“Aren’t You Thirsty?”


It seemed like the bell would never ring. Why does the day that Grandpa comes always seem like the longest day of the year? Alma wondered. And when will—

The clanging school bell interrupted Alma’s thoughts, and he bolted out the door.

“Alma Cutler, slow down!” Miss Young called after him.

Alma barely heard her. He just had to get home in a hurry today. Grandpa was coming all the way from Kanosh, Utah, to visit!

Alma tripped over a rock in the dirt road and went sprawling head over heels. His books and papers were scattered everywhere. He jumped up and crumpled the papers into a bunch, gathered his books, and continued running. “Why does everything have to slow me down the day Grandpa comes?” he muttered.

Alma didn’t even stop at the corral to see whether Papa’s white stallion was back. When he raced into the kitchen where Mama was baking bread, he couldn’t stop, and he crashed into the table, knocking flour everywhere.

“Alma Cutler! What on earth’s gotten into you?” Mama scolded, wiping her hands on her apron.

“I’m just excited to see Grandpa,” Alma replied. “Where is he?”

“He and your father haven’t come from the depot yet. Now get yourself out of my kitchen and do your chores.”

Alma hurried to the chicken coop to gather the eggs. He was proud that he didn’t break any, since everything else had gone wrong. Then when he went to get some feed, he leaned too hard on the grain barrel, and it fell over. Alma tried to scoop the feed up, but the chickens were scrabbling all over him and the spilled feed. He had a terrible time.

Once out of the coop, Alma ran back to the house and yelled, “Is Grandpa here yet?”

“Not yet,” Mama answered.

Alma sat down on an old tree stump outside the open kitchen window and picked some feathers off his pants. “How come Grandpa’s not on time?” he grumbled.

“Land sakes, child! Finish your chores and stop worrying about it. He’ll get here when he gets here.”

Alma got up and kicked at some weeds. He couldn’t understand why he was the only one who got excited when Grandpa came.

At the side of the house Alma picked up a bucketful of potato peelings and vegetable tops to feed to the hogs. When he got to the hogpen, Alma hefted the heavy bucket up onto the fence, but he wasn’t careful where he put his feet. Suddenly he slipped and fell against the fence, and some of the slop spilled on him. Alma was sure the hogs were laughing at him.

Alma put the bucket away and walked into the house. Before he could ask again about Grandpa, Mama groaned, “Alma, did you have to play with the hogs? Now get upstairs and clean yourself up before Grandpa comes.”

Alma went upstairs and took off his dirty clothes. The water in the washbasin was cold, and he shivered when he splashed it on his face. He was still scrubbing his face when he heard voices downstairs. “Grandpa’s here!” he shouted, letting the soapy water run into his eyes. “Ow!” he yelled, and he quickly rinsed the soap out of his eyes.

As soon as he had put on clean clothes, Alma ran downstairs to the kitchen. Just before he got there, he heard Mama say, “I’m telling you, Dad, I just don’t know what comes over that boy when he knows you’re coming. He complains all day long, wondering when you’ll get here, and he can’t do anything without it going wrong.”

Alma’s face flushed red, and he wanted to hide, but just then Grandpa came out of the kitchen. “There you are, Alma! How’s my favorite grandson?”

“I didn’t mean to complain, Grandpa,” Alma blurted out. “I just wanted you to get here faster.”

“You heard what your mother said, didn’t you?”

“I didn’t mean to,” Alma told him, “but—”

“Now, don’t you worry,” Grandpa said. “Come and sit down next to me and let me tell you a story that taught me a lesson about complaining.

“Several years ago, when I was the county assessor, I had to ride over the desert in central Utah and count all the sheep. One day when my Indian friend Hunkup and I went out to count a flock, we forgot to take along some water. Now, the desert gets mighty hot. If you don’t take along any water, you have to know where the water holes are or you can die.”

“Did you know where they were, Grandpa?” Alma asked.

“I knew where some of them were, but the closest one was about a three hours’ ride away. On our way to the water hole, I started to get mighty thirsty. I turned to Hunkup and asked, ‘Hunkup, aren’t you thirsty?’ He turned to me and answered, ‘No, I’m not thirsty.’

“We rode on a little farther, and my lips began to crack, they were so dry. I turned to Hunkup again and asked, ‘Hunkup, aren’t you thirsty?’ Again he replied, ‘No, I’m not thirsty.’

“I couldn’t talk anymore. My only thought was to get some water. Even our horses were so thirsty that they could hardly walk. Finally we went over a ridge, and about forty feet in front of us was the water hole.

“Before you could say lickety-split, Hunkup was facedown in that water hole, drinking like he was going to drink it dry. I staggered over, plopped down beside him, and gasped, ‘Hunkup, I thought you said you weren’t thirsty.’ Hunkup lifted his head out of the water, looked at me, and said, ‘Now I’m thirsty.’

“You see, Alma, complaining about being thirsty didn’t get us to the water hole any sooner.”

Alma looked up at Grandpa and saw a twinkle in the old man’s eyes. The next time Grandpa comes, Alma thought, I’ll be just like Hunkup. I won’t want Grandpa to be here until he comes.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Charles Shaw