A Nice Way to Start the Day

IMG_2487A few summers ago, during one of the periods when our neighbor Melvin was farming alone, the boys and I stopped down to help unload a couple of wagons. I remember it was second cut hay – funny how a thing like that sticks – so I’m guessing it was sometime in August. I know it was evening, and I know it was hot, if only because it’s always hot when there’s hay to be moved.

It wasn’t long after we arrived and had set to slinging bales that some other folks showed up, a middle-aged couple in an old pickup. They got out of their truck. He was drinking a Mountain Dew. Big guy. Not fat, just big. She was smoking a cigarette, and looked like she’d a fair shake of practice in that department, the way a lifelong smoker just sort of looks at home with a cigarette between their fingers, almost like it’s as much a part of their body as the fingers themselves. Truth is, they both looked like they’d done their share (and maybe a little more than their share) of hard living; it wasn’t anything specific, but rather an accumulation of small details – the soda, the cigarette, the old truck, the fact that she walked on a prosthetic leg, a certain subtle haggardness to each of them. I don’t know. Maybe I’m not being fair.

Anyway. Melvin led them over to where my sons and I were unloading hay, and introduced us, and when she heard my name, she cocked her head and squinted at me through the smoke curling off her ciggy. It smelled to me like one of those mentholated deals, though I’m no expert. “Hewitt?” she said. And again: “Hewitt?” Voice like a gravel road in a dry spell. “Are you Geof Hewitt’s son?” She shifted her weight, adjusted the lean of her prosthetic leg. It didn’t look comfortable.

(As an aside, pretty much everywhere I go people ask me if I’m Geof Hewitt’s son, to which I’ve taken to replying “No. But he’s my father.” I’m not sure it makes any sense, but it’s pleasing to me in a vaguely subversive way)

Anyway. This was before I’d come up with my stock response, so to the woman in Melvin’s barnyard I just said Yeah. I am. I am. How do you know him?

Her eyes lit right up. I mean, she just beamed. There’s really no other way to put it. “He taught my writing class in prison! I love that guy!” She took a drag off her cigarette, exhaled in our direction. Menthol. Definitely menthol.

I don’t know why I thought of that this morning, but I did, and I’m glad I did, because it’s sort of a nice way to start the day.

If you want to know more about my father and his work, you can listen to this interview. You can also read one of his poems here.

If you want to register your child for this summer’s Woodscraft camp, which is run by our friend Luke Boushee, and promises to be a fine time, you should know that the deadline for registration is June 7. You can find more details here.

Lazymillcamptree 3


12 thoughts on “A Nice Way to Start the Day”

  1. I love days that start like that or this one with a “Ben Hewitt” in my mail box and a stand of new ferns out the window in soft green light.

  2. When asked last week if I was Ben Hewitt’s uncle, I beamed with pride and replied “why yes, all thanks to my irascible brother Geof.”

  3. For all the grief you gave your parents in your youth, it’s nice to see a tip of the cap to the old man. Great poem, too.

  4. Have to confess I’ve never heard of Geof Hewitt, but if you got your writing genes from him I will have to look him up. 🙂

    That poem, though…wow. Pretty powerful punch in not many words.

  5. Thanks for introducing your dad. Apple. Tree. I’m relieved actually. While you may not have came out of the womb with a keyboard you did come out of the womb with a writing teacher. My dad was a construction worker. That’s why I have so far to go yet.

    Last week I was on a writing retreat and happened to see your post on writing. I convinced the one male in our group to read it to us at lunch time. He read it with the perfect amount of sarcasm, humor and authenticity I envision you would have had you been there reading it yourself. The rest of us (18 women ranging from 39 to 85) snort laughed our way through lunch as we listened. Thought it might be a nice way to start your day to picture that. It was an absolutely beautiful and insightful post. Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts with the world.

    1. My dad was like you. His dad was a tool and die maker, a machinist. All my dad wanted to do was draw so he became and artist, obscure but at the same time famous. In his own neck of the woods. I am like my mom and dad, an artist. It’s interesting to see how people work out, either following their parents footsteps. Or not. For years I determined to disavow my parents because everywhere I went people said “what are you going to be when you grow up? An artist?” The pressure was real and I resented it. Finally I have escaped the pressure and can do what I choose. Maybe Ben is starting to escape the pressure. I don’t know.

      That poem Ben’s dad wrote reminds me awfully much about a short story I read in The Sun. For the life of me I can’t remember the name. Maybe it was The Fisherman. It was very, very good. The kind of story that sticks in your mind. But not the title, apparently.

  6. Ben, I was reading “I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You” a little while ago, a poem book compiled by Naomi Shihab Nye and Paul Janeczko, and ran into a snippet of Geof Hewitt’s poem, and for a moment, I wondered, where I had heard the name. 🙂
    Some days that seem just a bit too gloomy, I recall the warmth and the laughter of your dad in the above-mentioned interview (and Penny’s heartful laughter in your Rumblestrip talk!) and the sun comes out. This world can use more contentedness of the cats and more laughter of the Hewitts. Thank you all.

  7. In 10 or so years of hiring different folks to help us with haying, I have found that mountain dew drinkers make the best workers. Snapple drinkers are a distant second. If you show up at our place with a Dew in hand, it’s going to make you look good 😉

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