They arrived in a cloud of dust down the gravel-covered driveway. Mom and I peered through the front window as the battered pickup truck and pull-behind camper stopped in front of our house. It was the summer of 1955.
Visitors were rare at our farm; we lived about a quarter mile from the main road. A man and woman exited the truck.
“Good afternoon ma’am. I’m Bill and this is my wife Eleanor. We’re here to paint the barns.” He pulled off his wide brimmed paint spattered hat as his wife came around from the passenger side. She was dressed in painter’s garb and we watched as she tightened the bandana around her hair.
“I think you must have the wrong place, we didn’t hire anyone to paint the barns.” explained my Mom. Just then Dad came from around the tool shed.
“It’s OK Marge, I forgot to tell you Harvey said they would be coming today. I just didn’t know when.”
Harvey was my great grandpa who owned the farm that we lived on.
My Dad and Bill shook hands, Bill handed Dad a piece of paper which made it all official. Bill continued, ” We’ll probably be here about a week so. Where would you like us to park our camper?”
Dad pointed the way and Bill turned the truck and trailer around and backed it into place next to a row of maple trees. He unhooked the truck from the camper and pulled down a set of steps just below the camper door. Eleanor stepped inside and opened the windows.
“We’ll start first thing in the morning,” said Bill. He and Dad talked for awhile about crops and neighbors and where they had been before they got to our farm. Dad started evening chores and Mom washed down the milk cows to be milked.
I was dying to see the inside of that camper. I had never seen a camper up close, but Mom had already led me back into the house. “You stay inside while we do chores and don’t be bothering these people.”
By the time my brother and I got up in the morning, the barn painters had set up their ladders and had started to scrape off the old loose paint. We ran out to the barn to feed the calves and do our chores and Mom reminded us again to stay out of their way so they could get their work done. I watched them scrape awhile but as the paint flakes hit the ground I got bored. I hoped they knew what they were doing because the barn was beginning to look worse… not better. They worked quickly but we had our big barn and several other smaller buildings that were to be painted so it was going to take them awhile. I was glad, because it was pretty exciting to have someone living right outside our house. The longer they stayed, the better chance I might have to see the inside of that camper.
At noon, the painters headed toward the camper for lunch. I was surprised to see them set up a small charcoal grill and a couple of well worn folding lawn chairs under the trees, along with a small card table. They didn’t light the grill but sat down on the chairs for some cold meat sandwiches and a big pitcher of lemonade. After lunch they spread out a blanket on the ground and proceeded to take a breather. Mom thought they were avoiding the heat of the day and she was right because a couple of hours later, they started in again and worked until it was too dark to see.
Since it was summer, my brother and I stayed up playing out in the yard, riding our bikes and trying to not be a nuisance to the painters. When we finally went in to bed, they were just firing up their grill and the smell of burgers wafted through our bedroom windows. I fell asleep listening to them talking and eating their late night supper and dreaming of traveling the world in my own little camper.
To be continued…