we lived on the Lorena farm, among our neighbors was a German family. I’m not
sure of the spelling of their name but I remember it was pronounced “Keen”. For
some reason I cannot remember anything about the rest of the family, only the
father. Maybe it is because he reminded me of my grandfather. He was short and
stout and sported a huge walrus mustache just like my Grand Daddy Williams. The
main difference was Mr. Keen out weighed my grandfather by about 50 pounds. He
was a true Mr. “five-by-five”. I remember waving at him as he went up and down
the rows in his field driving his big old four-cylinder Farmall tractor. At the
same time my father was working with his two-cylinder John Deere. One night after
the work was done for the day we heard a knock on the door and it was Mr. Keen.
He apologized for bothering us but he wanted to let my father know that he was
going to ruin his tractor by running it all day on just two cylinders.|
Back then very few homes had piped in gas and I don’t know if propane had even
been invented at that time. Mr. Keen’s family cooked and heated with Carbide gas.
The Carbide crystals were poured in a basket inside the tank and then water added.
It was kind of like a giant Alka-Seltzer. The old used up sludge had to be cleaned
out periodically to make way for the new fuel. One day Mr. Keen was bending over
the tank scooping out the waste when the fumes overcame him and he passed out
hanging over the open tank. My dad just happened to come upon the scene and saw
him there. At first he figured the worst had happened but he noticed Mr. Keen
was still breathing. After he was dragged away from the tank and allowed to get
some fresh air he finally came around and fully recovered. He never forgot how
my father became his guardian angel that day.
My most lasting memory
of Mr. Keen was one evening when he came over for dinner and coffee afterward.
We all gathered in the living room and each of the adults chose a comfortable
chair. For some reason Mr. Keen chose to sit in my mother’s favorite antique rocking
chair. It was a thing of beauty with its delicate framework and ornate design.
I looked at Mr. Keen, who weighed at least 250 pounds and then at the chair. Even
at my tender age I knew something had to give. Nothing happened right away. He
sat their drinking his coffee and chatting. I figured the chair would gradually
start to sag and slowly give way to its tremendous load. However, without the
slightest warning that precious work of art exploded as if a charge had been placed
beneath it. Small pieces of the chair flew all over the room and Mr. Keen fell
to the floor with a resounding thud. My mother and father rushed to his side to
see if he was hurt. I sat there for a while and then when I could no longer hold
it back, fell to the floor laughing until I had tears in my eyes. Even the stern
looks from my parents could not dampen my amusement. As soon as Mr. Keen assured
everyone that he was not injured the attention turned to me. Even as I was hustled
out of the room and put to bed early I could not stop laughing. Today, when I
see in my mind the picture of Mama’s prized chair vaporized under the mighty weight
of Mr. Keen, I still get a chuckle. He was a sweet old man and I’m sure that later
when he recovered from the original shock and embarrassment he got a chuckle out
of it too.