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It had been a long day in the cotton patch . . .
"Oh! It's hot out here," I whined. "I'm thirsty."
Mama and daddy had to work in the fields that autumn, and of course Rick and I went with them. We had things to do to keep us busy, such as pencils and paper to draw on, playing games and taking naps on a quilt spread in the shade of a large cottonwood tree. We could see our parents if we looked for them, and sometimes we would carry a thermos of water to them just for the company.
Rick was five-years-old, a year older than me, and he was hot and thirsty too, but he tried to keep me busy so I wouldn't cry.
"Look here, Ree! Look what it does when I touch it!" he said.
I squatted down by the tire of our old black car (all cars were black in those days), and listened to the hiss of air as he pushed down on the valve.
"Oh, I giggled, let me do it!"
"You have to have a stick, here's one. Push on that thing, right there."
"Rick, I did it, listen!"
Then, the noise stopped.
"Rick, it don't work anymore. I want to do it again."
We ran to the other tires, and let the air out of them too, all four! Then the guilt set in. We didn't know exactly what we had done, but we knew we were in trouble, and sure regretted doing it. Just looking at those four flat tires took all our fun away.
"Mama and daddy will be here pretty soon, Ree, see how long the tree shadow is? When they get real long, it's late. We're goin' to get in trouble." He added solemnly.
Quickly getting into the car, and sitting there very quietly, we discussed the possibilities.
"I hope they don't see the tires."
"Maybe they'll think the air got out by itself."
"Are they comin' yet, Rick? Can you see them?"
"Yeah, I see them, here they come! Quick, sit back, and be quiet!"
Well, they noticed. They stood right there in one spot and just stared, then daddy walked slowly around the car, and looked some more. He removed his old Stetson work hat, ran his hand back over his hair, then wiped his forehead using his shirtsleeve.
Rick and I were trying to make our small bodies even smaller. Our eyes just barely able to see out of the window, we watched, very worried.
After a few minutes, mama reached down to pick up the quilt, and shook the dirt out before placing it in the trunk that daddy had opened. She gathered up the few things we had left scattered around the ground.
It's a good thing daddy had an air pump in the car; they didn't say a word about the flats, in fact, they didn't speak at all. They did look at each other kind of funny, strange is probably a better word, nothing was funny right then.
Rick and I looked at each other with big, rounded eyes, each reflecting the fear of the other. Oh, we knew we were guilty, and we felt awful. We knew what a flat tire was, it was an upset parent. We also knew we were going to get it when we got home. No one needed to tell us that! It made my stomach hurt.
Finally, having aired the tires, daddy began the drive home. Now, every day, it was daddy's habit to stop at the store on the way home, to get us a soda pop. We sure looked forward to it, because we were hot, tired and thirsty. We had spent a long, boring, miserable day in that 'ole cotton patch.
No words were spoken by Rick and me, we just glanced at each other now and then. As we got closer and closer to where daddy should be slowing to turn into the store though, he wasn't. We were becoming even more anxious, if that were possible. We knew we were getting near the store. Yes, up there it was!
That little country store had ice cold bottles of soda pop of every kind and flavor. I always got Orange Nesbitt. I was just tall enough to peer over the edge of the box if I stood on my tip toes, and I liked to stretch my hand down into the icy water and pull up my own bottle, the coldest one I could find. I liked to open it myself with the built-in bottle opener which was part of the ice box, tasting that cold, orangey, wonderful drink before it ever reached my mouth!
But daddy was not slowing down.
I looked over at Rick, telepathically telling him to remind daddy about stopping at the store. The look that Rick returned to me said, "I'm not gonna tell him nothin', and you better not, either." as he shook his head slightly. I understood that look completely. I was very disappointed, and so thirsty.
I quickly worked up my nerve, and asked in a very small, squeaky voice,
"Daddy, there's the store, are we goin' to get a soda pop?"
I guess I must have spoken too quietly, cause he just kept on going. I decided to try again.
"Daddy, you forgot, there's the store!"
He just wasn't hearing me, but Rick did. He punched me in the side; when I looked at him to complain, he shook his head again. I didn't care, I wanted a soda pop, so again, quickly, I spoke,
"Daddy? I'm sorry, I won't do it again! Daddy, you passed the store! Rick, say you're sorry!"
Mama looked across at daddy with a smile only in her eyes, I could see it clearly. I was sitting behind daddy and could only see the back of his head, and a little of the jaw line. His jaw was quivering like it wanted to laugh, but he wouldn't let it. My stomach ache began to go away.
I knew they looked forward to the soda pop just as much as Rick and I did, almost. After working so hard all day, they enjoyed something cold to drink. This day though, we knew we were not going to have one.
I looked over at Rick again, through tears, and we knew that we had just been taught another lesson by the master of teachers. It was a most important one. 'Every action has its consequences, and we were awfully lucky this time.'