Sometimes, his lungs shutter and cough when he breaths. They backfire like the exhaust on a classic car, one that has slowly succumbed to the wear and rust of life on the long road. Gravity too has taken its toll, his frame shrinking and bent. Still, he towers over me, a mountain of a man.
Energy seeps from his words and blue eyes. He moves with earnest purpose from the sink to the stove and back again, occasionally the bang of pots and pans following him. Together, we work in the small kitchen his grandson Reon built with his bare hands. Dave pokes and flips his own farm raised ham hock with a careless precision that can only comes from years of cooking. I peel the vegitables that he pulled from the ground outside. In our fury of preparation, he tells me this joke:
“An American comes to Australia for the first time, during the war. On a tour of a local farm, the Aussi farmer shows him a prize sheep. Unimpressed, the American says ‘Oh we have sheep bigger than that back home.’
So, the farmer takes him to see the prize cow, again the American is unimpressed, ‘Ive seen bigger cows back home. You should see how big they are.’
Suddenly, a Kangaroo pokes its head out of the grass and proceeds to jump its way across a nearby road. ‘What the hell is that!?’ Yells the American.
‘What? You dont have grasshoppers back home?’ Replies the farmer.”
I was already laughing before the punchline. It seems Americans and their inability to be impressed by anything has been around forever. Its not just limited to America, it seems our entire generation is guilty, the internet continues to erode our sense of wonder.
Dave continues to spin and sputter his way around the kitchen, until we are inveloped in the warm sent of ham roast, parsnip, carrot and kumra. He cuts the extra fat off to feed the birds and gathers every scrap for compost.
Nothing is wasted.
Not even the caps to the beer bottles, for which he has fashioned a special opener to preserve their shape, so he can use them for his own home brewed beer.
“We have to make a salad!” He says with excitement, as he sips his whisky and ice. “Why?” I ask. “Americans love salad!” He says with a straight face.
After all the ham is gone, our bellies full and our bodies by the fire. I find myself with a bottle of somthing that looks like Moonshine but smells like rocket fuel.The words label scratched out and replaced with something in Slavic. Im told its 15 years old and home stilled (which is legal in NZ). Daves eyebrows raise with anticipation when I smell the bottle, grandma looks on. “Is this stuff going to make me go blind?” Im only half kidding.
There is only one tactic for this situation. I shoot the whole thing into my mouth.
“Wait” Dave yells at my folly, ” That was enough for everyone!.” Instantly, the room bust into laughter by the time the burning hit my stomach. For a moment my eyes got a little blurry.
At least I didn’t waste any.