Melvin Heine and my dad, Cecil Lewis were just about as close as friends get. They were at one or the other’s house for coffee almost every morning. Whatever Melvin owned, my Dad was welcome to use and the same the other way. That also went for Cecil’s two sons. Melvin and his wife never had children. When Melvin needed help hauling hay, building fence or whatever, Cecil was more than happy to volunteer my bother and me. That’s the way friends were.
It didn’t set right with me that hot summer day that Melvin thought we weren’t working hard enough hauling hay. His way of motivating us was to say, “if you boys don’t hurry up, I’ll just get Cecil to leave y’all here with me when he and your mother go to Yellowstone Park on vacation next week”. I am not sure whether we worked any faster or not, but that remark didn’t set very well with me. I was no more than 14 years old. I look back now and see that Melvin was just trying to motivate two kids out in the hayfield, but I couldn’t see it at the time. Melvin was the nicest, sweetest person but it didn’t seem that way back then.
A couple of days later we had our cattle in the pen. As we finished working them, my Dad told me to go Melvin’s and get his portable cattle sprayer so we could spray the cows before we turned them out. Melvin lived a couple of miles down the road. When I pulled up, Melvin was out by a little log crib where he kept his sprayer. When I told him what I was there for, in the most polite and nicest way possible he said, just back up here and I’ll help you load it. As we swung it up on the tailgate he said,“see these little screws here, be sure to tighten them after you run it a little while. They tend to loosen up after it runs a little while.” I confirmed with “Okay, I’ll do just that”.
As I drove back to our place a certain thought came over me. A could hardly wait to get there. As I pulled up and stepped out, Cec was right there. I immediately launched in to this: “He said to tell you that you are welcome to borrow this equipment, but be sure we don’t tear it up like we did everything else we ever borrowed.”
“He said what! “
So I repeated it.
“You take that G__D___ sprayer back and tell him to stick straight up his A__”. (that’s how Cecil Lewis talked when he was mad).
I was more than happy to deliver that message. Melvin was sure surprised when I drove up not much more than ten minutes after I had left. He said “Are y’all already finished spraying those cows?” Best I can remember, I repeated Cecil’s words exactly. I unloaded the equipment and was on my way back home before Melvin could even utter a word.
Cecil and Melvin never visited each morning for coffee as before and we never did haul hay or build fence for him again.
As I look back, I don’t remember ever meeting a kinder and more considerate person than Melvin. In later years they did visit on occasion. In the 1970’s and 1980’s Melvin and Myrl would come over and campout at Cecil’s Fishing Camp on the Lake. So all was not lost. I remember my folks and them setting down there a lot of nights, but I doubt that they ever discussed what had transpired over the sprayer.
As the 90’s rolled around and both of my were gone I would go visit Myrl and Melvin at their place in Burnet, where they moved after selling out in Smithwick. We talked about to good ol’ days and the happy times in Smithwick. I don’t remember us ever getting around to the cattle sprayer incident. I wish we had.
I continued visiting Myrl several years after Melvin passed on. They really were such a big part of my life as a boy growing up in Smithwick. I think now how sad it is when grownups fail to talk about such matters. As a man with five sons, this story reminded me to check out things before I make any grand judgments.
Sometimes a few words can alter a friendship of many years. Sometimes forever.