26 December 2013

Sixty years ago

Christmas Day, 1953

Santa brought three gifts that year: a truck, a stage coach and a jeep. The truck was a gift from one of my grandfather's employees, painted in Papaw's colors. The stage coach was made from scratch (except the plastic horse) by another employee. The jeep was metal, I think it was an early Tonka toy, from my parents. The stage coach eventually disintegrated under hard use, the jeep, well, I honestly don't recall; it was store-bought and soulless.

It was an era in The South where everyone went by a nickname; the man who gave me the truck was "Wimpy" after the cartoon character because of his inordinate fondness for hamburgers. I never knew his given name. Wimpy was short, about 4'10" and was perhaps a dwarf. He always wore bib overalls and an engineer's cap, carried an unlit cigar in the right corner of his mouth that bobbed when he talked, was gruff in speech and demeanor but had the warmest heart you can possibly imagine. 

Perhaps because he and his wife did not have children, he was very fond of them, or at least of me. When my family moved into town, I was despondent because I missed the farm so very much. To try to cheer me up, Wimpy built a sandbox with a fringed surrey top to protect my fair skin from sun burn. Yes, modern people, a sandbox was a major amusement in my youth and I spent hundreds of hours in it. No batteries, no moving plastic parts, no operator's manual, no warranty, no safety warnings, not made in a foreign country.

I still take the truck for a spin around the living room on Christmas and remember the wonderful man who customized it for me. He died about 1960 but every Christmas, he lives on in my memory. God bless you Wimpy.

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