You never can tell

Apropos of today’s moon missile escapade . . .

When people first traveled to and walked (and bounded and played and golfed) on the moon, my grandfather, a lovely, gentle man living in east Tennessee, heard about the moon landing and perhaps even saw it (looking back, I don’t remember a television in their tiny country house, but maybe a friend or neighbor had one).

His take?  Naaahh.  Didn’t happen. He didn’t really elaborate about this, never said whether he thought it a silly hoax or perhaps mass hysteria–he just wasn’t buying it.

I was ten or eleven at the time, though, which meant I knew a whole lot more than this man who’d lived through war times and peace times, fat and thin years, good harvests and bad, who, with my grandmother, had raised four kids and a whole lot of corn and beans and potatoes.  But as I helped him in his garden, taking the wavy, snake-shaped pieces of rubber he’d cut with his pocket knife out of cast-off inner tubes and lacing each one in and out among the bright leaves and sweet-tart fruits in the strawberry patch (to scare off birds that would otherwise peck at or make off with the berries), I explained earnestly that it really happened, and what a great thing it was. In reality, of course, I’d been annoyed when our parents made my little sister and me leave off playing outside and come into the house to watch Neil Armstrong climb down his ladder to leave his mark on the dusty lunar surface.

Anyway, he said, if it did happen, that would be a terrible thing. His take was that everything that happened affected everything else–such a thing could not occur without serious consequences. Trespassing on the moon like this would certainly disrupt the weather, the tides, the seasons. Nothing good could come of such a thing. He met my certainty with his and popped a perfect strawberry, warm from the sun, into my mouth, and then cocked an ear and said, “Listen!”

“It’s a cat!” I said, jumping up and looking around.”Where is it?”

“That’s no cat,” he said, laughing. “That’s a catbird–look yonder–that’s him up in that tree, waiting for us to leave so he can eat his fill.”

“That’s silly,” I said. “A cat can’t be a bird.”

“Maybe they can’t,” he said. “Or maybe they can.” He plucked another ripe berry and ate it.  “Now,” he said, “let’s get these snakes all put out before that critter gets our berries.”


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