The Wheels that Squealed

Granddaddy has a wooden wagon drawn by two huge Clydesdales. He grew feed corn for his cattle, and sometimes kept a cob or three to wipe with during a quick dash over the ridge. He was fast, I say that for the man. Granddaddy was always able to cut to the quick, get it done, take care of business, but he could never seem to keep enough axle grease on those wagon wheels.WagonWheel

When Granddaddy got up before daylight, demanded a “cup of slop” from Grandmother, performed his morning ritual of coffee, cigar, sausage link wrapped in Grandmother’s homemade bread, and a trip to the outhouse, it wasn’t long before us grandkids heard the draft horses neighing, and those wagon wheels squealing.

They had multiple personalities, those wagon wheels. One sounded like an old playground swing set, singing forward, then reversed, in a high-pitched singsong that would wake the dead. I’m positive the neighbors, miles away, listened with collective frowns.

Another wheel sounded like a crosscut ripping through a tree trunk. It indicated for all the world, that wheel was coming off any second, but the seconds grew into hours, and hours into days, with nary a failure.

The third wheel actually laughed, more than a squeal. A staccato “hahahahahahaha” with every revolution. Were it not for the other three wheels, it would have had all of us bent over in helpless laughter.

But Wheel Number Four. Goodness how that wheel did squeal. Like a mad, hungry pig pushing its way to the feed trough, biting, shoving and squealing to get at the goods. Of them all, that wheel needed grease the most.

So, here we are on a fine early autumn day, pulling corn. Row after row of pulling one ear, maybe two, rarely if ever three, off a stalk. We’re talking about feed corn here, not that hybrid stuff that’s grown today. A melody…sorry…a cacophony of sound that rips into the ears and pierces the brain.

There was even a pitch control. When the horses sped up a bit at the end of the row, the sounds all geared up, shriller and of the most heady mix; and when they slowed down the pace, those sounds wound down like bass singers in a church choir. It got so bad, three of us grandsons volunteered to grease the wagon wheels before Granddaddy woke us up for another run through the rows.

That might have worked, except I think we all got more of that yucky stuff on us during a grease fight, than we did on those axels and hubs.

— Earl Chessher

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