that followed the irritation ditch. Stopping at one of the giant popular trees she bent down and pulled a little willow, that was growing along side the trunk. "I have a switch Junie. Here I come." she reminded him as she pulled all the leaves off the willow leaving only a few on the top.

Just then one of the farmers came along the street in his pickup truck loaded with hay. The big truck started to slow down. Sam Dodge honked his horn several times, but Junie didn't move a muscle. He honked again! Junie still didn't move. By this time Gladys was getting furious with the little lad. She started to run toward him as the pickup swerved around flipping rocks, dust and bits of hay as it went on down the street.

"Junie, you almost got killed!" Grabbing him by the arm she started tingling his bare little legs with the switch as they went toward the house.

Sobbing Junie cried, "Don't you spank me grandma. I'll be good!" As they climbed the ditch bank, went over the wooden bridge and through the gate he kept screaming, "I'll tell my Mama. She'll spank you." Crying harder, Junie broke away from his grandmother and ran as fast as his little legs would take him down the sidewalk and up the front steps into the house.

"Mommy! Mommy! Grandma spanked me with a switch." Junie cried as he opened the front door. Tears continued to run down his cheeks. Running into his mother's arms, he continued to sob. "Grandma doesn't love me anymore. She spanked me with a tingling switch."

Shirley held the little boy in her arms. When he had quit sobbing and crying she said, "Naughty little boys who don't mind always get a tingling switch."

With a tear stained face, Junie looked up into his mothers loving eyes and replied, "I'll always mind Grandma." Giving Shirley a quick kiss he ran over to his upset grandmother. "I'm sorry Grandma. I still love you. Do you still love me?"

Gladys bent down and taking Junie into her arms replied, "I'll always love you, Junie, but you have to mind and do what Grandma tells you." She tenderly kissed the small boy on the cheek and gave him a big hug.

When all was calm she said, "I have an idea. Why don't you and Grandpa go feed the chickens and gather the eggs?"

"Oh, boy!" responded Junie.

"Andrew, take Junie and go feed the chickens. Gather the eggs, too!"

"Come on Grandpa," said the now happy little boy.

Taking Junie by the hand, they walked together out the back door. The dirt path toward the chicken coop was an obstacle course for such a small person. It meandered over small irrigation ditches (that were a joy for a small boy to play in when filled with water) around an old Packard car that Merrill once drove and then beyond the privy. Just past the large walnut tree was the chicken coop.

The chicken coop was a flat roofed shed with a door that led inside and a gate that opened into the chicken yard. It was surrounded by a webbed chicken wire fence taller than Grandpa. Grandpa pushed back the wood latch and they both went into the chicken yard. Grandpa Andy poured some water from a bucket into a flat round pan. In another long pan he poured some chicken mash from a coffee can. Junie watched him. Suddenly he rushed toward the chickens. They clucked, flapped their wings, and ran away. Giggling, he did it again. The chickens ran away a little farther, stopped and started scratching in the dirt again. Junie was fascinated with the chickens scratching the dirt. Andy let Junie throw some of the mash on the ground for the chickens to scratch in.

He continued to watch as Grandpa finished feeding and watering the chickens. Going over to the gate he said, "Come on June. Let's see if there are any eggs today."

Junie made a beeline to the gate. Andy shut and locked the gate behind him. Ignoring their departure the chickens continued to scratch in the dirt yard.

Grandpa lifted up the nesting door. They both peered into the blackness of the nesting coop. They could see some hens nesting on some of the nest and others resting on the roost. Grandpa reached under one of the hens and scooted her out of the nest. "Cluck, cluck'" went the hen as she was displaced from the nest. Junie saw that where the hen had been were two warm eggs, a white one and a brown one. He reached in and picked an egg up in each hand. Grandpa gather several more eggs from the other nest then he put the nesting door down. "Junie, don't run with those eggs," Andy cautioned.

Junie had already started to run toward the house and didn't hear what his Grandfather said. Gladys stepped out onto the back porch to shake a table cloth when she noticed Junie running down the path from the chicken coop. "Junie! Be careful. Don't fall!" she called just as the small boy tripped. One egg flew into the air and crashed a few feet away spreading it's yellow yolk on the dry path. The other egg was still in Junie's hand, unbroken. He got up and walked quickly to where his grandmother was standing.

Handing the egg to her, he proudly exclaimed, "I want this one for supper."

Sitting on the usual dented black soup pot, placed upside down on a kitchen chair, Junie sat eating his egg and drinking a tall glass of warm milk.

With a clean plate in front of him, he put the empty glass back on the kitchen table. Wiping the milk mustache off his face with the sleeve of his shirt, Junie looked at his grandmother and smiled then said, "Finished!"

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