Mychal Wilmes: Guardian angels come in all forms
The curious cows gathered, much like people when they come upon a minor accident, around the stranger in their yard. The menacing herd bull approached from the feed bunk to see the commotion.
The boy, who had taken the banned shortcut across the cow yard to reach the pasture just like his older brothers, was in serious trouble. The knee-deep muck was like quicksand. It had sucked his good black shoes off and now the angry bull was coming to stomp him. Mother was inside washing strawberries, so she couldn't hear or see him. The only hope was Grandpa Tony, who was feeding calves and puttering around, like grandpas do.
Grandpa was an unlikely rescuer — he was by reputation stern and unforgiving of misbehaving children. His wrinkled face only added to his reputation as a nightmarish ogre.
Grandpa used a pitchfork to chase the bull away, lifted and deposited the boy across the fence, and then located the shoes in the muck. The boy continued to cry because he was in double trouble. The shoes had been purchased with precious egg money and were never to be worn outside. They were meant for a wedding and the next school year.
Summer was normally spent barefoot, with mud squished between toes and feet hardened into shoe-leather toughness. The shoes were extra special, and now they were ruined.
Grandpa said they could be fixed without Mother even knowing. He washed the shoes off with old rags and water tank water until he said they were good as new. Mother, he insisted, need not know, but should. It felt good when she was told and even better when nothing bad happened.
Grandpa Tony was transformed from ogre to hero.
Mother would say that Grandpa Tony was a guardian angel, the highest honor she could bestow. She credited angels — the salt and sun of the earth — with protecting people, particularly her children, from harm. It must have worked, given car accidents, tractor rollovers and falls caused only minor injuries.
Angels don't get much credit these days, except at Christmas when less-than-impressive angel Clarence Odbody saves George Bailey from himself. Angels have been replaced with super-heroes like Iron Man, Batman and other incredible hulks with superhuman powers.
Mother's angels had golden wings, halos and close connections with a God that counted the feathers on each sparrow's head.
I believe in ordinary angels like Grandpa Tony. I run into them on a daily basis and I'm sure you do, too.
They are people who have kind words and a smile when you need one. They offer a shoulder when it's needed and help when it's not expected.
I couldn't have picked — if the power was mine — a better guardian then Grandpa Tony. It might seem strange, but I think he's still around. There is no way, given mistakes made, that what has been accomplished is merely the result of my own actions.
Sam scoffs at the notion.
"Give yourself some credit,'' he says, when the subject came up.
Sam suggests that if the unseen is credited with good things the unseen also must be blamed for the bad. If that were not so, bad things would never happen to good people and vice versa.
That question has stumped the wise for centuries and won't be answered anytime soon.
Faith, I remind him, is the belief in things as yet unseen or understood.
Five decades later, I recall Grandpa Tony as a superhero dressed in bib overalls and a seed corn cap.
Mychal Wilmes is managing editor of Agri News, a weekly agriculture newspaper published by the Post-Bulletin Co. His column appears every Monday in the print edition.