Aren’t You Thirsty?

By H. Kent Rappleye

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

    The clanging schoolbell interrupted Alma’s thoughts, and he quickly ran out of the classroom.

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

    Alma barely heard her. He just had to get home in a hurry today. Grandfather was coming to visit!

    Alma tripped over a rock in the dirt road and fell head over heels. His school books and papers were scattered everywhere. He jumped up and gathered his books and papers into a bunch and continued running. “Why does everything have to slow me down the day Grandfather comes?” he said to no one in particular.

    As Alma ran into the kitchen where his mother was baking bread, he went so fast that he couldn’t stop, and he crashed into the table, sending the baking flour flying like a cloud into the air.

    “Alma Cutler! What on earth’s wrong with you?” his mother scolded, wiping her hands on her apron.

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

    “He and your father haven’t come from the railroad station yet. Now get yourself out of my kitchen and go and gather the eggs.”

    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. But then when he went to get some chicken feed, he leaned too far over the grain barrel, and it fell over. Alma tried to scoop up the grain, but the chickens were eager to get to the spilled feed and scrambled all over him. He had a terrible time.

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

    “Not yet,” his mother answered.

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

    “Good heavens, child!” his mother said. “Finish your work and stop worrying about when your grandfather will be here. 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 Grandfather came.

    At the side of the house, Alma picked up a bucket of potato peelings and vegetable tops to feed the pigs. When he got to the pigpen, Alma used all his strength to lift the bucket up on to the fence but he wasn’t careful where he put his feet. Suddenly he slipped and fell against the fence, and some of the messy mixture spilled on him. Alma was sure the pigs were laughing at him.

    Alma put the bucket away and walked back into the house. Before he could ask about Grandfather, his mother sniffed the air and groaned, “Alma, did you have to play with the pigs? Now get yourself cleaned up before your grandfather comes.”

    Alma went to his room and took off his dirty clothes and began to wash himself. He was scrubbing his face when he heard his mother calling out a greeting. “Grandfather’s here!” Alma shouted, letting the soapy water run into his eyes. “Ow!” he yelled, and he quickly rinsed the soap from his eyes.

    As soon as he had put on clean clothes, Alma ran to the kitchen. Just before he got there, he heard his mother say, “I’m telling you, Father, I just don’t know what happens to the 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 blushed, and he wanted to hide, but there was Grandfather coming out of the kitchen. “There you are, Alma! How’s my favorite grandson?”

    “I didn’t mean to complain, Grandfather,” Alma said. “I just wanted you to get here faster.”

    “You heard what your mother said, didn’t you?” his grandfather asked.

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

    “Now, don’t you worry,” Grandfather 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, I had a job counting all the sheep in the desert area of Central Utah. 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 very 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 the water holes were, Grandfather?” Alma asked.

    “I knew where some of them were, but the closest one was about three hour’s ride away. On our way to the water hole, I started to get very 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 were getting so dry that they began to crack. 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 rode over a small hill, and not too far in front of us was the water hole.

    “As quick as a flash of lightning, Hunkup was facedown in that water hole, drinking like he was going to drink it dry. I staggered over, dropped 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 his grandfather and saw a smile in the old man’s eyes. The next time Grandfather comes, Alma thought, I’ll be just like Hunkup. I won’t want Grandfather to be here until he comes.

    Illustrated by Charles Shaw