The Schwan Man

Tradition by Zachary Smith //

The Schwan Man by AnnaLee VanDyke //

The smell of manure hung permanently in the air. Pioneer houses were the pride and joy of the town and everyone knew each other. My family had a herd of sheep, a donkey, five dogs, and about twenty feral cats that would come and go as they pleased. We were very secluded from the rest of the world. I grew up in rural Utah. The closest actual city was about a sixty minute drive north. There are only a few places in southern Utah that even resemble cities. 
My family has always had close relationships. Proximity may have had a lot to do with it. Until I was ten years old, I had never lived more than four blocks from my grandma and grandpa. My grandparents were like second parents to me. I remember, as a young child, my grandpa carrying me everywhere. Wherever he went, I went. Whatever I wanted, he gave to me. Although I have many fond memories of my grandparents, one that I think really illustrates the character of my grandfather involves ice cream and a foiled plan.  
In our little town there was an ice cream delivery truck. We lovingly called the man who delivered the ice cream “The Schwan Man.” He was an older gentleman, not as old as my grandpa, but still silver haired. He was thin and had a very rough voice, the kind of voice that makes you think a person might need a lozenge. Whenever the Schwan Man drove into town, my siblings and I knew we were in for a treat. Grandpa was a diabetic, but his biggest weakness was ice cream. He loved all types of ice cream: rocky road, caramel praline, strawberry, and vanilla. Grandpa was an ice cream addict. We used to sing a song about the ice cream man; grandpa would lead us, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” 
As soon as the Schwan Man pulled up to our little home on the west side of main street, grandpa gathered the grandkids and handed us the Schwan ice cream catalog full of all the many choices. So many choices for our little mouths to choose from. We were wide-eyed. Did we want the little cups with the fudge swirls in the vanilla ice cream? How about the fruity push pops? Or maybe those strawberry ice cream bars with the coating of nuts on the outside? Of course grandpa already knew what he wanted. He knew from the second the Schwan man pulled up. 
“What will it be, Merril?” The Schwan Man would ask.
“Have you kids agreed on something yet?” Grandpa would grin down at us with a twinkle in his eye.
“We want the ice cream cups with the fudge swirls!” 
“Okay, we will get the ice cream cups for the kids and a tub of the caramel praline for your grandma.”
The Schwan Man would complete the transaction with a smile and wink. The anticipation grew in the hearts of my siblings and me. We would run into our grandparent’s house to enjoy our treat with grandpa. He would give us each an ice cream cup and a spoon, and, if grandma wasn’t around, dish himself up a bowl of ice cream. We each enjoyed our treats and we were off to the back yard to play with the dogs and swing in the tire swings grandpa had hand crafted. 
My grandma was a very petite woman. She had a singsong voice and a happy presence. Her laughter often filled the air when she would play the piano and my sister and I would dance on her very sturdy coffee table. She hated all animals, though she claimed to love them from a distance. She was a very thoughtful woman, helping anyone she could. She loved her family with all she had. Her fiery side showing in the form of a stubborn attitude for anyone who crossed her family. 
One of the stories about the beginning of my grandparents’ courtship involves two types of beer. My grandma being the woman she was always kept my grandpa in line. The story goes that on a date my grandpa was partaking of alcoholic beer. My devout grandma couldn’t have this, so when he turned his back, she dumped it out and replaced it with root beer. Of course, this only made my grandpa fall madly in love with her. Clara, my grandmother, always kept the role of keeping Merrill in line. 
Years later and now grandparents, after all of our fun with the dogs and the swings, we all would retire to the house for dinner. Grandpa would be watching a sports game in the living room. My siblings and I would have the toys out, anxiously waiting on my grandma’s world famous cooking. 
Grandma had gone to the deep freeze to get the desired ingredients for tonight’s dinner. She was not expecting to find this. The ice cream. 
“What, Clara?” The game had sucked him so far into the TV that he had forgotten all about his mischievous plans from earlier that afternoon. Suddenly, it all came back to him. He sprang up from his seat and into the kitchen. He had to do damage control. 
“Why did you buy this ice cream? You know you are supposed to stay away from this stuff. You need to watch your blood sugar!”
“I only bought it for the kids, Clara. They wanted a treat, and I wanted to spoil them.” 
“The only two people in this house who eat caramel praline ice cream are you and me.”
She had caught him in his fib. We all knew it. The best part about it was that it only made us smile, my grandpa blaming the children for his addiction. My grandma felt slightly annoyed and slightly amused by her sweet husband. I wouldn’t always live right next door to my grandparents. But whenever I smell a scent of manure or eat caramel praline ice cream, I always remember my grandpa being more excited for the Schwan Man’s visit than we kids were.